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Horrible Histories with Stephen Fry (2011)

TV series review: Horrible Histories with Stephen Fry (2011)

Horrible Histories made a primetime BBC One début last Saturday at 6pm. The show, as it goes out on BBC One, is a mixture of sketches and songs from the first two series, and they’ve substituted Rattus Rattus with the quite interesting and all around brainy chap Stephen Fry. Sounds pretty darn great, right?


Okay, it’s not wrong, as such, I just couldn’t help using one of their catchphrases. 😉

This is a great opportunity at bringing a funny and educational sketch show from children’s channel CBBC to the grown-up ol’ BBC One. If you haven’t seen Horrible Histories before, or haven’t seen a lot of it, this is great. You even get two songs in the same episode instead of just the one! (The Vikings’ Literally song and Charles II’s King of Bling rap, for those keeping score.) Hopefully it’ll inspire you to hop over to CBBC and watch more, because there’s plenty more where it came from.

If you, on the other hand, have already been on CBBC and series linked Horrible Histories and got the DVDs and spent too much time on YouTube looking at clips … it’s still funny, but let’s face it, it feels more like a re-run, because there is nothing new. The clips featured – like the Stupid Death of the guy who got speared in the bum, Helen and the siege of Troy (“I is King Menelaus, yeah?” “You’re well fit!”), Queen Elizabeth’s portrait, the Shouty Man trying to sell Victorian children for chimney sweeps and more child labour in Victorian Dragon’s Den, Shakespeare on Historical Mastermind, and the HHTV News with the Civil War report – have been seen before, more than once.

The only really new thing is how the links (in-between the clips) are done. Replacing the rat puppet with Stephen Fry sounded like a great idea (not overly keen on the li’l fella), but I’m not convinced by it, I’m sad to say. I liked the new animations and the slight change of theme song lyrics, but Fry on screen was underwhelming. He just wasn’t as enthusiastic as I expected, more like “yeah whatever, just give me the pay check”. I thought he was a history buff? Disappointed. Will watch more to see if the impression stays or not, but I hope it changes.

Mr T, who hasn’t seen even half of the episodes (aside from the latest series, where he’s seen most), seemed to enjoy it, though. Which brings me back to the point that this is more for newcomers than it is for the already converted. Because the already converted have already seen it before and basically just watch to see what Stephen Fry could add. And frankly, just the short animations accompanying titles like “Terrible Tudors” are enough for my liking. History is good enough on its own – it needs no introductions. Even if they are made by the QI master himself.


An easily distracted Swedish introvert residing in Robin Hood Country (Nottingham, UK) with a husband and two cats. She's an eager participant in tabletop and play-by-post roleplaying, woodworking, photography and European travel, when there's not a plague on.

2 thoughts on “Horrible Histories with Stephen Fry (2011)

  1. You definitely should! Horrible Histories is great fun, while being sneakily educational at the same time. 🙂

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