- The Washington Times - Monday, August 23, 2004

Bawdy Benny beckons

British comic Benny Hill wasn’t all cleavage jokes and sexual titters.

The late funnyman, who died in 1992, earned that label by fixating his humor on the never-ending chase of unattainable women.

His legacy, though, offers plenty more.

DVD owners can see for themselves, with of a new sampling from his TV past.

“Benny Hill Complete and Unadulterated — The Naughty Early Years, Set 1,” debuting today on DVD, reminds us just how gifted Mr. Hill was in the variety-show format.

The set features Mr. Hill’s first shows for Thames Television after his long association with the BBC ended in the late 1960s, plus a dry documentary on his life and career.

Sure, some of the gags aren’t aging well, and the allegedly shocking nature of the shtick seems almost quaint by modern standards.

But watch Mr. Hill slip from social commentary to inspired slapstick and witness a true talent at the top of his game. Each show maneuvers from hokey singalongs, written and performed by the host, to linguistic brain teasers that gleefully skip across languages and cultures.

The best bits find Mr. Hill chasing and slapping poor old Jackie Wright, the kindly bald man who became Mr. Hill’s punishable muse.

Regis rocks record

It may seem as if Regis Philbin has been on television forever, but now it’s official.

The co-host of “Live With Regis and Kelly” has logged 15,188 hours on the tube, giving him the Guinness World Record for most hours on camera, Associated Press reports.

The talk-show host passed broadcaster Hugh Downs for the record, as calculated by Guinness World Records researcher Stuart Claxton.

“Now it’s all a big blur,” Mr. Philbin told AP last week as he looked back on his career, which began as a San Diego news anchor in 1958.

The ageless Mr. Philbin (who officially turns 73 tomorrow) has hosted the nationally syndicated “Live” in all 16 of its seasons, first with Kathie Lee Gifford and currently with her successor, Kelly Ripa. In his 46-year career, he has hosted numerous news and entertainment shows as well as the hit prime-time ABC game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”

Clearly, all those years on TV are not a total blur. One evening broadcast from the 1950s still sticks in Mr. Philbin’s memory. While doing the evening news in San Diego, Mr. Philbin and his fellow broadcasters were laughing together on a show called “The Big Party” that preceded the news. When 11 p.m. came, Mr. Philbin couldn’t control his still bubbling laugh as he was thrust into reading the headlines of the day, which began with a train wreck in the Italian Alps that killed 117.

“That,” he says, “is the nightmare that I remember.”

The nightmares have been few, however, for the energetic talk-show host, whose record of on-camera hours can only grow. He has two years left on his “Live” contract.

Scrubbing -in

Julianna Margulies will appear on an NBC hospital show during November sweeps.

No, not “ER.” The Emmy-winning actress has signed on for a two-episode arc on “Scrubs,” TV Guide Online reports.

Miss Margulies won’t, however, be playing a nurse. She’ll portray a malpractice attorney.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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