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Featured TV on DVD Review: Benny Hill: Complete Series Megaset

October 12th, 2010

Benny Hill: Complete Series Megaset - Buy from Amazon

Benny Hill was arguably the most famous comedian on British TV for the better part of three decades and his 20-year run on Thames created some of the most memorable skits and characters ever seen on TV. And that's not even mentioning the theme song. (I bet a large number of you already have "Yakety Sax" stuck in your head, just from reading the name Benny Hill.) This 18-Disc Megaset is not the first time the show has been released on DVD; in fact, it's not even the first time the show has been released on a Full-Series Megaset. Upgrading isn't really an issue, unless you are willing to spend more than $100 for a different package. But is it worth picking up if you missed it the first time around?

The Show

First a note, like most Full Series Megasets, I did not watch every episode before I reviewed this DVD. I believe this is acceptable for a couple of reasons. Firstly, if you are interested in buying this DVD, it is very likely that you are already well acquainted with the show. After all, how many people do a blind buy on an 18-disc set. Secondly, I've seen more than enough Benny Hill to review his work. In fact, I own a lot of the epesodes on this Megaset.

Benny Hill was a bit of an anachronism, even during his day. His humor came from vaudeville roots, which is a bit strange, as vaudeville was a dying art by the time he was old enough to be aware of it. But in a strange way, Benny Hill's comedy style is quite timeless because of this. It relies on a lot of slapstick, as well as musical comedy, and parodies of numerous genres. On the other hand, the comedy feels very dated in a number of other ways. For instance, there are a number of very famous skits that involve a very unPC portrayal of a Chinese gentleman. The actual humor doesn't have malice, it is more Engrish than anything else. (And yes, Benny Hill made fun of other accents as well.) Some of this type of humor is a little cringe-worthy, but it's a tiny portion of the show.

And you can't talk about Benny Hill without talking about the women, a.k.a., Hill's Angels. A number of people have complained that the women in the show are little more than ornaments meant to stand around and look pretty. Even if this is true, and it is at least partially true, they are still treated with more respect than the men. (For instance, everything that happened to Jackie Wright on the show.) However, the show's reputation for being sexist is overblown. In fact, it's positively quaint compared to Reality TV shows of today.

My biggest complaint about the show is that it doesn't lend itself to marathon viewing. I noticed this when I bought the first volume of this set when it came out years ago. With most TV on DVD releases, I watch the entire set in one sitting. But with Benny Hill I just watched an episode here or an episode there in-between other DVDs.

The Extras

There are a number of extras spread throughout this 18-disc set. On disc three you will find The World's Favourite Clown, which was originally made in 1991, just a couple years after the end of his show and a about a year before his death. There is also the first part of the multi-part quiz, the rest of which are scattered throughout the set.

Disc six has the A&E Biography on Benny Hill, which is a lot more serious take on his life. If you want to learn something about him as a man, watch this. If you just want to laugh, the previous extra is better.

Over on disc nine there's Eddie in August, a 25-minute short written and directed by Benny Hill. In the short, he stars as the titular Eddie, who falls in love with a woman named Kathy, but every attempt to win her affection fails. It has gone mostly forgotten since it aired 40 years ago.

There is a 16-minute interview featurette with many of the ladies who were part of the Hill's Angels group. They talk about how they got their jobs, their first skit, etc. There's a 12-minute follow-up called Off the Record, which is found on disc 15. And the final extra is the third part of the Hill's Angels called In Conversation. At 10 minutes long, it lifts the total running time to nearly 40 minutes.

The Verdict

Benny Hill: Complete Series Megaset is a re-release of the previous Megaset with a different package. In fact, the previous release is actually cheaper on Amazon.com, because it has a bigger discount. There's no reason to upgrade if you have the previous DVDs. But if you held off, now is a great time to buy, even if it is the older release. And as is true with a lot of Megasets, it would make a great gift.


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