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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > British > Sketch > TV > Benny Hill: The Complete Megaset – The Thames Years 1969-1989 (A&E DVD)

Benny Hill: The Complete Megaset – The Thames Years 1969-1989 (A&E DVD)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C+     Episodes: B



There is no doubt that television on any spot on the globe had never seen sketch comedy like that of Benny Hill.  Now available on DVD for its full raunchiness, crudity, and utter disregard for political correctness is Benny Hill: The Complete Megaset – The Thames Years 1969-1989.  This set includes all 6 previously released sets of the hilarious Benny Hill Material of the popular Thames Years (after his BBC years) all bundled into one definitive set.  There is nothing new exactly in this set (most of the previous sets are reviewed elsewhere on this site) but it is a nice compilation if you have not purchased the other Six Volumes.  Each set is still divided in 6 volumes with each volume having 3 discs, all contained in a nice and bright thick, cardboard slip cover.  Overall, a quality effort to put all 6 volumes together; much like that of the 16 Ton Monty Python’s Flying Circus Megaset also from A&E.


Benny Hill’s comedic style whereas on the surface may seem very crude and just a mishmash of nonsense is truly a covert form of smart comedic satire.  Benny Hill was already a great comedian by the time he hit airwaves with the Thames series in 1969, but it was this series and the television medium that let him showcase his true talents for spoof and satire.  Most of the show’s format was Hill performing in short sketches in a variety of manners.  Whether it was Hill dressed as a woman, getting pummeled by the police, or doing something completely sexually deviant it was all genius.  For the most part the series has held up very well and audiences will be able to recapture their favorite nostalgic moments as well as things they have never seen before.


The pop culture references throughout the entirety of The Benny Hill Show don’t hold up so well to this reviewer, but they are nice to see for nostalgias’ sake.  And Benny Hill certainly understood the need to sell his comedy to all audience old and young and across the sea.  Benny Hill made sure that America and Britain alike were included as his audiences, because he knew that was the only way to stay around.  Many of the references audiences will see in the sketches reference Dukes of Hazard, Six Million Dollar Man, and The A-Team.  On top of referencing pop culture Hill was spoofing Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries and other stuffy British Series with such perfection he truly was a pioneer of sketch comedy.  Granted, many of the popular references of that time now past are lost on this reviewer (being too young to remember), but it is still funny and Hill’s raw talent is there to make anyone laugh.


For the most part this reviewer is going to call this a ‘fond memories set,’ as in if you already treasure Benny Hill this is the set to own; otherwise this reviewer personally recommends this to audiences who enjoy series like Monty Python or even somewhat the ORIGINAL cast of Saturday Night Live.  In the end, this set reminds us of what comedy once was and still should be.


The technical features on this super sized set have not been updated since the previous releases, but is still of an adequate quality.  The picture is presented in a clear and crisp 1.33 X 1 Full Screen, but does have a certain blurry and overly bright quality at times.  The sound is simple but sharp and has a good boost to it in its Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo format.  When the extras of these 6 volumes are viewed all together they are quite impressive in quality and quantity.  Extra features include such special gems as a documentary on Benny Hill entitled ‘The World’s Favorite Clown’ that truly captures the comedian’s essence and his contributions to the comedy world as well as handing out some interesting facts people would have never realized.


Also included are all six funny and silly Benny Hill Trivia Quizzes, Liner Notes (kind of boring) and several intriguing featurettes on Hill’s Singers that give insight into their lives working with Benny Hill and the man only they knew.  One of the best features is about the controversy behind The Benny Hill Show entitled “Benny Hill: Laughter and Controversy” which delves into how for its time Benny Hill was very cutting edge and pushing the boundaries between ‘right and wrong.’  By today’s standards of Britney Spears baby tossing and Janet Jackson’s breast Benny Hill is just dust in the wind, but back then the censorship boards rode him like a bull.  Overall every feature is interesting and worth viewing; maybe just not all at once.


From funny sketches to classic satirical songs Benny Hill had it all; Hill even managed to do new and innovative camera techniques that no one else was attempting making him seem like a living breathing cartoon.  This set is awesome and best of all it is complete and unedited.  So Yakety Sax….please come back!



-   Michael P Dougherty II


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