Good but slightly flawed
I bought this book not only because BCCA started to run the half-hour series again, but because I remembered reading a story in the paper a number of years ago how Benny Hill died alone in a sparsely furnished apartment, unloved.
What I got was a tremendous insight into English vaudeville and its morphing into radio and then television. I also got a tremendous amount of information about Hill's life, as other reviews note. I would, however, like to focus this review on the author's highly critical look at Benny Hill's work after he brought together the Hill's angels. The author unabashedly takes the feminist line that these programs were sexist, and there's no doubt that while the programs themselves were probably enough to get the feminists atwitter, now that BBCA is showing the uncut hour long shows, Hill's on air ridicule of the feminists was what really did it. I hadn't seen the hour long shows when I read the biography, so I more or less took the author at his word. Now that I've seen them, I have two comments. In no way are the Hill's Angels in any way objectionable. The author's comment, what did they have to do with comedy, is misdirected because they had everything to do with framing the skits that were carried within the performances. I think some of Hill's best work was done in these years.
My second comment is more of a revelation. I've always wondered exactly what it was that set Hill apart, the quality that no one else could or ever will duplicate. I realized watching these later shows that Hill had done something no one else had ever been able to do. He brought vaudeville, in its true form, to television. From childhood, he was steeped in, although unsuitable for, vaudeville. Television gave his strength, an acute eye for vaudeville, and his weakness, an inability to project beyond the tenth row of seats, the perfect format. It happened once, and that's the only time it will ever happen.
Finally, as to his death alone in a sparsely furnished room. The picture of Hill dead looks pretty bleak. However, the author makes one thing clear. Benny Hill did in life exactly as he pleased, lived his life exactly the way he wanted to live it, and knowing he was going to die soon, died exactly the way he wanted to die, eating candy bars, drinking, and watching his beloved TV. He had no regrets about anything in life and he was surrounded by people who loved him dearly. Even his failed romances weren't romances, but attempts to reach for unattainable women so he never had to make a commitment that would limit his freedom to do as he pleased. The one time he was expected to make a commitment, he ran fast. Hill did what he wanted in life, and to do that, he had to live and travel alone, and that's exactly what he did. Definitely buy this book, but don't let the author's prejudices dissuade you from enjoying all of Hill's work. As to the author's hope the British return to an appreciation of Hill, it'll never happen, but that doesn't stop us from enjoying him.