Harry Hill is back! And this time it’s worth watching.
The be-spectacled comedic ex-doctor has arrived just in time to save the human race from alien invasion! He’s showing our new alien overlords that we are useful to have around, if only to laugh at. I’m not even kidding. This is the basic premise for a strange and excitable comedy panel show, interweaved with funny clips of old tv shows, very much in the style of the awesome TV Burp, which, shockingly, finished five years ago.
Last year’s Harry Hill’s Tea Time on Sky 1 was way off point, managing to parcel up the Harry Hill brand without ever once stumbling towards what we enjoyed about him. All specs and grins and huge white collars and no fun. It was too gimmicky and far too dependent on one celebrity providing the fun and games in a very awkward, embarrassing situation. (If you want to see how that’s done with style and aplomb see BBC’s Murder in Successville.)
Thankfully Harry is back to his gleeful self, making fun of the celebs in a friendly inclusive kind of way, with zero cruel mockery. He’s in on the joke with an excellent jibe at his previous medical career when he explains how too much cheese can actually kill you, after watching Martine McCutcheon get battered to death by a massive cheese on Midsomer Murders.
I’m very happy to report that this is more Burp than Tea Time. The panel guests are well-balanced with some old hands at this sort of thing and some quite new to the fun and games. Of course they’ll be fresh faces from ITV shows, given the channel Harry has returned to. This is unusual in itself, as BBC and Channel 4 talent are always over-represented because the vst majority of successful panel formats belong to them. Emmerdale’s Kelvin Fletcher and Patrick Robinson off of Casualty (at pains to point out he does Shakespeare too, so that his Casualty and Midsomer clips are even funnier) do very well with panel show stalwarts Josh Widdicombe and Sara Pascoe.
The show is hugely anarchic even by Harry’s standards, like the wonderful continuing Channel 4 mash-up Cats Does Countdown or the good old days of Never Mind the Buzzcocks. Harry drags them back on format by saying “We should probably have some point scoring, in case we try to sell it abroad”. Everyone laughs, and he grins triumphantly. You never know Harry, stranger things have happened.
Harry Hill’s Alien Fun Capsule is just the tonic – it’s on ITV Thursdays 8:30pm