Well, this was a waste of time. Australia has a strong track record of putting to air sitcoms made by people who’ve never actually seen a sitcom, and this was another one of those. Here’s an idea: when somebody in management decides to give a locally made sitcom a go, maybe go ahead and make a sitcom, not a random collection of events that fizzle out after half an hour. That way, when you go back to head office and say “nup, didn’t work”, at least you actually tried.
So why make this show? Here’s our best guess: Australian commercial networks have pretty much nailed down the only kind of local drama they’re going to make, and that’s a bland milkshake featuring a little bit of everything. You’ve seen television, you know what we mean – those shows that are basically light dramas but with characters that could almost be in a sitcom, or shows with a comedy set-up but characters with “real issues”, or… whatever. Feel-good television. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll hardly need to pay attention.
The only difference between those bland, already-forgotten dramedies and Here Come the Habibs is that Habibs ran for half an hour, and so was clearly “a comedy” despite never bothering to come up with a truly funny line or memorable situation. If it had worked it would have been cheaper than a drama (because they go for a full hour) and yet still a decent ratings grabber if they put it on against one hour dramas and filled in the back half with old episodes of The Big Bang Theory or something. Yet another genius move from the guys who brought you three weeks of a televised obstacle course.
What other explanation is there? No, seriously: what other explanation is there? Because it’s not like this was a show created and put to air by people with a love for comedy – if it was, they might have bothered to make it funny. And who out there is demanding the return of local sitcoms to our television screens? Not even we bother fighting that fight any more, and we’re the only people left who care about Australian television comedy on a regular basis.
Here Come the Habibs was ignored by pretty much everyone from the start because pretty much everyone knew from the start that this wasn’t a show based around the idea of entertaining viewers. A charitable explanation for its existence is that Nine wanted to experiment with a new (well, old) format; a plausible explanation was that they figured a sitcom built around various ethnic stereotypes would stir up enough media coverage to make it worth their while no matter what the quality of the finished product.
And what about that finished product? A sitcom where the laughs were meant to come from “oh no, two groups of people who hate each other now have to deal with each other”, only they forgot to come up with a way to keep the two groups together. Having “different” people move in next door may have worked in the UK in the 70s when houses were piled on top of each other and there was still a vague sense of community drifting around the place, but millionaires have high fences and big gardens for a reason; in 2017 who the fuck would have even known the Habibs had moved in?
That wouldn’t have mattered if the scripts had shown some spark or originality, but having a final episode based around a pair of sham weddings was a helpful reminder that the only storyline the writers seemed all that interested in was the dullest one of all: the one involving the boring-as-fuck young lovers. It’s depressingly easy to imagine the kind of cynical television executive who watched The Office and came away thinking “yeah, the romance was what people were really tuning in for”, but a decade on we’d hoped they’d all have died from cocaine-induced head explosions.
Look, despite our ranty reputations, here at Tumbleweeds HQ we’re all 100% fine with shows not being comedies. What we’re not fine with are shows that make a few casual hand-waving gestures towards being comedies and then devote most of their time and exceedingly casual effort to being something else entirely. Like shit.