OKAY here’s the cracker. YES. Take the damn cracker and sit down. (Okay so you don’t really have to sit down and read this, but I’d love you to. Because I’m so nice, and I gave you a cracker.)
Now that the cracker is out of the way. (If you don’t like crackers, I have cookies.) I’m sorry guys for disappearing again! I got a little bit busy (still busy, got a personal deadline coming up) but I wanted to spend some time to write this post, in all hopes that it comes out sounding somewhat rational. I did after all begin writing this in the spur of the moment.
Here’s what I want to talk about. HERE COME THE HABIBS. A new Australian sitcom featuring a Lebanese-Australian family who’ve one the lottery – 22 million – and moved into an upper class typically ‘white’ suburb. It runs for 30 minutes every Tuesday night at 8:30pm. If someone hadn’t switched the channel to Channel 9, I wouldn’t have bothered watching it – but this is only because I didn’t know what to think about the show – but someone did, and yes, I spent last Tuesday night and last night sitting for 30 minutes and watching this new multicultural sitcom on Channel 9.
Controversial? Hell yes.
Take a look:
Now why is this controversial? In Australia, we call ourselves multicultural, and indeed, on tv, you will have a multicultural character every so often. On SBS, pretty much all the time, it’s the channel for multiculturalism, that’s why it was created in the first place, and why if you want your cultural fix, flick over to that channel. Now, if we look at Australian commercial TV however – by all means, I’m not an expert, but I have spent copious amounts of time searching for interesting shows on TV, and without Foxtel or the like, it’s usually very hard, because everything is nearly always so typically white – no offense, as much as I love that stuff, it’s tiring and boring to watch all the time, and so here I am, deciding to write up my own opinion based on everything I keep hearing, and since NO ONE has yet written a detailed blog post as to why or why not one should watch HERE COME THE HABIBS, I figured I might as well. I’m tired of reading summaries of the show and questioning pieces on the net by media outlets that REALLY don’t say anything at all about the show and FAIL to give it justice.
So here it is. Your Blogger Nina, writer of Words That Flow Like Water, a ridiculously long name for a blog that I should probably think about changing sometime in the future, will now tell you my thoughts about the first two episodes of HERE COME THE HABIBS.
Let me set the scene.
Last Tuesday night, like always, I sit down in front of the TV pull my laptop onto my little lap desk, and fire it up. I plug in my usb and flex my fingers ready to continue working on my writing project. It’s night time after all, personal writing time. Unfortunately, I’m one of those nutty writers who have the tv on in the background – but hey, why not? I live in a working middle class estate an hour away from the city, it gets quite eerie at night, and a little too quiet for my liking. If it weren’t for the train passing by the back of my house every half hour or so, I would have moved a long time ago. I’m not a rural girl. I like the city.
And there I was already to work – well semiwork – all that was left to do was find something decent for background noise. Since I had no control over the remote for once, I just had to cross my fingers and pray that something good would pop up in the flick-a-channel marathon.
Final button press – Channel 9, running overtime (like always), with Here Come the Habibs scheduled on next. At first, I’m conflicted. I distinctly remember when the promo was blaring in my face every day, every hour since 2015, and I distinctly remember dismissing it, with the single thought – crap, they’re going to eff it up real bad, there’s no way I’m going to watch this s***. Yep. That’s how I thought. I mean, why not? It’s a multicultural show on a commercial channel? When was the last time that happened? Don’t make me laugh! Oh yes, I can be quite harsh, and certainly, I was quite so during the lead up to the show, but the only difference is, as the time came closer for its premiere (it was vaguely in the back of my mind somewhere), I never said I wouldn’t watch it. Sure, I might have disliked the thought of it for months before, dismissed it harshly, and didn’t think much of it thinking it was just a horrible joke gone wrong, but I like giving people the benefit of the doubt. And with THE FAMILY LAW on SBS fully receiving my utmost attention (when I manage to catch it, but hey, I’ve read the book and currently using it as a source of data for my research), my head was already spinning towards thinking, maybe it might not be so bad.
But of course, since I’m a busy person, and TV schedules don’t really interest me all too often, I forgot about when HERE COME THE HABIBS was supposed to be premiering. It was just a coincidence that it and I were in the right place at the right time.
Just so you know what kind of a person I am – if you haven’t read my suggestive reads posts that is – I’m the kind of person who’ll think of the pros and cons and will probably like something if it has merits worth praising. I also, like to make up my own mind about something, I may also try and push my opinion on you, but hey! You don’t have to take it, since really, it’s just my opinion. So, from here on out, I’ll be briefly summarising the episode plots, then I’ll go through the pros and cons of the show, and then, well, it’s up to you if you want to go watch the show.
Episode One: Essentially the Lebanese-Australian, Fou Fou, brings his family to their new home, a mansion in Vaucluse. Pretty much a rich white upper class suburb. They meet the neighbours – the O’Neills – and it’s clear right from the get-go that Oliva O’Neill doesn’t like them. But this dislike probably stems more from her desire to get the house back – something to do with her family and family history and how her house and Fou Fou’s used to be connected. (I will definitely comment on the O’Neill’s later.) Fou Fou arrives in a little wooden dinghy –‘boat people’ imagery inspired here – he steps out and he kneels on the sandy forefront, bobs down and kisses it. He’s then in the fountain playing, to some extent, with the water, pretending to be a human sprinkler, while his family enter the house. The kids aren’t happy with the decisions being made for them, but they don’t mind checking out how big the house is. Fou Fou meets the neighbour, who is well affronted by the sudden ‘invasion’. They also have a little disagreement about a fence, so Fou Fou moves it for her, so that he can access the boat ramp. Elias (youngest son of Fou Fou who is in his first year of uni) stacks it when he’s on his way back from buying food, and he meets the neighbours daughter. Throughout the episode, Miriam meets the neighbour as well, offering baklava, and Olivia later organises a welcome party for Madison. Olivia also spies Fou Fou looking a bit shifty, crossing the lawn with a suitcase that accidentally opens to reveal stacks of money. Meanwhile, Layla goes to visit a friend/boyfriend, and her older Toufic finds out, so Toufic and Elias go to well, beat the guy up (friend of Toufic’s or something), in the process they get Madison to drive them to Bankstown. There, they hang out a bit, showing Madison where they used to live, and well, Layla finds the guy she wanted to me, scratches his car as payback, before they all head back home where the party is in full swing. Fou Fou’s family have a typical kebab bbq, while their neighbours are having a fancy bbq welcome party. Olivia has found out that Fou Fou got his money from the lottery, and that no one in his family except his wife knows. At some point of course, embers from the O’Neill’s bbq spark a fire on the newly varnished (a peace offering by Olivia’s husband – the varnishing) wooden dinghy of Fou Fou’s, and it bursts into flames…the episode ends with Olivia vowing to get rid of them.
Episode Two: The secret is out. Thanks to Olivia who tipped off the press, Fou Fou has to explain everything to his kids. Layla is ecstatic while Toufic is a bit disappointed. But that isn’t all. It’s the rest of the family and friends that matter. Phones start ringing, and Layla is on the phone to the radio. Fou Fou organises for Elias to take the suitcase filled with money to the bank, away from the house before the relos sniff it out. Elias once again recruits Madison to help him out. On the way to the bank, they stop so that she can go to see someone about a tattoo while Elias is left in the car. His brothers sneak up and fake rob him with masks and all, but they’re caught by the police, and have to explain everything. Madison comes back, the whole problem is sorted but then she’s arrested for unpaid parking fines. She works her way out of that one, and then they find out the case of money has been stolen. Meanwhile, Miriam, wants to join the club – Olivia’s club – and after meeting the Commodore, Olivia’s friend sponsors her in. Unfortunately, Olivia makes mischief and tricks Miriam into fishing off the pier for the mascot (Miriam didn’t know). Elias returns and tells his dad what happens – turns out Mustapha (sidekick uncle?) had been following them as a precaution because of Elias’ older brothers. While his kids had been away, Fou Fou had been meeting with all the relos to find out what they want (outrageous and expensive of course), and recruits Olivia’s husband to help him out (with the silent threat to sue for putting Fou Fou into the paper). For Miriam, it turns out the Commodore was happy that the mascot had been caught, cooked, and served, and welcomed her and her family to the club, to Olivia’s horror. And it turns out Olivia’s husband had also nominated all of Fou Fou’s relos to the club too…paid for by Fou Fou.
And Now…what to think?
- I love that this is a multicultural cast. Not just one character is a non-white person, but a family. Since this is a story about Lebanese-Australians. Granted it’s only restricted to either Lebanese-Australian or white-caucasian-anglo-saxon. But that’s the most multicultural I’ve seen on commercial TV for a long time. THIS IS MY NUMBER ONE PRO. WE don’t have enough of this kind of sitcom on Australian commercial TV that’s not sourced from overseas. It’s local as well, which is a big bonus. SBS is multicultural too, and The Family Law is another current show at the moment that is comparable. And I do actually like the Family Law better because the script and production is done so much better, but I can’t just dismiss HERE COME THE HABIBS.
- Commercial TV. To my friends and family, they know how much I abhor watching soap operas, comedies, and dramas on Australian commercial TV that’s specifically sourced locally. I know. As an Australian, I’m such a terrible one. But hey! I’m an ABC. And you know what? I’m REALLY sick and tired of the same old plotlines, same old white cast, same old boring repetitive stories. This is why I didn’t watch Packed to the Rafters. This is why I dislike Winners & Losers. Good luck to anyone who watches and loves those shows, but you can count on me to not watch it – I just don’t get what’s so “Australian” about those stories when, when I look at myself in the mirror, I’m just not like that. My family is mixed, and though there’s no way I would ever say that I’m not Australian, I do sometimes wonder, or at least, feel my mind straining against the stereotypical labels of what it means to be Australian. Commercial TV has not been a good indicator of ‘what Australian is’. Sure, shows set a few decades back, include a non-white character, however, it’s never more than one or two, it’s never a whole big fat family. Everyone has their own bone to pick – the need for more diversity and representation in body types, gender diversity, LGBTQ diversity, etc., but for me, it’s multiculturalism. Especially on the commercial channels – yes, I am not including SBS because SBS is made to be multicultural. SO YES, this is a big pro for the show!
- This is a controversial point. And I don’t fully agree with it, because the source of humour is the main source of controversy. But firstly, the style of humour we see in HERE COME THE HABIBS is a self-deprecating, making jokes of ourselves for laughs kind of humour. It’s in many ways what I think and feel is typical Australian humour. At the beginning, I didn’t want to laugh AT ALL. Because I was worried about the jokes. But – sigh – I ended up laughing partway through. So, to some degree this show is funny, particularly for the caricature image it creatures of the Lebanese-australians, and also of the upper class snob next door.
- Discourses of race and class can be read from this show. What I like about this show is that it really hones on these discourses, and gives you something to think about. It’s another reason why this show is so controversial. Since the jokes can be considered incredibly racist. But in my opinion, I don’t think they’re supposed to be like that at all. They’re just jokes.
- HERE COME THE HABIBS so far as they (producers, creators, directors, scriptwriters) don’t mess it up big time with some bullshit storyline, is much better than the other crap (yes, I’m sorry, but I disliked it, found it offensive, and hated it to pieces) such as Fat Pizza and Housos absolutely rubbish. At least HERE COME THE HABIBS doesn’t make me throw up every five minutes in disgust. HERE COME THE HABIBS so far, is pretty family friendly. There’s no vulgar sexual or drug references at all, and THIS guys, is a DEFINITE pro. We don’t need those other negative influences on the young audience. I don’t know why they put it on at 8:30pm, but I swear, I hope it’s not because we’re going to get some nasty surprise later on.
- AS a linguist, I’ve VERY curious in how they’re portraying accent. Will it be fully Australian (within the broad-general-rp continuum) or would they give the Lebanese-Australians their own flair (which from my experience they do have their own flavour) — this though, I’m still observing.
- Omg, yes, I will include this as a pro – but I am shipping Elias and Madison. It’s a bit of a strange pro, but they’re pretty cool together. I don’t know if I want to see them together, or just see them as friends for a long time, but I think they’re pretty cute to watch haha.
- Oh yes, there are cons! And this one has plenty of them! The first major con I want to point out is the production and scripting – mostly, it’s fine, but seriously, it could be so much better. Perhaps the only reason why it’s like this is because this is just the beginning of the show. But I would love to see stronger relationships being built between the characters. Then again I can also understand why this isn’t a strong element, since this is a light sitcom in its initial stages.
- Hate to say this, but which genius thought it would be a good idea to tag Kyle Sandilands opinion of the show at the end of the promo videos? Sure he says it’s funny, but um….since when was his opinion trustworthy? I still remember when he was on Australian Idol and had a thing for complimenting a singer’s looks over their vocal talents. Not to mention he’s white and somewhat typically Australian. Wouldn’t it have been a good idea to tag on opinion tweets from other people? I didn’t even recognise the names of the other people either, which is why I didn’t trust what they said. Why should I trust what these people say? I don’t even know them, or care about them. Keep it multicultural!
- Gawdbloodyblimey, there are so many stereotypes in this series. So long as the series doesn’t overdo it, it could still work. But HERE COME THE HABIBS walks a fine line between what’s okay, and what’s terrible.
- Bad jokes. Oh yes. The jokes border on really bad. Since they’re jokes orientated at a particular set of discourses, not everyone will accept them. Like in the most recent episode (2), when the Habibs’ family and friends are admitted to the sailing club, they arrive in boats, reminiscent of the image of refugees arriving by boat, hence why Olivia cries out ‘boat people!’ Funny, but can be read as insensitive to a critical issue at the same time.
Look, in the future for this show, I’m expecting a lot. I want more. I want more cultural situations. More Habib family moments. What is lacking in this show is strong relational ties. Everything at the moment is sitting on a 5 rating. It’s good, but not great. It’s fun, but not funny. It’s different, but bordering on absolute rubbish. Where the Family Law really hits it off strongly with strong themes and great relationships between Ben and the other characters, HERE COME THE HABIBS doesn’t quite have that yet. HERE COME THE HABIBS is like it’s still within that creative process, one that’s not yet finished. Needs a bit more tweaking for perfection.
In saying that though, I should probably say that The Family Law is really different in terms of production and humour, and production. The Family Law is bit more well rounded. But HERE COME THE HABIBS shouldn’t be crossed off the list yet. I think it has plenty of promise. And comparatively quite decent compared to Fat Pizza and Housos. Yes, I will keep bringing those up, even though I know a couple of the actors and creators from there are also a part of HERE COME THE HABIBS, but I can’t help it, the former two just ruined my appetite for anything remotely ethnically related Australian-produced. But maybe, just maybe, I’m regaining my faith with HERE COME THE HABIBS. If it’s cultivated and nurtured well, HERE COME THE HABIBS might actually make it as a memorable Australian TV show.
Btw, for other countries, this might not seem unusual, but yes, I feel in Australia, we just don’t get enough of these kinds of TV shows and multicultural casts.
Have I missed anything?
Have you watched Here Come the Habibs, what do you think?
What about opinions on multicultural sitcoms? Or simply, diverse sitcoms?