Here Come the Habibs was controversial before it went to air, quite an achievement in TV these days. It was controversial due to the assumptions that some of the public made about the show being racist. While everyone is entitled to their opinion, I believe that if you’re going to be offended by a TV show, you should actually watch the show, rather than making assumptions based on previews.
The first episode for me was equal parts awkward, cringeworthy and amusing. However this wasn’t always a bad thing, it brought stereotypes to light–both Anglo and Lebanese–and would enable the viewers to question why these stereotypes exist and are constantly perpetuated, especially in today’s modern multicultural Australian society. The use of stereotypes and inappropriate comments, mainly by the Anglo neighbours, is why some of the public were eager to scream that the show was racist. Clearly they don’t realise that the use of stereotypes and inappropriate comments are a deliberate choice by the writers and creators.
Like every first episode of a show, its purpose is to establish characters, setting and circumstances. Rather than having the patriarch of the family being dimwitted or clumsy like some others sitcoms, Fou Fou is a hard working, wise, proud and well-meaning man, who raises his children with a firm but loving hand. Mariam is the loving wife, mother and peacekeeper who is clearly the boss. Toufic is the dimwitted but heart of gold, muscular older child. Elias is the shy, gentle and intelligent middle child and Layla is a Daddy’s girl who dreams of being a social media star. With the O’Neill family, you have ‘evil’ Olivia who wants her family’s land back from the Habibs’ and seems to have no heart. Jack has a love of baking and is the Managing Director of a biscuit company that Olivia’s family own and Madison is a young woman trying to find herself.
Every family member on both sides has their roles–Olivia and Fou Fou are the heads of the family at war with each other, Jack and Mariam are the peacekeepers and all of the children get along. Of course there is going to be a love interest that will cause conflict, I’m looking forward to seeing where the writers take Elias and Madison.
I think my favourite scenes had to be when Toufic and Elias were asking for Madison’s help to “rescue” Layla and when Layla catches her boyfriend, Hassim, cheating on her. This is purely because there was no cringeworthy interaction between them, unlike their parents, race is a non-issue for them. Their parents represent Australian society thirty to forty years ago and the children represent Australian society today.
The revelation of Fou Fou and Mariam winning the lottery was not a surprising one however I do like the choice by the writers. It’s realistic in some ways, I mean if I won the lotto, I would buy a huge house too.
Overall the first episode did its job and even though the writers and creators are playing with the stereotypes and inappropriate comments, they could ease up on it a little bit. I’m interesting in seeing where this show goes.
An opinion piece on the first episode can be found here: http://www.mamamia.com.au/here-come-the-habibs-episode-one/