Somewhat unexpected, the news filtered in late on Saturday night that I Can’t Sing wouldn’t be letting out another note after 10th May, a mere 6 and a half weeks after its press night and its star studded launch. From the turnout representing the celebrity world, with the usual X Factor names and big stars from the comedy world, and the overall view from both celebrities and the public, it seemed to have the X Factor. However, with the numbers appearing not to stack up, the show will unfortunately go down in West End history as a flop and bring up the big question for Harry Hill fans – what next for Harry?
The talent was well cast, the songs were catchy with a nice comic edge and the humour was very Harry. However, with all the best will in the world and a top notch show, there were some things that the show just couldn’t get over. The association with The X Factor and Simon was reportedly seen as a problem from the start. Whilst the TV show that spawned the musical remaining popular, the audience is not necessarily the same, shown by the problems that have been suggested from theatre critics, unaware of the show or Harry, struggling with the musical. Equally, Simon’s association has already been discussed by Harry as having its own drawbacks, though with the subject matter of the musical and his funding, it was necessary to become bedfellows for the musical. The press jumped on the musical before its first performance, with the delays, technical problems, non attendance from key X Factor stars and poor ticket sales all well reported and no doubt affecting the sales going forward.
Whilst timing is everything, normally, with the limited space in the West End, this can’t be the case when you are trying to get into the exclusive strip. With such limited high profile venues and the perceived risk of this unusual musical, the offer of the London Palladium was a huge boost to the musical and worth biting Lord Lloyd Webber’s hand off for. But, with it came the expense of the launch date. In an ideal world, the musical would have launched when The X Factor was on itself, with the show’s ratings help to boost the profile and get the TV audience converted. However, this was not the case and a March launch couldn’t be much further away from the show. The NTAs and Royal Variety were good choices, but you can’t beat the father promoting the son. Keeping it in the family with Britain’s Got Talent could have provided this boost also, but alas, time has run out and it will never be seen if this would have done the trick.
With such a topical show, it could have had a good run, with updates as the X Factor universe dictated, but it wasn’t to be. With a reported £6m budget, the industry will be wondering if the musical will have broken even in its short run, with the comparisons to Viva Forever also inevitably rearing their heads. Whilst it will be an embarrassment that the press will now milk, Simon will likely brush this off to experience and move on to concentrate on the ever popular Britain’s Got Talent and reinvigorating the X Factor. However, for Harry, what will be his next step?
Having left TV Burp back in 2012, his projects to date have had mixed fortunes. On the positive side, his charity and Fairtrade, now without Harry’s Nuts though, work continues to be well received and his Gromit last year raised considerable funds with an innovative take on the design. His art continues to be exhibited across the UK and his stand-up show, Sausage Time, was well received and will come out later this year on DVD, with the odd stand-up date also selling out. Finally, his books continue to perform well and his comic, in its odd appearance since ending, continues to prove popular. Nevertheless, with a more “labours of love” feel to these projects, this isn’t where his main efforts have lay.
His main projects over the last 2 years haven’t done as well. Alongside I Can’t Sing, for TV, his Channel 4 revival didn’t rate as well as it could have, with an airing in the height of summer not helping, Harry exited This Is Jinsy for his musical commitments and Alistair McGowan presented You Cannot Be Serious wasn’t renewed. For film, The Harry Hill Movie didn’t go down well with the critics and whilst holding on in cinemas until a few weeks ago and taking £2.5m, its box office success was limited to number 7 in its first weekend and not matching the heights of recent hit comedy movies such as The Inbetweeners. The only constant that remains is You’ve Been Framed, which continues with new episodes each year.
And then we come to TV Burp. Many will ask, with some already having done so, should the programme be brought back after the movie and musical not performing well. Harry has widely commented on his relief of not doing TV Burp again, citing the huge amount of time needed and pressure of producing a new episode every week being significant reasons behind his decision to quit. He always wanted to do new projects, as has been seen with his varied ideas to date. He has also commented on how the series had done everything and that the world of TV had changed both during the final few years and since. He has hailed Gogglebox as the show’s successor, which would question if TV Burp has a place on the schedule anymore. Itsuffered in the last two years from being up against the big hitters on BBC1 of Strictly Come Dancing and The Voice UK, which, without very clever scheduling, would inevitably happen again. A special might be nice, but would a full time return sour the memory of the show if it didn’t succeed?
A new idea would seem to be needed. However, it is not as simple as that. Having previously looked into the options back in 2012 when TV Burp ended, pilots discussed included a prank series, which has now been done with Fool Britannia, and a spoof soap opera. We also discussed the audience for Harry, either family or adult, which, after the movie was loved by children but not well received by adults, remains a problem with a split fan base. A sketch show or hybrid sketch/stand-up Two Ronnies type programme was our preference and remains the case. Yet, with the second series of Little Internet Show not materialising, the internet could also be key to a return of fortunes. For all intents and purposes, the last two years really could be wiped out and we could be back at step 1 of what is next for Harry.
More charity work, art exhibitions, books, comics, Fairtrade and perhaps another tour would be great, but on the question of Harry’s next big step, the crystal ball is far from clear.
As we said in 2012, there’s only one way to find out – wait!
You can watch Harry Hill at the launch of Fairtrade Fortnight with the banana billboard below:
Harry Hill has written a blog for Huffington Post, all about bananas, for Fairtrade Fortnight:
Bananas – we love ‘em! When I was asked to go to Ghana twelve years ago to visit some Fairtrade banana farms, I thought, “They must know I am a well-known collector of the stickers that you get on banana skins.” I’ve got more than ten now…
Now, twelve years on, I am supporting the Fairtrade Foundation’s call to ‘Stick with Foncho’. Foncho is a banana farmer from Colombia and the face of the campaign to make all bananas fair. I remember from my trip how much hard work goes into growing bananas and what a difference a fair price can make to the communities out there. I have created my own personalized banana sticker at http://www.stickwithfoncho.org.uk to show my support for Foncho and other bananas farmers.
Bananas are the most popular fruit in the world. In the UK we munch our way through more than five billion a year and one in three of them are now Fairtrade. That means two thirds are not fair bananas.
It would make sense that such a big industry with such a popular product would be profitable for everyone involved in producing and supplying the market, but this is not the case. In fact, bananas in the UK are priced at a level that is not really profitable for retailers or the companies they buy from and so there is enormous pressure on keeping costs low along the supply chain. And with millions of tonnes of the fruit traded, even a few pence taken off the cost of a kilo amounts to a great deal of money.
As a result of this, small farmers and workers like Foncho – in Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa – are not seeing a fair return for their hard work in growing the fruit. Instead they face an ever-tightening squeeze on their living standards, year after year, trapping them in a bigger and bigger cycle of poverty.
Retailers and banana companies have locked themselves into the way the banana business is run now, and tens of thousands of small farmers and workers live daily with the consequences of a failed banana market.
The reality is that many can’t afford to put enough food on the table for their families or provide basics such as education and healthcare.
The Fairtrade banana farmers I visited in Ghana twelve years ago have since built schools, clinics, health insurance and much more with their Fairtrade premium – thanks to the hard work and dedication of farmers together with the shoppers over here buying Fairtrade. But, more importantly, the workers feel empowered knowing they are selling their bananas on better terms of trade.
This Fairtrade Fortnight (February 24 to March 9) we’re calling on the Government to work with supermarkets to treat all banana farmers and workers fairly. Go to the website http://www.stickwithfoncho.org.uk to sign the on-line petition. You’ll also find instructions about making your own personalized banana stickers to brighten up the banana aisles in your local supermarket, asking everyone to “Stick with Foncho to Make Bananas Fair”.
Please join me and show your support for Foncho and his fellow banana farmers.
With the Autumn now upon us, here is the latest selection of Harry Hill titbits from the last few weeks:
- Harry lookalike Craig Wilcock has been out and about in Sheffield, with his visit Plug up on YouTube, and also supported retiring Pavarotti lookalike Colin Miller as he had his beard shaved off, as reported in Burton Mail.
- Telegraph and Angus has covered Harry lookalike Paul Harper hosting a charity night in Bradford.
- Denis Kilcommons for The Huddersfield Daily Examiner covered Harry’s support for National Nut Day.
- Harry went to the premiere of Paul Potts movie One Chance, as pictured on Contact Music.
- Talking to the London Evening Standard, Jennifer Saunders has revealed that TV Burp makes her laugh.
- Theatre People have got a new interview with Harry on I Can’t Sing:
We’ve been in touch with Liberation in relation to the end of Harry’s Nuts. Here’s what they’ve said:
Liberation Foods has enjoyed a very successful partnership with Harry Hill and are very grateful for the awareness boost this has created, especially in supporting its co-operatives of small-scale growers and farmers.
Although there are no immediate plans for the Harry’s Nuts brand, Harry remains an active supporter of Fairtrade and Liberation Foods and continues to act as a brand ambassador.
The priority at the moment is for Liberation to focus efforts on the two new premium snacking products – Harry’s Nuts will no longer be available but the peanut butter remains on-shelf.
They have also confirmed that the peanuts and cashews will be on shelves until early September, so get stocked up!
Harry’s Nuts, the Fairtrade nuts brand from Harry Hill and Liberation, has been axed.
The Grocer has confirmed, as part of a review and rebrand from Liberation, the brand will be phased out and Liberation’s own brand products introduced. The new products will launch in Waitrose next month.
The only product of the range surviving is the peanut butter, which is made by Duerr’s using nuts from Liberation. This is currently available in The Co-operative Food, Sainsbury’s and Oxfam.
HHF is awaiting confirmation on when the rest of the range will be off the shelves, but if you see any, get it before it goes!
Harry will be continuing as a Fairtrade ambassador for Liberation.
Keep it Harry Hill Fansite for more!
Just a few extra bits that haven’t quite fitted in our recent coverage…
- Ian Hyland for The Mirror has commented that the Coronation Street fire seemed like a “long plea” to bring back TV Burp.
- Tania Wade has talked to This Week London about Harry’s exhibition, which is on until the end of the month.
- Mi Pro has reported that Harry took part in a ukulele lesson for Learn To Play Day at the Metrocentre.
- The Spoof have suggested Prince Harry as the new face for TV Burp!
- If you missed it, you can see some of Harry’s The Beano issue on Comedy.co.uk.
- Liz McClaron took mini Harry on What’s Cooking on Channel 4 during Fairtrade Fortnight:
- Harry is the new voice of Innocent. You can watch the latest advert below:
Thanks to our friends at Fairtrade, here are some pictures from the Fairtrade march on Parliament earlier this month:
Here at Harry Hill Fansite, we are taking a pause from news to give our thanks to a huge supporter over the last few years.
Behind the scenes, the site is provided with huge help from the various companies and elements of Harry’s team. One long term supporter is Margaret Rooke from Harry’s Nuts, who has been a massive assistance with all news Harry’s Nuts for the last 4 years.
During this time, she has kept you up to date on all of the latest Harry’s Nuts news, including new product launches and the activities that Harry and the brand has done to support the Fairtrade farmers, such as Fairtrade Fortnight, videos and even Harry working in Oxfam. Also, during this time, she has launched the brand onto the web further, with the successful Facebook page being one of the areas.
Margaret leaves Liberation this week and we just wanted to say a huge thanks for her support, as well as wish her the best of luck in the future!
As part of Fairtrade Fortnight, a Fairtrade march on parliament is taking place tomorrow (Monday). To rally the troops, here is a letter from Mr Harry Hill himself:
Join the ‘Mini March’ on Parliament to support smallholder farmers. It sounds crazy but it might just work…
Half of the world’s hungriest people are farmers which seems unfair when many of them are growing the food that we eat every day. Millions are struggling to feed their families or make a decent living because they are not getting paid enough for growing or producing these goods.
Starting in Fairtrade Fortnight (25 February – 10 March 2013), me and my little friend here will be going NUTS for Fairtrade by joining the Fairtrade Foundation’s ‘mini march’ on Parliament to demand the Government takes more action to improve conditions for smallholder farmers in poorer countries.
My character, along with thousands of other paper people, will march on Downing Street on 4th March to urge the government to raise the issue at the upcoming G8 summit.
The more Fairtrade products we buy, the more farmers and workers in developing countries will get a better price for the products they grow. The extra money which goes to the farmers from Fairtrade sales also helps them to improve their lives – to educate their children, for example, and put proper roofs on their homes. I saw this for myself at Fairtrade banana and cocoa farms in Ghana and when I met the peanut farmers who grow ‘Harry’s Nuts!’ Fairtrade peanuts in Malawi.
For this reason I pledge to buy double quantities of my favourite Fairtrade peanuts this year. How will you go further for Fairtrade?
Fairtrade is more than just bananas and coffee. There are so many more Fairtrade products you can choose including chocolate, rice, sugar, wine, cotton tee shirts as well as nuts (yum yum!). By doing this you’ll be helping to change the lives of the world’s poorest farmers.
It’s easy to support Fairtrade – just choose products at a shop, store, cafe or pub which carry the FAIRTRADE Mark. And visit www.fairtrade.org.uk/gofurther and join the Fairtrade mini march with me.