Here was where we first saw the evidence of the whirlwind talent that was Benny Hill. It was during his BBC run that the most technologically (and otherwise) innovative work of his career was done – for example, his 1961 "Soap Box Jury" sketch where he played the host, all four panelists, and various audience members, with one final shot of all four Bennys accomplished through film trickery. The other advantage was the lack of explicit innuendo that marred his later years, especially the last half (1979-89) of his Thames run, as well as the absence of scantily-clad T&A (read: no Hill's Angels), thus it was his comedy, and his comedy alone, that was the main focus (that, and such perennial characters as the bespectacled idiot savant Fred Scuttle; his multiple characters in one sketch; his takeoffs of TV, films and adverts, and so forth). The 1960's also marked the period of socially-biting commentary from Mr. Hill that predated (and, in many ways, was more effective than) Monty Python's endeavors. In many cases, they were much funnier than the later sketches which placed (over)emphasis on pulchritude. With such guiding lights as pre-1964 co-writer Dave Freeman and on-again, off-again producer Kenneth Carter, it's no accident that much of Benny's best works (outside of his pre-1979 Thames output) are found on these ground-breaking shows from up to 1968. And with other collaborators such as producer John Street, much of the technological innovations in television comedy production that are today taken for granted came to the fore on this incarnation of The Benny Hill Show. Indeed, it could also be argued that Hill paved the way for the likes of Python and those that came long after. The main tragedy is that, thanks to BBC pique, the first appearances of Benny's core Thames cast of Henry McGee, Bob Todd, Jackie Wright and Jenny Lee-Wright within his final three BBC shows are lost to history. But what's left, even in the embryonic forms compared with his later Thames versions of key sketches, beats a lot of what's out there today by many, many miles.
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