First Benny Hill TV Show
The 20th of August 1951 AD
Benny Hill’s solo TV career (he had been on Kaleidoscope previously) began with his own show, named Hi There! It was broadcast on Monday August 20 1951, the beginning of pretty solid work for the comedian and writer for the next forty years – though he did not get a commission for a full series for another four years.
The BBC programme, 45 minutes long, was written solely by Hill, and produced by Bill Lyon-Shaw, with Hill starring in the sketches – several of them featuring one of his stock characters, the waiter – supported by Ernest Maxin, more famous for producing shows by the likes of Morecambe and Wise and Dick Emery.
There was and is something of the early cinema about Hill’s comedy , with many pratfalls and chases, so it is not surprising to learn that Charlie Chaplin was one of his heroes. More surprising perhaps to discover that the admiration was mutual, Chaplin inviting Hill to his Swiss home on at least one occasion.
It was not until January 15 1955 that the first show actually titled The Benny Hill Show aired. It flopped, but the star was a quick learner, and adapted his style rapidly to turn the series into a success, and effectively a fixture on our televisions until 1991, alternating between BBC and ITV. The show made household faces if not necessarily household names of Nicholas Parsons , Bella Emberg, Harold McGee, and Patricia Hayes among a host of others – many of them shapely and eventually or inevitably dressed as WPCs or French maids. Maybe that is why the French love Benny Hill? But then inexplicably they also revere Jerry Lewis. It is more intriguing to find out that Snoop Dog is a fan, and that so was Michael Jackson.
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