harry hill's world of tv
BBC/Nit TV/Ray Burmiston

‘Harry Hill’s World of TV’ review

As the Covid-19 pandemic sweeps the globe and the stocks of new TV dry up, one man is back to save us all. Comedy genius Harry Hill assembles a clip show like no other, a romp through TV history all interpreted through his surreal eye. It may not be on the same level as some of his earlier shows (what could ever surpass TV Burp?), but it’s still full of laughs and a welcome piece of comedic relief.

In each instalment of the show, Hill tackles a certain TV genre, explaining all the pieces you need to make one of your own. He illustrates all the examples with clips, showing how a certain TV show just about nails it (or, more frequently, doesn’t). And then, we have a little potted history of the genre, some real and some absurd, from its early outings on TV (invariably black-and-white fare in which very little ever actually happens) to the modern-day. It’s a lot to pack into half an hour, and it results in a typically breakneck programme heavy with gags.

It’s a lot to pack into half an hour, and it results in a typically breakneck programme heavy with gags

The six-part run sees Hill tackle soaps, medical dramas, historical documentaries, police shows, cookery and DIY programmes – at the time of writing, I’ve only seen the first two, but they gave me a wonderful sense of what World of TV is all about. And it is a fascinating mix, managing to be both hugely funny and genuinely interesting in the history it offers. Seeing early soaps like 1954’s The Grove Family and the 60s programme The Newcomers provides a bizarre reflection of what these programmes used to look like, and how they’ve changed, even without Hill’s fun voiceovers. He really livens up a discussion of Crossroads, “the biggest daytime soap based in a Midlands hotel of its time”, by noticing a character whose sole function is to walk in on other people talking.

Unfortunately, World of TV lacks the anarchy of some of Hill’s earlier offerings – as a clip show, it means we don’t get the studio destroying antics of TV Burp or Alien Fun Capsule, for example. It’s been eight years since TV Burp went off air, and I still remember tons of gags and recurring characters from that show: Wagbo, the Knitted Character, Mr Blobby destroying Dot Cotton’s house, Eoghan Quigg, ‘This week’s Apprentice in a nutshell’, and the list goes on. Even Alien Fun Capsule had its moments, including the infamous return of ‘Coventry Market’ (worth a check, especially for a Warwick student). But World of TV, despite having a lot of great lines, doesn’t have that same madcap memorability.

Despite lacking in Hill’s typical manic energy, World of TV is still a hugely fun and surprisingly informative piece of television

That’s not to say that it lacks in the humour department, though – if you like Harry Hill, then you’ll find World of TV really very funny. It features a few classic bits (Hill receiving phone calls from the world of the shows, and the overly-long gags that run so much they become funny once again), but most of the gags stem from Hill’s dissection of the shows. In the soap episode, he brutally takes apart the Welsh soap opera Pobol Y Cym, showing clips of all the Welsh language he’s learned – words like ‘supervisor’, ‘Bedford van’ and ‘mint sauce’. In the medical episode, he explains how Bristol is the perfect location for accidents: “there’s a bridge to crash off and impale yourself on a spike, busy roads to get run over on, plenty of water to drown in”, delivered dripping with sarcasm and making the gory clips inexplicably funny in the process.

Despite lacking in Hill’s typical manic energy, World of TV is still a hugely fun and surprisingly informative piece of television. Having him back on the box in any non-You’ve Been Framed form is a welcome relief, and I’m certainly looking forward to the rest of the series.

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