After last year’s well-received one-off, Harry Hill returns this Christmas Eve for another outing as eccentric inventor Professor Branestawm. This time round, there’s a rival on the scene, in the form of Steve Pemberton’s villainous Professor Algebrain, and Branestawm must defeat him in an inventing competition to win a cash prize and settle his spiralling debts.
It is fair to say that this will be a pretty Marmite affair, dependent very much on whether you find Hill’s brand of inoffensive, zany, slapstick-silliness funny, or a total turn-off. I’ve long been a fan, and so was pleasantly surprised, watching it on iPlayer on about the sixth of January last year – more out of a sense of loyalty than anything else –to find it actually very funny.
Even if you are a Harry Hill fan, there’s still a veritable roll-call of overexposed stars of BBC light-entertainment – David Mitchell, Simon Day, Bob Mortimer, Vicki Pepperdine, Charlie Higson, to name a few, so you might be forgiven if, with Doctor Who, Strictly, Sherlock, QI, Call The Midwife et al looming on the horizon, you decide to forego yet another hour of safe BBC Christmas cosiness.
Still, it’s worth a watch, with more bonkers inventions, wacky characters and charmingly low-budget effects – a scene where the Professor’s myriad unpaid bills all come to life is wonderfully cheap and naff looking.
Madeline Holliday is back as the Prof’s gifted young sidekick, and handles her role with assurance, as she battles to try and get Branestawm to remember that she exists.
Ultimately, you know what you’re getting with this sort of thing, so tune in at your discretion. If for some reason you’re unsure, try the following joke for size:
‘Professor, we’ve really got to knock the judges’ socks off!’
‘Aha, then I’ve just the thing! What do you think?’
‘What is it?’
‘It’s a machine for knocking people’s socks off!’
Cue said machine promptly punching the Professor in the face, knocking him to the floor and causing his socks to fly off. If you find such wilfully silly humour amusing, chances are you’ll enjoy Professor Branestawm Returns. If not, well then you’re in luck. They’re showing Scrooge on Channel Five…
Harry Hill in Professor Branestawm Returns airs at 17.20 on Christmas Eve.