Horrible Histories With Stephen Fry. Stephen Fry. Copyright: Lion Television / Citrus Television.

Horrible Histories With Stephen Fry

BBC One sketch show. 6 episodes (1 series) in 2011. Stars Stephen Fry, Jim Howick, Simon Farnaby, Ben Willbond, Mathew Baynton, Martha Howe-Douglas, Sarah Hadland and others.

Press Clippings

Fresh from its BAFTA triumph, Horrible Histories has been promoted from CBBC and rewarded with a Sunday teatime slot on BBC1, albeit as a "best of" compilation. But the highway to stardom will always have the roadkill of heartbreak abandoned on its hard shoulder. Despite having played an integral part in the show's success - even enjoying a name-check in the theme song - the talking rat has been deemed surplus to requirements as host. Stephen Fry has been ruthlessly installed as the puppet's replacement, and shame on everybody who had a hand in it.

The Stage, 28th June 2011

When Horrible Histories beat the truly excellent third series of The Armstrong and Miller Show to the Best Sketch Show gong at the Comedy Awards last year, I was a bit miffed. Surely people were just being nice because it happened to be a bit better than your average kids' show? Nope. Turns out it's just really, really good.

This, actually, is Horrible Histories with Stephen Fry, a best-of collection with a plumb slot on BBC 1, 6pm on Sundays. All the cool cats have been watching it for years of course, but for johnny-come-latelies (that's the correct pluralisation, I believe) such as myself, this is a nice little catch-up.

The show has several things going for it, starting with the sublime source material. Author Terry Deary had the fine idea of getting kids into history by giving the facts a human face and a joke or two and - most importantly - not talking down to his readership. The producers of the CBBC show have perfectly transferred Deary's ethos to television, and added some genuinely excellent comic actors, including Simon Farnaby and Katy Wix. It's pretty wonderful.

This week, I was particularly tickled by a sketch in which the entire English Civil War was summed up at a frantic pace by a newsreader in front of a map of the UK - all very Peter Snow on election night, with ridiculous graphics and snarky asides. Plus, who doesn't want to learn about the Vikings through the medium of soft rock? Funny, silly and (whisper it) very informative.

Anna Lowman, Dork Adore, 20th June 2011

Horrible Histories review

In the first episode this Sunday night they manage to break down the entirety of the English Civil War into a three minute shell in front of a weather map. No intense detail of battles of scenes, no complicated narrative highlighting the political consequences, no Tony Robinson touching soil - just enough to get the grasp of what happened for any pub quiz or any trivial historical accusation against you.

Scotty Bryan, On The Box, 20th June 2011

Horrible Histories with Stephen Fry, based on the best-selling books by Terry Deary, has been making youngsters (and a few adults) chuckle for three series quietly on the CBBC channel. Having been the surprise winner of Best Sketch Show in the British Comedy Awards - which, not to put it down, was in part to do with lack of competition - it has been awarded the dubious honour of a promotion to BBC1, with its best bits repackaged with spurious links from Stephen Fry.

The sketches are still good fun, including the ones you might have seen on YouTube already where King Charles II raps and the Vikings do a soft rock number, but the point of Fry is lost on me: he's in a studio half-heartedly decorated with random historical objects basically repeating what the sketches have already told us more amusingly ("No one really knows how much of the story of Troy is true and how much is myth," he intones: well, thanks for that Stephen, otherwise I obviously would have assumed that Menelaus really did greet Helen with "you is well fit, innit?").

It's a bit like those 'adult' editions of the Harry Potter books with different covers for people who didn't want to look as if they were reading a children's book, even though they were.

Andrea Mullaney, The Scotsman, 20th June 2011

Horrible Histories' talking puppet rat, Rattus Rattus, moves aside to allow Stephen Fry to take the helm as presenter for this new prime-time version of the children's factual show. It's not a new series per se, more a collection of sketches from the first two series. Highlights include a dandy Charles II rapping about the Restoration - "I'm the king who brought back part-y-ing"; an episode of Historical Mastermind with Shakespeare, whose specialist subject is "phrases what I made up"; and a Viking rock group. Despite its frivolous premise there are serious messages, and the show always takes care to ridicule bullies and violence.

Rachel Ward, The Telegraph, 17th June 2011