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Harry Worth (1966-70)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Harry Worth (1966-70)
BBC, tx. 28/10/1966 - 13/1/1970
4 series of 37 x 30 min episodes total plus one special, black and white
Production CompanyBBC Television
ProducersGraeme Muir, Duncan Wood, Eric Fawcett, Douglas Argent
WriterRonnie Taylor

A bumbling buffoon has various encounters with authority.

Show full synopsis

Harry Worth, like many early TV stars, started out in variety theatre. Originally a ventriloquist, he supported Laurel and Hardy on their visits to the UK during the early 1950s and it was during these tours that the Hollywood duo suggested he ditch the dummy and become a stand-up comedian. The resulting stage persona - bumbling and always slightly out of sync with the world - also became the basis for his small screen career.

His first TV series, The Trouble with Harry (BBC, 1960), cast the bespectacled Worth as a would-be novelist, doomed to fail. However, it was his second series, Here's Harry (BBC, 1960-65), that established his popularity and cast the mould for the remainder of his TV career.

The show's weekly premise was to pitch Worth up against some form of petty authority and watch the fallout. This generally highlighted Worth's inability to make himself understood while passport officers, doctors or postmen grew ever more infuriated by his failure to manage a comprehensible conversation.

In the episode 'James Bond, Where Are You?' (tx. 18/11/1968), Worth accidentally ends up in foreign embassy where he's mistaken for a spy. During an increasingly shambolic interrogation Worth is asked: "Who is your superior in British Intelligence?" The hapless captive confesses that pretty much everyone qualifies. The baffled embassy staff, no longer able to cope with Worth's behaviour, admit defeat and release their prisoner.

Worth's bewildered but cheerful character proved a huge hit and in acknowledgement of his popularity Here's Harry was renamed Harry Worth (BBC, 1966-70) midway through its ten-year run. The premise, however, remained unchanged.

By modern standards the programme perhaps seems slow and often clich├ęd, but it does contain one of the 1960s' most celebrated opening credits sequences. Worth steps to the side of a shop window and raises an left arm and leg, which are reflected in the glass, making him appear to levitate. It became a national craze, with people copying Worth outside department stores across the country. The trick has been much used since, but it seems to have started here.

The popularity of Worth's innocent abroad persona helped pave the way for the equally cheerful and hapless Frank Spencer (Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, BBC, 1973-78), while the comedian Harry Hill arguably owes his namesake a debt of gratitude for his own on-screen persona.

Anthony Clark

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Video Clips
Clip 1 (1:51)
Clip 2 (1:59)
Clip 3 (1:54)
Complete episode (30:14)
Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em (1973-75, 1978)