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'The thing is with clip shows, you can never tell if they are going to last half an hour... it can get relentless'

Harry Hill delves into the making of our favourite television genres for his new BBC series. Georgia Humphreys asks the comedian what viewers should expect


Harry Hill's World of TV

Harry Hill's World of TV

Press Association Images

Harry Hill's World of TV

The Covid-19 lockdown has actually been very busy for Harry Hill. The Woking-born comedian (55) finally managed to make a series he's been pitching for 15 years. Harry Hill's World of TV, which will air on BBC Two, gives viewers a lesson in telly history, with the presenter taking a hilarious look behind each of the main genres on our screens.

"It came out of lockdown, because nobody was able to make any shows with audiences," explains Hill, whose real name is Matthew Keith Hall. "It's me introducing loads of clips about different types of TV every week. It's a tongue-in-cheek guide how to make them."

The first episode looks at soaps, from 1954's The Grove Family through to Crossroads and Albion Market to Coronation Street and EastEnders.

Next up is medical dramas, with a look at shows such as Dr Finlay's Casebook, Emergency Ward 10, 1975's Angels and, of course, Holby City and Casualty.

The rest of the series sees Hill dive into police dramas, home improvement shows, historical documentaries and cookery programmes.

The funnyman, who's known for hits such as Harry Hill's TV Burp and You've Been Framed!, was able to make the show by himself at home.

He had other contributors - people he's worked with for a long time - helping him find the clips, before he edited it together on his computer.

The father-of-three, who's been married to artist Magda Archer since 1996, confides he "wasn't sure how they'd react" when he sent the edit over to the BBC. "But, actually, they've been very positive," he enthuses. "It hasn't changed a hell of a lot since our first edit, it just now looks a bit better."

Asked if he felt nervous having so much control over the show, he says: "No, not really", but then he does share there were a couple of challenges along the way.

"The thing with clip shows, you never know if it's going to sustain half-an-hour. With an audience show, you've just got a looser feel. So, this is a lot of jokes back to back and sometimes that can become a bit relentless."

The inspiration for the show came from the fact he has watched so much TV over the years for ITV's TV Burp, which aired between 2002 and 2012.

"The crime drama episode is good, because you've got stuff like The Sweeney and stuff from the Seventies, which were really overblown, right up to The Bill and Line of Duty.

"There's a lot of variation and often the shows start with black-and-white footage from the Sixties, which is really sort of tame and slow-paced, and then, when you get to the present day, it's all sort of fast-cut and action-packed.

"There are lots of ideas. It's surprising, I think; each one has its own surprises." Plus, he points out, the fact it took so long for him to get this idea commissioned is "a good lesson for people: everything comes around eventually".

As for his own TV binges during lockdown, he says: "I've watched what everyone else has been those first few months; I watched Tiger King and I watched Ozark. I got involved with and really enjoyed that Grayson Perry show on Channel 4 (Grayson's Art Club)."

With a laugh, he adds: "The news obviously; the daily briefings in the first few months, they were the most popular programme on TV. We were all waiting to find out what we could do and what we couldn't do."

How has he coped with the lockdown measures in general?

"By this stage, when they started to relax it, I think, like everyone, I'd got pretty fed up with it all, kind of worn down by it. You can be positive and find things to do for a couple of months, but after a while, you're like, 'When is this going to end?'"

But he's aware he's very lucky to have a nice house with a garden and no rent to pay.

"Anyone reading that will think, 'He's all right', you know? But I don't know what the hell it would have been like if you were living in a one-bedroom flat with young children.

"We've had our moments; we've got a 16-year-old daughter. But most of it, we've got on really well."

He agrees one of the problems has been the confusion over the rules.

"It was simple at first: wash your hands and stay in. And then it's not as black-and-white. Obviously, a lot of it is common sense. A few people are a bit silly. You walk around and people avoid you, everyone pretty much wears masks in shops and stuff.

"I've avoided the Tube; I'm that age, 55, where I'm thinking, 'Actually, if I got it, I might get it really badly'."

Hill is back at work on a TV set, though; he reveals he's in the middle of filming Junior Bake Off, the Channel 4 competition which sees kids show off their baking skills.

He didn't think, with the coronavirus pandemic, that they would be returning to do a second series this year. But "they've got around it with everyone isolating and having tests".

"Basically, there are two groups; one half of the crew wear masks all day long and people like me and the junior bakers and the judges don't have to wear the masks, but we have regular tests and we promise not to be silly.

It's surprising how quickly you get used to seeing people at work in masks, he notes.

"If we just landed now and walked down the high street, not knowing there'd been a pandemic and saw everyone wearing surgical masks, you'd think, what the hell is going on?

"But because it's crept up on us, you don't think twice about it, really."

Harry Hill's World of TV, BBC Two, Sunday, 8.30pm

Belfast Telegraph