Horrible Histories With Stephen Fry - CBBC To Prime Time

By Liam TuckerMonday, 20/06/2011 - 08:47 in Reviews, Education


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Horrible Histories With Stephen Fry BBC

Having triumphed against the big guns at the British Comedy Awards, Horrible Histories has been lavished with its own prime time Sunday slot.

And as they hint at with that new title, this is a repackaging of old sketches from the show's two series, with links from the puppet rodent, Rattus Rattus, gone - replaced with interjections from Stephen Fry. This has probably been done with one eye on the fact parents and family will be watching in the new 6pm time slot. The rat was likely considered slightly too childish for grown ups to bear - and Stephen Fry's presence, the makers probably considered, would make this an easy sell to QI-loving parents, guaranteeing they got the whole family around the television to watch the show.

But if anything, it's not Stephen Fry that helps sell Horrible Histories, it's actually his credibility that's raised by being associated with the programme. The Fry links are pretty arbitrary - neither laugh-out-loud amusing nor heavily fact-packed - so really, links could've been done away with all together. That's not to say repacking the show was a bad idea, however, and Fry being there to explain the occasional titbit means there's no longer those slightly annoying captions flashing up that were slightly bothersome when the show went out on CBBC. When you think about it, genuinely amusing madcap sketch show antics turning up so well-exposed in the schedules is something to be celebrated.

Without a focus on any particular theme or period, as usual there was only a passing educational element in Sunday's offering but I'm not sure anyone would complain about that. In twenty-nine minutes we covered Queen Elizabeth I demanding reproductions of the same flattering portrait, Shakespeare appearing on Mastermind to answer questions on 'phrases what he made up', the stupid death of Humphrey De Bohun, a potted history of Troy and a brilliant Victorian Dragons' Den where every invention was a small impoverished child - suitable for chimney sweeping, bottle-washing and potato harvesting.

Those who have an issue with the historical element taking second place to the comedy will have been apoplectic about the British Civil War, covered by a weatherman anchor in a quickfire two and a half minute slot, but it's likely they're missing the point. Look at Horrible Histories as a comedy first and foremost and it's one of the funniest things on the television. Long may it reign, whether it be on prime time family TV or out there in children's hour.

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20/06/2011 - 11:40

Morning! I feel a bit sorry for the kids in all this really, as good as it is. I can imagine I would have been quite pissed off if one of 'my' shows went mainstream when I was a kid. Though I doubt it would've happened with "Round the Bend" which consisted almost entirely of poo jokes.

20/06/2011 - 11:56

Round The Bend! That was a good one - from the people who did Oink comic and Spitting Image...


Yes, the kids have probably long moved on, to be honest. This is really for cardigan wearers. Except cardigans are fashionable for the youth, so my cultural references are all clearly at least ten years out of date. The world's so complicated these days.




20/06/2011 - 12:02

I love how you're calling your cultural references out of date when I've just referenced Round The Bend. Very kind.

20/06/2011 - 12:04

There's nothing wrong with telly nostalgia. I'm just confused about cardigans. I've managed to get my head around facial hair being okay again, unless it's suddenly uncool again.


20/06/2011 - 12:04

Good morning. I wish they had had stuff on like this when I was little, then i might know a bit more about history than what I do. You didn't really get too much about the English Civil War in Hong Kong Phooey.

20/06/2011 - 12:08

Maid Marian and her Merry Men was alright. Sort of a more childish Blackadder.

And I remember our first VHS. First thing we taped was the first episode of Blackadder, if memory serves. So even us kids could tune in to sweary historical comedy. We were blessed.

20/06/2011 - 12:08

Also - NPA!


20/06/2011 - 12:08

Never mind the cardigans, the kids are wearing espadrilles these days. Espadrilles! I remember my dad bought a pair back in the day and I wouldn't leave the house if I knew he was out there somewhere wearing them.


20/06/2011 - 12:11

I remember our first video recorder. A Panasonic with a remote control that attached to it via a wire. It was a behemoth, HUGE. Thing is though, it was still going strong a good 15 years after we bought it.

20/06/2011 - 12:13

Espadrilles? I thought only Cornish women in donkey retirement stables wore those?


Thumps - those top-loaders could handle a bomb-hit. After a decade's use they whirred a bit, but it was worth the whirr.


20/06/2011 - 12:20

The whirr! The whirr! Good job we didn't have a dog, or else that would probably have driven him nuts.

20/06/2011 - 12:23

Let us not forget the tape-deck chew.

This is turning into I Love The 1980s.


20/06/2011 - 05:58

I'm so proud of the show! I love watching it, and I'm so happy the talented cast and funny script has been recognised and appreciated by a wider audience and has finally become mainstream! I totally disagree with Helen's previous comment, most children want the programs they enjoy to succeed and always attempt to urge their parents to watch the programs they love in a bid to entertain them, and horrible histories is enjoyable for both adults and children and it certainly succeeds! For example, I'm a mid-teen and adore the show, my younger brother loves it too and my 19 year old sister thinks it's great, our parents also enjoy the show! I believe Stephen Fry's contribution to the show is now essential, he keeps the crazy sketches grounded and brings a real element of intelligence and class to the program! I hope it's popular in it's mainstream spot!