COMMENT: Kevin Lie-Go
email, May 2000 (never previously published)
Kevin Lie-Go
One of the interesting side-effects of giving the comedy industry a good thrashing in these pages are those occasions when those involved recognise it and throw us a few crumbs of info by way of assistance.

The site's coverage of the first stirrings of Channel 4's descent into broadcasting hell certainly roused a few cheers from those who'd recently been messed about by the station and were keen to vent their spleen.

The following is an email we received from 'an insider' who'd worked on Harry Hill's C4 series (1997 - 2000) and had experienced first-hand how artless management can screw up a workable situation. Obviously there's no guarantee that this is an accurate portrayal of the events - but it's interesting nonetheless...

Date: Wed, 3 May 2000 11:16:46

The more of this I write, the more I realise you can't really have it, and certainly not publish it!! But enjoy it anyway [please let me know if you want to do anything with it]

The Harry Hill Story [as I understand it]

Harry is of course for some an enigma, for others a thing they have to laugh at in the same way they have to have that shirt, and for others a true pleasure. But the way he ended up on tv and his subsequent treatment by his masters is very odd.

What you have to bear in mind [and you know this pretty well] is that Channel Four is now BBC2, or rather Michael Jackson took the people he had at BBC2 with him to C4 for when he took over - Kevin Lygoe in charge of Entertainment [or whatever it's called] and had his own little Year Zero. Whilst Harry was quite well looked after at Radio 4 [though they blew hot and cold whilst commissioning a billion Paul Powell shows at the same time] the television end of things seemed not to be getting off the ground [a well worn topic this, tv not knowing what radio's up to]. Anyway, when Harry had been big enough that one wondered why he wasn't on the box for a couple of years [while dear old Alan Davies hared away] - and it was always his stated aim that he wanted to get it right rather than do it for its own sake - he was very rarely approached by anyone. Finally along came Saturday Live [or whatever they called it] and Harry took the opportunity to be a diamond in pig-shit. This was at a time when [in his own words] "he couldn't get arrested".

So, anyway, suddenly the phone starts ringing. Harry meets with everyone, amongst them Kevin Lygoe of BBC2. The meeting seems to go OK, though Harry senses Lygoe isn't all that interested. Lygoe says something like "you can't just do the radio show on the television". Harry asks him what he thinks of the radio show. Lygoe tells him he has never heard it. The rest is easy to figure out, Harry goes to Channel 4.

So the first series goes ahead - massive poster campaign, the 1030 slot [after Frasier, before the pubs shut]. Channel Four are right behind it and all seems to be well. Although the show ain't perfect, it ain't bad, and it picks up nominations and the odd award. Viewing figures and critical reaction are unambiguous - the show is a home made hit. The deal is that we do three series, a deal done with then the regime [Seamus Cassidy]. Then everything changes. Out goes Michael Grade and Seamus, and the commissioning editor who commissioned "Harry Hill" - his name escapes me - he was also the uber brain behind "Whittle". In comes Michael Jackson and Mr Lygoe. As the new regime come in they cancel loads of stuff, series that have already been recommissioned are cancelled, and the blatant and feeble Channel 4 entertainment policy emerges: everything has to be "sexy", or "daring", or "outrageous", or aimed at youth [whatever that means] - in come your Graham Nortons and your 11 O'Clock Shows and your Antoine de Caunes shows [ever see that pilot? phew!!!!] and the feeble and weak willed Comedy Lab. Anyway, although Harry is something that the new regime didn't want when they were at BBC2 they're lumbered with him, because he's high profile, he's won awards etcetera [and I expect some contractual wizardry on the part of his sulphurous management].

So they proceed to do what all good networks stuck with something they don't want: they try to bury it. Instead of letting someone else take it over [which would look like they'd been scooped] they carry on making it [at vast expense] but don't promote it, give it a lousy slot and start generally to interfere. The second series is moved to 1105 - after Eurotrash for heavens sake - a mad decision when you consider the content. There's no poster campaign. And lo and behold there are less viewers [not that many though]. Also, for the six oclock re run of the first series they start randomly censoring the show. The Little Orphan Boy [voice now broken] is called in to re dub each time he says "slag" with the word "slug" - Harry's decision as he can't be arsed with the whole process; bear in mind how commonplace the word slag is, and the fact Nana Hill said "tits" and they didn't notice. Also Harry is told of a "mistake" - you can see his mouth moving whilst he does Stouffer.......... god help us all.

Onto series three. Harry has decided simply not to listen to anyone from C4 and any advice they might - "fuck 'em" I believe were his words. This series is timed to tie in with Harry's book, released in October, *published by Channel 4 Books* for pity's sake, and when we start filming it is announced that the series is to be broadcast in February. On a Sunday night - never the same slot twice. So the tie in - for their own company - is lost. Wilfully stupid. The series gets moved twice and then the final episode inexplicably moved to Easter Monday at 1130. Critical reaction is still very good [in a way that perhaps the 11ocs lacks], but of course viewing figures are down - that's the plan, naturally. Harry is not one of those Fighting the Forces of Boredom [a war Channel 4 seem determined to lose - my favourite thing about that campaign was the Iain Lee clip where the punter was funnier than him - not difficult, but it was probably the funniest thing ever to happen in Mr Lee's presence]. Perhaps Harry's crime is that whilst he is an acquired taste, he is not fashionable, and not interested in being so. C4's output is so determined to be "street" or something [and it tickles me greatly that you have Ali G and Ritchie Blackwood both on the same channel, both offered up in the same way......]

At the moment there are no plans for another Harry Hill series. In Harry's last tour programme there was a thank you to "Kevin Lie-go".