In a 2006 interview to celebrate receiving his CBE, Rolf Harris was asked why he was so popular. “I guess it’s because I’m real,” said the entertainer, whose death aged 93 was reported this week. “I’m not putting over a huge, phoney facade. The bloke you see up on the screen is the same bloke you meet by the stage door.” It was, said Anita Singh in The Daily Telegraph, a “brazen lie, as we now know”. Harris was convicted of child sex offences in 2014, and was later “stripped of that CBE”.
ITV’s two-part documentary combines an outline of his career with interviews with his victims. In one “disturbing” clip from “Jim’ll Fix It”, Jimmy Savile places his hand on the shoulder of a schoolgirl and says to Harris: “Do you think I may leave her in your charge?” “Safely leave her in my capable hands,” Harris replies. The programme does not have any new information about Harris or his crimes, but it brings his abuses into “sharp relief”.
I was struck by his lack of fear of being found out, said Carol Midgley in The Times. “Time after time, as the interviewees told of being assaulted by him, it was clear that he felt fully entitled to do it.” The evidence built into an “anatomy of a narcissist unable to stop himself grabbing, literally, whatever he wanted, even his daughter’s best friend”, whom he molested from age 13, once when she was “next to his sleeping child”. Similar shows have been made about the likes of Bill Cosby and R. Kelly, said Lucy Mangan in The Guardian. But that doesn’t lessen the programme’s power: instead, it gives it “cumulative strength”.