This is another review I wrote as part of an application form (the 1st being my review on The Thin Blue Line). Originally it was shorter. But I thought that on this occasion, I extend this review and add a bit more depth to it.
Harry And Paul, originally known as Ruddy Hell! It’s Harry And Paul, is a sketch show, starring long time comedy friends, Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse, and based on the themes of class and gender, with occasional spoofs added.
Harry And Paul was broadcast during the period when sketch shows such as The Catherine Tate Show and Little Britain were popular with viewers. This one introduced a variety of characters as Ronald and Pam, The Chocolatier, Parking Pataweyo, the Benefits Family and of course the parody to Dragon’s Den.
Speaking of which, let’s firstly talk about the characters, starting with the ones from Season 1. There are very few memorable characters form that Season. They include;
- Ronald and Pam – an elderly couple, who originated from America and often behave in a friendly manner towards each person they visit, even proceed to waste their time by showing them a large collection of photographs. My favourite sketch of theirs is from Season 2 when they’re talking to a family in a fast food restaurant and Ronald states to the little boy that “when I was your age, I always wanted to be a pedophile”. It’s a shame they weren’t brought back afterwards, because those two characters had potential!
- The Chocolatier – basically, the Chocolatier is a street seller of candy and holds out an open box to passers-by. He has a rival who sells high-heel shoes. During a sketch in Season 3, both are outwitted by a seller of champagne.
- Bono and The Edge – obvious references to them two musicians out of U2. They were okay and I do like U2’s music, but that’s not the point. The only thing I remember about them is when Bono phones up Bob Geldof and asks how Peaches is getting on.
- the I Saw You Coming sketches – about an antiques store owner who is frequently visited by a wealthy woman and they kiss each other on cheeks through each introduction. The sketches are so repetitive that I feel I’m watching the same sketch over and over again every time I see them.
- Clive The ‘Pet’ Northerner – one of my least favourites. The joke about Northern English folk, or Geordies as they’re sometimes known, is now wearing thin. Yes, we’re aware that their accents are different to none Northerners, but I’ve always found the idea of an upper-class Southern English family treating a Geordie like an animal somewhat creepy. Thankfully, Harry and Paul stopped with this creation after the only sketch from the third season, which however ended messily. The girl gets a ‘pet’ Northerner of her own named Jack, then that ‘pet’ deliberately replaces poor Clive, but the family throw him out after accusing him of raiding the fridge. Dude, this ain’t funny, it ain’t even charming, this is bloody disturbing. Harry, Paul, what was you guys thinking?
- the Laurel & Hardy parody – (sighs) there was one sketch from the pilot episode where Paul plays Stan Laurel and Harry, Oliver Hardy, two comedians who I grew up with through my late great uncle. Thankfully this was their only sketch, because quite frankly, that was just sick. Two respectable comedians, secretly sexually attracted to each other; they even have a shot of Hardy putting his hand in Laurel’s fly. Childhood dead, not only have the homosexual jokes dated. Thanks a lot Harry and Paul!
Onto those introduced from Season 2. Most of the new ones, not so memorable, with the exception of…;
- Dragon’s Den – a parody to the series of the same name. For those who don’t know, Dragon’s Den is a reality show based on businesses in which each contestant is an entrepreneur who must convince at least one of the multi million dollar investors (or ‘Dragons’ as they’re known) to invest in their company. Those sketches are so amazing! I would also recommend you check out the sketches which were done for Comic Relief in which the entrepreneurs are played by the original Dragons themselves and are pitching products/projects to their Harry/Paul counterparts! My only nitpick would be some of the name changes.
- The Writer & The Landlady – film noir inspired sketches in which a moustached guy (Paul) enters a bar and meets the landlady (Harry) and they talk about his writing material. Those ones always reminded me of Sin City, particularly because all of it’s in black and white, except for a dead canary which is yellow. It’s artistic, but a little repetitive.
And finally Season 3. I’m stalling there, because I didn’t watch the fourth one which is technically where Harry and Paul ended and the fact that I went to University at the time is not the only reason;
- The Benefits family – the working-class family consists of three members, each from a different generation. The older two (the dad and the grandpa) are claiming job benefits, which you can easily guess despite the fact that you hardly hear them talking about the benefits. They and the son and their dog, Ghostface, go round to public places, behaving in a rude, noisy and disruptive manner and wanting to purchase lottery tickets and/or items which the places don’t sell. They are without a doubt awesome creations who helped to balance things out.
- Parking Pataweyo – Parking Pataweyo is a parody to Postman Pat, which I personally have never been a fan of. Though I must admit, this is another awesome creation. Pataweyo in question is an African-born traffic warden, rather than a mailman. The narration, presumably provided by Harry and joined by a lovely synth keyboard melody, also adds a few extra snorts, at one point asking Pateweyo; “are you a vibrant masturbator, Pataweyo?” More of them please!
- Radio 4 – a producer and presenter travel from location to location to create a show based on an uninteresting subject. Then, they are approached by passers-by who are curious about what they’re doing and they resume where they left off.
- Is He A Queer? – a couple of upper class elderly guys who sit in a London-based Gentlemen’s Club and discuss various people and their sexualities. Right, so what’s so funny about those guys? Is it the fact that they pronounce ‘queer’ as ‘quair’? Well, not to me it ain’t. More to the point. Just repetitiveness. Nothing funny about them quairs.
- The Silver Haired Beatles – have you imagined how the Beatles would look had they not taken drugs? I would do if Harry & Paul hadn’t overlooked the fact that half of the band are already dead! One of them took a bullet and another lost a war against lung cancer. Hello?! You’ll probably say Goodbye at that point. I’ll go now, but leave you with some last few words; why not just go back to parodying U2?
- Mr. Psycho Bean – oh for god’s sake! A parody of another high profile comedy character? It’s like they’re running out of ideas for comedy. What’s next? The Young Ones?
Unfortunately, Harry And Paul does not hold up as well as certain other sketch shows or comedy shows in general. Harry Enfield may have achieved fame through his Television Programme and Kevin And Perry Go Large, but this show is still forgettable compared to the early works. Same with Paul Whitehouse whose credits include The Fast Show and Happiness.
Over its running period and much like Little Britain, Harry And Paul gradually became crude for the sake of being crude, but at least Little Britain had a more unique theme. If a sketch show is to be produced and creative, comedians should try and pick a particular unique theme. Not The Nine O’Clock News for instance focused on news stories, public events and other broadcast formats. Little Miss Jocelyn mainly focused on the societies that some black people come across. Harry And Paul’s theme on class and gender is long-dated. I can’t believe that Harry And Paul even won BAFTA awards for Best Comedy Series. Also reverting back to parodies, i.e. Parking Pataweyo and Dragon’s Den, if they want to take on parodies, they really need to do their research on the original media product and/or really think whether it should be parodied or left alone, please, please!