It might’ve been funny in Benny’s day, but . . .

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

THE Bri­tish seem to have an in­sa­tiable ap­petite for, and an in­cred­i­ble abil­ity to pro­duce, cheap sketch com­edy. From The Benny Hill Show and The Two Ron­nies to Matt Lu­cas and David Wal­liams of Lit­tle Bri­tain, the Brits ap­par­ently have an unswerv­ing com­mit­ment to dress­ing up in ridicu­lous cloth­ing and act­ing out semi-funny or com­pletely un­funny sit­u­a­tions, os­ten­si­bly in the in­ter­ests of com­edy.

The lat­est in this line is the work of sup­posed comic ge­nius Harry En­field, and some­time side­kick Paul Whitehouse, whose 2007 pro­duc­tion, Ruddy Hell! It’s Harry & Paul, has fi­nally made it to lo­cal screens.

The ti­tle, with its malapro­prisms and stupid punc­tu­a­tion should be a give-away to the turgid­ity of the con­tent, for it is hard to sit through an en­tire half-hour without won­der­ing how many times one has seen all this be­fore.

The premise is, I gather, an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the English class sys­tem through satire. But while there are a cou­ple of jibes at snooty mid­dle-class posers and even one not par­tic­u­larly hu­mor­ous and clearly outdated set-piece lam­poon­ing Guy Ritchie and then-wife Madonna, most of the jokes are at the ex­pense of the work­ing class. And the stereotypes run thick and fast.

Here is the punch-drunk boxer who has out­lived his stay in the ring but can’t give it up. There is the slap­per mother-to-be with her bot­tle­blonde locks and gut­ter mouth. Here is the cop­per with noth­ing bet­ter to do than moan about hav­ing noth­ing to do. And what about the foot­baller who ha­bit­u­ally takes a dive? Laugh! Ac­tu­ally, I didn’t.

There are, I con­cede, a cou­ple of

No laugh­ing mat­ter: amus­ing mo­ments. A bla­tantly provoca­tive skit pok­ing fun at Nel­son Man­dela is a tiny bit funny, and there is one gen­uinely hu­mor­ous scene in which a rich WAG pays £ 60,000 for a paint­ing of a daisy done by a junkie. ( It’s bet­ter than it sounds.) How­ever, a re­cur­ring skit in­volv­ing a dun­der­head in a brown ’ 70s tux is merely te­dious. And a bor­ing and repet­i­tive seg­ment ridi­cul­ing a tele­vi­sion chef who bears a strik­ing re­sem­blance to Hugh Fern­ley Whit­tingstall frankly adds noth­ing to my life.

En­field is best known in Aus­tralia for, among other things, The Harry

takes on Nel­son Man­dela En­field Show and The Fast Show ( which also starred Whitehouse). But this is cer­tainly not his best work. Hard­core fans, or those who par­tic­u­larly love to tit­ter at men in wigs and dresses, might still en­joy it, but those who ap­pre­ci­ate any­thing fresh and new should look else­where.

Wed­nes­day night on ABC1, tra­di­tion­ally a field of gold for com­edy, hav­ing hosted shows as bril­liant and en­ter­tain­ing as Sum­mer Heights High, The Gruen Trans­fer and Hol­low­men has been sadly let down. Please, please bring back Chris Lil­ley.

El­iz­a­beth Mery­ment

Ruddy Hell! It’s Harry and Paul

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