Harry Hill’s Fruit Fancies (BBC2, 1994)
The first time I can remember seeing Harry Hill on TV was as part of the flop revival of Saturday Live on ITV in 1996. I really enjoyed his style though and I remember laughing a lot, so I have followed his career ever since, including his Channel 4 series, all the way through to the likes of TV Burp and You’ve Been Framed!, along with the film and the books, his doomed attempt to revive ailing comic The Dandy, and so on.
But Harry had been on the stand-up comedy circuit since the late-80s, and he first caused a big stir in 1992 when he won the Perrier Best Newcomer Award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, after he wooed the crowds with his zany observations and his catchphrase “you may heckle me now, but I’m safe in the knowledge that when I get home I’ve got a lovely chicken in the oven”.
After this, in 1993 his BBC Radio 4 series Harry Hill’s Fruit Corner launched (later repeated on BBC7), and this proved that his surreal style (along with his glasses and big collars) was already established, and it featured a lot of the characters that would appear in the Channel 4 show that came to TV in 1997. So when he was given his first TV series (over 25 years ago now), there was a good chance that it might be something a little different.
I don’t remember watching it first time round though, but I have been curious to see it for a long time, and the good news is that all of it is on YouTube. And it’s safe to say that it definitely is different. Harry Hill’s Fruit Fancies consisted of six ten-minute long episodes shown rather late at night that weren’t in colour, and also contained no dialogue, although there was a music soundtrack and some sound effects.
It was reported that the show was made at Harry’s mother’s house using a Super 8mm camera. Unsurprisingly, most of what happens in the episodes is rather difficult to describe, but Harry (with hair!) gets involved in all kinds of adventures, including seeing his 82-year-old nan wrestling a giant crab, and rather a lot of bananas. There were also plenty of supporting cast taking part including Harry’s long-time collaborator Al Murray.
Harry Hill’s Fruit Fancies could have a definite claim to be the most bizarre series of his career, which is some achievement. They don’t make them like this nowadays. It was repeated once on BBC2 (in an earlier timeslot), but it hasn’t been seen since, although it was released on VHS. I’m not sure what viewers who did see it made of it, but I can only imagine that they found it great fun to watch whilst having their Tip Top. What are the chances of that happening?