Harry Hill (Channel 4, 1997-2000)
Harry Hill is a comedian who has featured in various TV and radio shows since the early-90s, but the first thing I can remember seeing him on was ITV’s Saturday Live revival in 1996. I just thought that his bizarre jokes and unusual look were really funny and that was the point that I became a fan. His career was beginning to take off at this time, he had appeared on David Letterman’s show in America a couple of times, he was also a popular name on the stand-up circuit, and in 1997 Channel 4 gave him his own show.
I was really looking forward to this show when it launched and I’m pleased to say that it went on to become one of my favourite TV comedy shows of this era. There were so many odd characters who appeared in the show beside Harry, including some of his family members. We meet his brother big Alan, who found it hard to understand things, and his three-year-old adopted son little Alan, who didn’t have the ability to talk. We also met Harry’s mum and his 82-year-old nan who was marvellous.
As well as Harry doing some ridiculous jokes, he also played a few other characters including a parody of Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow who always had piles, and we also had frequent reminders about the dangers of Savlon. My favourite character though had to be Stouffer, a weird blue cat puppet thing who would always help Harry out to read some letters from fans, and he was always the highlight of a show with many great moments.
Other characters included Finsbury Park who always had a plan for Harry which went wrong, his friend Gary who was a ventriloquist’s puppet, and Burt Kwouk who was obsessed with chickens. Many celebrity guests also took part, and every edition was supposed to end with the badger parade, but there was always some trouble with this, because Gareth the badger was always unhappy about something, so Harry sang a lovely song instead. In 1999 a book was also released based on the TV show which featured all the regulars and was great too.
Harry Hill would eventually run for three series and a couple of specials Christmas Sleigh Ride and Memory Lane Of Laughter, but by the end he had fallen out of favour with Channel 4 somewhat, so in 2001 he moved to ITV and launched TV Burp which was a big success, and in 2003 there was also The All-New Harry Hill Show which was just about a continuation of his Channel 4 show but this only lasted for one series, and his CITV series Shark-Infested Custard was in a similar style.
It’s a real shame that Harry’s Channel 4 series hasn’t been released on DVD, although there are a few clips on YouTube which are worth watching. In more recent years along with his TV work Harry has done everything from star in a film and write a musical, to appearing on the front cover of The Dandy. But two decades on, this show still rates as some of his best work. What are the chances of that happening?