What is Harry Hill’s Alien Fun capsule on ITV? Is it any good?

Ben Dowell takes a look at the eccentric comedian's new show – a celebrity panel game with a difference. But is it out of this world?

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The world is under attack from aliens and hope is fading. Our green-skinned friends require a capsule of all the best that human civilisation has to offer to prove we’re worth saving.

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Cometh the hour cometh…Harry Hill?

Yes, indeed, the responsibility for saving the world has fallen to the large-collared comic and time and hope is fading fast. After all, he hasn’t really had a massive TV success since TV Burp finished on ITV five years ago and the end is nigh.

It is, Harry admits in a later episode, a premise thinner than Kim Kardashian’s nightie, but it’s a winning one all the same, not least because he imports the best of what TV Burp has to offer – silliness, judicious use of TV clips and dry asides. 

But instead of mocking the week’s television, largely by himself (as he did in TV Burp), Harry has the company of a panel who submit themselves to his ribbing, usually with clips of lesser known TV appearances dredged up and laughed about. There’s no one like Harry for a left field mickey-taking view of celebrity, better when he’s the antagonist about TV than its accomplice.

He did a similar thing with Harry Hill’s Tea Time on Sky 1 at the end of last year, but in my view his culinary caper didn’t really get the right mix of guests.

A lot of the jokes resided on them doing silly things with food which after a few episodes felt a bit repetitive; it also came across at times like more of a cruel exercise in laughing at rather that with our guests. (I still haven’t forgotten the ridicule heaped on poor Joey Essex’s door for not understanding the difference between butter and batter.)

In Harry Hill’s Alien Fun Capsule the guests have been well chosen because they are relative strangers to panel shows but still have a brilliant and extensive back catalogue ripe for mocking.  

And with figures ranging from Lorraine Kelly, to comedian Joe Lycett to Kathy Burke, they are pretty good. You also don’t really know what to expect.

So Kathy Burke in episode two is a game guest, playing along as her early appearances as an actress in the TV drama Slags is reinterred for everyone’s amusement (including hers, though especially the relentlessly sarcastic, silly and hare-brained Harry).

First up in episode one (after a last minute switch by ITV) is Emmerdale’s Kelvin Fletcher, Sara Pascoe, Patrick Robinson and Josh Widdicombe with Burke, Ainsley Harriott, Joe Lycett and Lorraine Kelly following in episode two.

There isn’t a winner as such. Fun things go into the fun capsule and the winning team earns a sort of bragging rights. 

The anarchic nature of the format is also underlined by Harry’s quip: “Probably should have some point scoring, in case we try to sell it abroad.”

But obviously the point is the fun they can generate, and on the evidence of the early episodes they answer is that they generate quite a lot.

And if that’s not enough there’s the delicious prospect of Des O’Connor and Judith Chalmers to come…

I reckon it’ll be a hit. It’s certainly fun.

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Harry Hill’s Alien Fin Capsule starts on ITV on Thursday March 2 at 8.30pm