Ruddy Hell! It’s Harry And Paul (BBC1, 2007)/Harry And Paul (BBC1, 2008, BBC2, 2010-2012)
Harry Enfield first came on to the British comedy scene in the mid-80s, and he quickly became popular with his range of characters (he even had a Top Ten hit single in 1988 as his character Loadsamoney). In 1990 he got his own sketch show on BBC2 that was very well received, and Enfield was now a big name. And there was much surprise when one of Enfield’s support cast Paul Whitehouse went off to his own BBC2 comedy The Fast Show in 1994, and arguably had even more success.
Enfield then went on to feature in a few flop comedy shows including Sky One’s Harry Enfield’s Brand Spanking New Show, so there was much anticipation in 2007 when Enfield and Whitehouse reunited for a BBC1 sketch show called Ruddy Hell! It’s Harry And Paul (they wrote the sketches and they were also supported by Morwenna Banks and Laura Solon).
Enfield and Whitehouse always like to leave behind their characters however popular they have become, so this series introduced a whole new range of characters, including the American Tourists, the man who ran the antiques shop I Saw You Coming, the Posh Scaffolders, a bizarre impression of Nelson Mandela, the Old Surgeons, and pop stars Madonna and Bono.
The response to all of this was rather middling, so they went off and had a rethink and returned with a much-improved second series (now simply titled Harry And Paul, and with a different support cast), with even more new characters, including a multilingual football manager, a cultured fisherman, and a parody of BBC2’s Dragons’ Den (a show I have never watched much myself but I still enjoyed this). The characters that returned from the first series were also in much funnier sketches, and this series won a Bafta.
However, despite the acclaim the second series wasn’t that much of a ratings hit, so the third series moved to BBC2, and by this point it had started to fizzle out a little, with the fourth (and final) series only consisting of five editions, which were directed by Enfield. And once again, there was yet another wave of new characters, with Enfield and Whitehouse continuing to show off their ability to play a wide range of unusual people.
It didn’t end there though, as in 2014 Enfield and Whitehouse appeared in The Story Of The 2s, where they parodied various BBC2 shows for the 50th anniversary. In 2015 there was An Evening With Harry And Paul, where they looked back at some of their favourite sketches and were asked questions by the celebrity studio audience, and this was then followed by a stage tour across the country.
Although all four series have been released on DVD, they don’t contain many extras. And as good as some of the sketches were, none of the characters became as popular with viewers as ones from their previous series, but Enfield and Whitehouse’s reputations in British TV comedy remain impressive, and hopefully they will be around to entertain us for a while yet.