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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