Remember how, less than a fortnight ago, Here Come the Habibs was all set to be the sitcom that divided a nation? Everywhere you looked you would find one of two articles on the show: either they were attacking the show for looking racist, or they were defending the show for clearly not being racist. Neither article was good for much more than annoying people: the first kind were annoying because they were talking about things that weren’t part of the show because the writer hadn’t even seen the show (and felt that no-one should); the second kind was annoying because it set out to tell the reader how they should feel about something they hadn’t yet experienced – it’s one thing to write a review of a show, it’s another to write something telling viewers how they should react to a show. Of course, none of this was new.
Australian comedy has been an outrage magnet since time began, and for every legitimately iffy sketch (like The Chasers’ “Make an Appropriate Wish Foundation” one) there’s half a dozen attempts by the tabloid press to get people annoyed about something they haven’t seen. What made this different was that for once they were going on and on and on about a comedy that was going to air on a commercial network, and nobody under retirement age has any hope of remembering a time when “controversial comedy” and “commercial television network” belonged in the same sentence. It’s a sad fact that in this country any comedy dealing with an even mildly controversial subject has a shitstorm thrown at it sight unseen because according to our media it’s seemingly impossible to deal with anything in a comedy without mocking it. Drama? Sure, turn murder into entertainment and suggest that killing is actually a legitimate way to solve problems, the tabloids won’t blink an eye at that. But a comedy that looks about as toothless as a repeat of The Beverly Hillbillies because it basically is an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies? Time to run stories about how there’s going to be riots in the streets if it is allowed to go to air.
Even better, after the show does go to air it’s time to run, “Well, guess Here Comes the Habibs didn’t destroy Australian racial harmony after all” stories like the fact it turned out to be a mild dramedy where all the “jokes” were aimed at rich Anglos was anything of a surprise. You know what would have been a news-worthy surprise? If the show had actually been funny. Instead, what we got was a mildly competent collection of characters largely standing out doing not much because they were either a): being fish out of water or b): being outraged that their new neighbours were fish out of water. Various romantic subplots and the whole “don’t tell anyone how we got the money for the new house” felt like the kind of soapy plot long-running Nine favourites like House Husbands thrive on. If Here Come the Habibs ends up running for longer than these initial six episodes, we may all end up wondering why they bothered advertising this show as a comedy at all.
Written by Anthony Morris