Review: Ruddy Hell! It’s Harry and Paul

Harry and Paul

In the UK:
Fridays, BBC1, 9.30. Repeated numerous times in the week

In the US: Nothing yet, but the new-look, redesigned BBC America might go for it

Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse have been at the forefront of first alternative and then mainstream British comedy for decades now. Well, Harry Enfield was, with Paul Whitehouse writing for him. Then Paul Whitehouse got fed up, went into business for himself, and got all famous with The Fast Show. Now they’re of roughly similar fame so they get equal billing for their new BBC1 show, Ruddy Hell! It’s Harry and Paul.

It’s a hell of a lot like their previous efforts, Harry Enfield and Chums et al, but despite the years apart and the occasional duff show between them, they’ve still got what it takes. More or less.

Enfield’s real skill was always in characters, so it’s natural that this is another character-based show. There’s no Kathy Burke this time, but Morwenna Banks, who’s been fabulous since Absolutely, and newcomer Laura Solon provide support that’s at least as good as Ms Burke’s.

Of the characters, there are some that work very well indeed (the ridiculously accomplished surgeons, the Polish coffee shop women), some that work quite well but make you wonder what’s going on (Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, Nelson Mandela. Really.) and others that make you wonder quite what they were thinking when they were writing them (Laurel and Hardy do Brokeback Mountain).

Other sketches are a little arch, particularly the ones that mock other comedians (because guys, you really can hold a candle to Stephen Fry. Honest), although their social commentary (the pet Geordie sketch, ‘I Saw You Coming’) is still very well observed.

The test, as always, is whether it makes you laugh. On the whole, although there were a few moments when the laughter stopped (and the canned laughter really should have been stopped), it was a pretty good half hour of reasonably original sketch show fun. It’s good to know they haven’t lost it yet.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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