IT has not been seen on TV screen for nearly 20 years, and in the age of cancel culture it might appear to be a bizarre return.

But Benny Hill's infamous TV show, perceived by many as unacceptable by today's standards, is making a comeback this Christmas after 20 years, despite featuring 'out-dated and sexist' scenes.

The Benny Hill Show first began in 1955 and includes short comedy sketches that focussed on slapstick, but it became famous in the 1970s for the risque sketches that saw the comedian chasing scantily-clad young women.

During its peak, it was one of the most watched TV shows in the UK and racked up more than 20 million viewers.

It was cancelled by broadcaster Thames TV in 1989 as due to declining ratings.

But it came against a background of complaints from some viewers that Benny Hill's racy sense of humour, coupled with the salacious sketches he performed with women on his eponymous show, were sexist and vulgar.


The comedian died in 1992 at the age of 68, with the rights to his TV shows controlled by his estate and Thames, and The Benny Hill Show has never been shown on British TV screens since his death.

Now That’s TV, available on Freeview, has snapped up the rights to more than 40 hours of The Benny Hill Show and are to screen a selection of episodes.

The deal with Mr Hill’s estate and Fremantle, which sells the back catalogue, is the first of its kind in 19 years.

Re-runs of the popular comedy sketch show are due to air on the Freeview channel That’s TV Christmas for the next seven weeks.

Two episodes aired on Thursday night, the first time The Benny Hill Show has been aired in almost three decades, and the TV channel will also feature comedy specials from iconic funnymen including Kenny Everett and Tommy Cooper.

But actress Debbie Arnold accused The Benny Hill Show of being “sexist”, "ridiculous" and “terrible” when she appeared on Good Morning Britain.

She told GMB hosts Susanna Reid and Adil Ray: "I think all the camera angles were gynaecological, to be honest with you.  It was ridiculous.

"As much as I love Benny, he was a friend of my dad, he was a really nice man, I loved him very much. He was a very very lovely person. But I just couldn't bear the shows. They were just awful and they were so sexist.

"I mean, looking up girls' skirts, how can that be right for people to see that today?"

HeraldScotland: Comedy legend Benny Hill.

But former Benny Hill angel Julie Kirk Thomas argued the comedian was “one of the greats” and agreed with the decision to bring back the series for Christmas.

She said: “A lot of Benny’s humour the targets were the men, they were being portrayed as inadequate.

“Actually it was the girls who were on top,  they were chasing him around the field and I feel it’s a historic piece of television.  It should be seen again.  We should value his talents."

Benny Hill aired from December 1962 to December 1968 on the BBC, and from December 1969 to May 1989 on ITV, before re-runs took place until 1992.

The show received a total of 11 awards during his time with ITV and his shows were exported to more than 140 countries.

Among the vocal critics in the lead up to the shows being cancelled was the comedian Ben Elton, who called Benny Hill a “dirty old man, tearing the clothes off nubile girls while chasing them round a park”.

But it remained hugely successful, raking in more than £100 million for Thames TV.

Disgruntled viewers have aired their concerns on social media.

One tweeted: “We don't need Benny Hill back on TV- we have Boris Johnson (& he's not funny either)."

“Other than the ubiquitous ‘chase’ scenes, I don't remember much of the Benny Hill show from childhood,” another said. “Tried watching some of it on 'That's TV Gold' and for multiple reasons I couldn't manage more than a few minutes.”

But some of the funnyman’s fans were overjoyed Benny’s eponymous TV show was making a comeback, with many suggesting that his humour was gentle and “done with a cheeky wink”.

The comedian was born Alfred Hawthorne Hill in 1924 but later changed his name to “Benny” in homage to his favourite comedian Jack Benny.

He first shot to fame as a radio performer in the years after the Second World War, before he moved to television in 1950.