One of five UK comedy series repackaged under the umbrella title "After Benny, Thames Presents", to increase the episode count of the initial USA release of The Benny Hill Show (1969). These shows would replace Hill's program for a few weeks every so often. See more »
The IMDb webpage for this programme has correctly noted that 'What's On Next?' was one of several Thames TV comedy series that were combined into a single syndication packet for Stateside television, to augment the episode count of 'The Benny Hill Show'. However, the comment might have gone a bit farther. Most American fans of Benny Hill wrongly assume that he starred in a weekly half-hour show. In fact, Benny Hill starred in one-hour specials that were transmitted in Britain at irregular intervals. For resale in the USA, each of these one-hour specials was chopped into two 'episodes', with the same opening and closing credits at the ends of each half. This is why there are never more than two episodes of the Benny Hill Show with the same typeface in the credits: Benny Hill changed his title design for every one-hour show, but each of these was used twice in the half-hour package.
The American TV programme 'Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In' was extremely popular in Britain, not least because several of the performers and writers were English. 'What's On Next?' was an outright imitation of 'Laugh-In', made excusable because this show was very funny in its own right.
'What's On Next?' featured rapid blackout gags and brief skits, enacted by veteran performers such as Bob Todd and newcomers such as Jim Davidson (doing his 'nick-nick' routine). Russ Abbot was on hand too, not yet doing his Tommy Cooper imitation. Barry Cryer, better known as a scriptwriter, here appeared in the cast as well as writing jokes. I was rather surprised by one episode in which Cryer dressed up as music-hall performer Max Miller and did an imitation of him. Max Miller (the original Cheeky Chappie) was a superstar of the 1930s and '40s, but by the 1970s he was largely forgotten: I shouldn't wonder if most of the audience didn't know whom Cryer was imitating.
Whereas 'Laugh-In' featured original production numbers that were meant to be satiric, 'What's On Next?' leavened its comedy with straightforward musical interludes of existing songs, usually fairly obscure ones that might seem new to these viewers. I was delighted by Pam Ayres's very kinky rendition of the song 'Green Door'. Ayres was a quiet brunette, not blatantly sexy, but I always found her attractive and personable.
Many of the jokes on 'Laugh-In' were topical references to events of the late 1960s and early '70s, and would not now be very funny. 'What's On Next?' avoided that gambit, sticking largely to generic humour. This programme was funny when it was first transmitted, and would be accessible for modern audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. Comedy Channel, are you listening?
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