The Benny Hill Show
GenreSketch comedy
Written by
StarringBenny Hill
Theme music composer
Ending theme"Yakety Sax"
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series
  • 8 (BBC)
  • 1 (ATV)
  • 19 (Thames)[1]
No. of episodes
  • 34 (BBC)
  • 9 (ATV)
  • 58 (Thames)
  • 101 (total)
Camera setupMulti-camera
Running time45–60 minutes
Production companies
Original release
Release15 January 1955 (1955-01-15) –
26 December 1968 (1968-12-26)
NetworkITV (ATV)
Release9 November 1957 (1957-11-09) –
1960 (1960)
NetworkITV (Thames)
Release1969 (1969) –
1 May 1989 (1989-05-01)[2]

The Benny Hill Show is a British comedy television show starring Benny Hill that aired on the BBC and ITV between 15 January 1955 and 1 May 1989. The show consisted mainly of sketches typified by slapstick, mime, parody, and double entendre.

At its peak, The Benny Hill Show was among the most-watched programmes in the UK with the audience reaching more than 21 million viewers in 1971.[3] In 1972, Hill received a BAFTA Television Award for Best Writer, and he was nominated for the BAFTA for Best Entertainment Performance. In the late 1970s, the Thames Television version of the show gained a following in the United States and would run in syndication until 1991. In 1980 and 1981, it received Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Variety. In 1984, Hill received a Rose d'Or.

Thames cancelled production of the show in 1989 due to declining ratings and large production costs at £450,000 (equivalent to £1,414,100 in 2023[4]) per show. In a 2015 UK poll, the show's theme song was voted number 1 on the ITV special The Sound of ITV – The Nation's Favourite Theme Tune.[5]

Show format

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The Benny Hill Show features Benny Hill in various short comedy sketches and occasional, extravagant musical performances by artists of the time. Hill appears in many different costumes and portrays a vast array of characters. Slapstick, burlesque, and double entendres are his hallmarks. Critics accused the show of sexism and objectification of women, but Hill argued that the female characters kept their dignity while the men who chased them were portrayed as buffoons.

The show often uses undercranking and sight gags to create what Hill called "live animation", employing comedic techniques such as mime and parody. The show typically closes with a sped-up chase scene involving Hill and often a crew of scantily clad women (usually with Hill being the one chased, due to silly predicaments that he himself caused), accompanied by the instrumental "Yakety Sax", in a send-up on the stereotypical Keystone Cops chase scenes. Hill also composed and sang patter songs and often entertained his audience with lengthy high-speed double-entendre rhymes and songs, which he recited or sang in a single take.

Hill also used the television camera to create comedic illusions. For example, in a murder mystery farce entitled "Murder on the Oregon Express" from 1976 (a parody of Murder on the Orient Express), Hill used editing, camera angles and impersonations to depict a Quinn Martin–like TV "mystery" featuring Hill in the roles of 1970s American television detectives Ironside, McCloud, Kojak and Cannon, plus Hercule Poirot.

During his television career, Hill performed impersonations or parodies of such American celebrities as W. C. Fields, Orson Welles (renamed "Orson Buggy"), Kenny Rogers, Marlon Brando, Raymond Burr, and fictional characters that range from The Six Million Dollar Man and Starsky and Hutch to The A-Team (parodied as "The B-Team", in which he played the roles of both Hannibal and B.A.) and Cagney & Lacey. He also impersonated such international celebrities as Nana Mouskouri and Miriam Makeba as well as British stars such as Shirley Bassey, Michael Caine (in his Alfie role), newscasters Reginald Bosanquet, Alan Whicker and Cliff Michelmore, pop-music show hosts Jimmy Savile and Tony Blackburn, musician Roger Whittaker, his former 1960s record producer Tony Hatch, political figures Lord Boothby and Denis Healey and Irish comedian Dave Allen. On a few occasions, Hill even impersonated his former straight man, Nicholas Parsons. A spoof of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? saw him playing both Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

Production notes

The show's closing theme tune, "Yakety Sax", which has gained a following in its own right, was written by James Q. "Spider" Rich and Boots Randolph. The show's musical director was pianist and easy listening conductor Ronnie Aldrich, and vocal backing was provided by session singers the Ladybirds (who also frequently appeared on camera from 1969 to 1974). The saxophone soloist on Aldrich's version of "Yakety Sax" was Peter Hughes. For three episodes of the 1973–1974 season, Albert Elms filled in for Aldrich as musical director. "Yakety Sax" first appeared in the 19 November 1969 episode, which was also the first show for Thames.

Another signature of the show was the enthusiastic announcer intro: "Yes! It's The Benny Hill Show!" (The announcer was often cast member Henry McGee.) From 1975 forward, Hill was also introduced at the start of each show as "The Lad Himself". The show closed with Hill's salute: "Thank you for being with us, and we look forward to seeing you all again—very, very soon. Until then, bye bye.".


Hill created both long-running fictional characters, such as Fred Scuttle, and frequently spoof impersonations of other TV personalities of the day, usually tweaking names for comic effect:


The main supporting cast included Henry McGee, Jon Jon Keefe, Ken Sedd, Nicholas Parsons, Bob Todd and Jackie Wright.

The regular sexpot-type women include Jenny Lee-Wright, Sue Bond, Bettina Le Beau, Lesley Goldie, Cherri Gilham and Diana Darvey. In later years, the show included a dance troupe, the Hill's Angels, which was briefly preceded by the Love Machine. Regular Angels were Sue Upton and Louise English, whilst Jane Leeves also appeared as a Hill's Angel in a few episodes in the early 1980s; among those who appeared only once were Susan Clark and Sue McIntosh.

The female singing group The Ladybirds, featuring the bespectacled Maggie Stredder, were regulars on the show as background singers to Hill, and occasionally singing numbers on their own.

Character actresses include Anna Dawson, Bella Emberg, Rita Webb, Helen Horton, and Patricia Hayes.

Guest stars

Occasionally, Hill would briefly chat with his guests on stage.

Musical guest stars

Hill also gave the first major exposure to some non-UK-based musical groups, including Luis Alberto del Paraná and Los Paraguayos. With few exceptions, most of the musical numbers did not make it to the U.S. syndicated series.


In May 1989, Thames Television's Head of Light Entertainment since March 1988, John Howard Davies, invited Hill in for a meeting. Having just returned from a triumphant Cannes TV festival, Hill assumed that they were to discuss details of a new series. Instead, Davies informed Hill that his programme would discontinue production, and that he was dismissing Hill himself. In an episode about Hill from the documentary series Living Famously, Davies stated there were three reasons why he did so: "The audiences were going down, the programme was costing a vast amount of money, and he (Hill) was looking a little tired." His shows had earned Thames £100 million, with a large percentage due to the success of his shows in the United States.[6] At its peak in 1977, 21.10 million viewers in the UK watched Hill's show. In 1989, the last Thames episode attracted 9.58 million viewers. Despite declining ratings in the UK, the show was still one of Britain's most successful TV exports, airing in 97 other countries.[7]

Even though it was a ratings winner in the 1970s and 80s, in the 21st Century The Benny Hill Show was not repeated in full on national TV for 20 years, until That's TV announced that the programme would feature in its Christmas schedule, alongside other ITV programmes like Beadle's About and Kenny Everett's New Year Specials.[8][9][10][11]

Programme list

Other programmes featuring Benny Hill

DVD releases

In 2004, the hour-long Thames specials were released uncut (except for ad-break bumpers) in a six-set, 18 disc Region 1 DVD collection for the U.S. by A&E Home Video (under license from Thames, talkbackTHAMES and FremantleMedia International), entitled Benny Hill: Complete & Unadulterated. Each DVD set has three discs, representing multiple years of the show in order of the original show airings, with "Benny Hill Trivia Challenges", a booklet containing a listing of sketches from each DVD disk, and documentary extras. All 58 episodes of the Thames years (1969–1989) were showcased in the collection, but Hill's 1977 Australian TV special ("Down Under") was not, and remains unavailable on DVD.

In 2005, the Thames specials began to appear uncut (including the original ad-break bumpers) in Region 2 DVD sets, each representing one year and entitled The Benny Hill Annual. Sets for each year from 1970 through 1989 have been released on DVD by Network. Two box sets were released of the 1970–1979 Annuals and 1980–1989 Annuals, with a set containing all the Annuals "double bundled up together".

In 2005, Warner Home Video released a DVD featuring a three-hour collection of clips from some of the surviving black-and-white episodes Hill did for the BBC in the 1950s and 1960s (roughly half of them no longer exist) on Region 1 DVD as Benny Hill: The Lost Years. In Australia, Via Vision released The Benny Hill Annuals complete box set (1970–1989) on August 3, 2022.


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  2. ^ "The Benny Hill Show (A Titles & Air Dates Guide)". John Lavalie - Archived from the original on 22 December 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  3. ^ "Features | Britain's Most Watched TV | 1970s". British Film Institute (BFI). Archived from the original on 22 November 2005. Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  4. ^ UK Retail Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Clark, Gregory (2017). "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved 7 May 2024.
  5. ^ "The Sound of ITV: The Nation's Favourite Theme Tunes Episode 1". Retrieved 1 October 2019.
  6. ^ "Benny Hill To Call It A Day". Daily Variety. 1 June 1989. p. 16.
  7. ^ "The Truth About Benny Hill". Sabotage Times. 21 October 2011. Archived from the original on 11 May 2017.
  8. ^ "Benny Hill back on national TV after two decades". Archived from the original on 18 November 2021. Retrieved 18 November 2021.
  9. ^ "Benny Hill is back on TV : News 2021 : Chortle : The UK Comedy Guide". Archived from the original on 18 November 2021. Retrieved 18 November 2021.
  10. ^ "Benny Hill, Tommy Cooper, Jeremy Beadle, Kenny Everett and Mike Yarwood for Christmas TV". 18 November 2021. Archived from the original on 18 November 2021. Retrieved 18 November 2021.
  11. ^ "New Christmas Channel on Freeview / Freesat: That's TV Xmas". 18 November 2021. Archived from the original on 18 November 2021. Retrieved 18 November 2021.
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  14. ^ "The Benny Hill Show (1957)". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 13 March 2024.
  15. ^ "The Benny Hill Show (1967)". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 13 March 2024.
  16. ^ "The Benny Hill Show (1969)". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 13 March 2024.
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  22. ^ "BFI Screenonline: Hill, Benny (1924–1992) Credits". Archived from the original on 3 December 2010. Retrieved 13 October 2010.
  23. ^ Tise Vahimagi; Michael Ian Grade (1996). British television: an illustrated guide. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198159278.
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  25. ^ "Benny Hill – Clown Imperial". Collections Search | BFI | British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 13 May 2022. Retrieved 17 November 2020.
  26. ^ "BBC One – 20 December 1991 – BBC Genome". Archived from the original on 20 October 2014. Retrieved 17 December 2020.