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Here Come the Habibs–Season 1, Episode 6–The Brangelina of Bayview Road

The finale of Here Come the Habibs’ first season was a bit of a mixed bag for me, in particular with the writing and performances.

The writing was tight–the continuity of the Anzaclava and party terrorist subplots was seamlessly maintained, with the latter being concluded nicely. It’s a shame the Anzaclava didn’t take off, however I felt this plot wasn’t concluded properly. The revelation of Fou Fou sabotaging the Anzaclava via a negative social media campaign was predictable as I definitely saw it coming, however his intentions were understandable and sweet, as well as expands his character.

The interaction and sexual tension between Elias and Madison was well done, especially Madison finding Elias’ note at the end of the episode. Clearly this opening the door for a story arc for season 2, I appreciate that this show took the unconventional but necessary road of slowing building up their attraction and affection for each other. Many sitcoms have followed the cliche route of making love interests clear only to keep them apart by several frustrating obstacles. While the cliche shows good writing, it is still cliche, you could argue that this is what the writers are doing, but with the subtlety of the build up, it doesn’t feel that way.

I felt that Toufic and Jahesh’s “abduction” was over-the-top and almost unnecessary. The series has gone to a lot of effort to shove stereotypes in the viewers’ faces, while it was a unique technique to end a subplot, I can’t help but feel it could have been ended differently. Perhaps with Toufic finding a genuine and unexpected career path through it, that would provide him with a purpose. Toufic is a dim-witted but good hearted character, I’m hoping the writers show the understated latter quality in him more in the next season.

I didn’t enjoy another racial stereotype inserted in the show via the creation of the Chann’s at first, however I was relieved when the stereotype was emphasised in only one scene, as well as when I discovered its purpose. The purpose of their characters is to open the door to the final outcome of the season, not to mention is the writers’ choice to make an inside joke and poke fun at themselves and the controversy that surrounding the show, before it began. It’s good to know that the writers and creators aren’t afraid to poke fun at themselves as much as they poke fun at everyone else.

In regards to the performances, I felt that they were flat, with the exception of Darren Gilshenan’s (Jack) during his scene with Helen Dallimore (Olivia) in their apartment. It was good to see Jack finally standing up to Olivia, as well as Olivia showing a brief moment of humanity.

Much like the revelation of Fou Fou being revealed as the Anzaclava saboteur, the conclusion of the season with Fou Fou buying the O’Neill’s house was predictable as I saw it coming. Nevertheless it was a good full circle ending to the season.

Overall the finale was a mixed bag but it did its job of wrapping up most of the first season’s storylines and opening up the door for the second. Overall, the first season of Here Come the Habibs was interesting, with the first half excessively relying on racial stereotypes to tell its stories and the second half showing its potential, with its focus on character development and improved writing.

I’m looking forward to watching the second season next year.

 

Here Come the Habibs–Season 1, Episode 5–Party Habibs Style

I found this episode to be very funny.

One joke that wasn’t funny was the party terrorist, seriously enough already! That being said, the joke redeemed itself a little by having Elias pointing out the offensive and troublesome nature of the joke.

I quite enjoyed the use of the party as a plot technique and felt that it was done reasonably well, especially the way that Toufic’s plan was executed. I appreciated the party being used to address the romantic tension between Elias and Madison, as well as the Mariam and Jack subplot from the previous episode. It shows subtle progress in these crucial plots.

I didn’t enjoy the Bobby character, while I have nothing against Nathan Lovejoy, I felt his character was written poorly and didn’t serve much of a purpose since he didn’t end up signing the papers. However I liked the subtlely of his death and his interaction with Toufic. I felt that Olivia’s reaction to his death was unrealistic, however it confirms that she is indeed cold.

The highlight of the episode was the interaction between Madison, Layla and Madison’s ex. I felt that Brandon McClelland’s accent could have been worked on, nevertheless his performance as the player ex was well done. I especially appreciated the ending of this subplot with Layla getting her revenge and sharing a “sisterly” bond moment with Madison.

Other, more subtle moments I enjoyed were: Toufic and Layla encouraging Elias to go after Madison (even if they were only motivating him to suit their own ulterior motives), the revelation of the Toufic’s, Elia’s and Layla’s ages and the nerd jokes between Madison and Elias.

I liked the ending of the episode with Madison and the snow globe. It was subtle, sweet and closed the episode, while presenting possibilities for next week’s season finale, brilliantly.

I would like to end this review by congratulating the cast and crew of Here Come the Habibs on the news of their renewal. No matter what you think of the show, having a local show renewed that is not “reality” is a win. I’m interested to see where they take the show next season.

Here Come the Habibs–Season 1, Episode 4–The Anzaclava

This was the first episode that I fully enjoyed.

I fully enjoyed this episode due to the fact that the shift that I asked for in the previous review is finally happening. Rather than focusing primarily on cultural stereotypes and cliches, this episode focused on character development and building bonds.

I quite enjoyed the interaction between Mariam and Jack, especially as they are both being drawn to each other, due to their shared love of baking and being under appreciated by their spouses. I found the ANZAC biscuits and Baklava metaphor for their friendship very cheesy and I’m honestly not sure how I feel about the merging of these culturally important desserts, however I’ll give them points for being original. It was also a nice touch to have Jack’s friendly interactions with Toufic tie in with his interactions with Mariam.

I also enjoyed the power play between Olivia and Fou Fou. Rather than continue the forced, cliched and cringeworthy interactions we have seen in previous episodes, the writers have chosen to have these two alphas battle it out over bathroom tiles. This choice shows the strengths, flaws and humanity in both characters. Fou Fou standing up to Olivia both in the bathroom and at the end of their plot, as well as Olivia showing brief moments of humanity, by reluctantly helping Fou Fou with his itchy spot with a “back massager”, were definite highlights.

Elias’ and Phoebe’s decision to move in together was a highlight and is clearly a set up for a story arc to conclude the series. I found it funny, however I couldn’t get past the continuity error of Toufic, Jahesh and Layla showing up at their place to hide (how did they find out about it?).

I didn’t enjoy the Cabab-Ab story. I think it was perpetuating stereotypes even more than the show already has. Not to mention the interaction between the rivals was amusing, but mostly cheesy and not worked on enough. However I liked its conclusion with the rivals ultimately being mummy’s boys and Mariam threatening to make those fearsome phone calls to their mothers.

The Layla subplot of sneaking off to a party and getting drunk was really a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it plot and didn’t serve the rest of the episode. I didn’t see the need to include it.

Overall this episode shows promise for Here Come the Habibs with its slightly improved writing and character development. I’m looking forward to viewing the final two episodes.

Here Come the Habibs–Season 1, Episode 3–Civil War

This episode was a little flat (yes even for this show), which isn’t a bad thing.

There is clearly still a focus on the misconception of the Habibs’ as terrorists in Olivia’s eyes. I feel that this is getting a little old, especially since we are at the halfway point of the mini-series (unless it’s renewed), I think that there needs to be an evolution on this topic. Don’t drop it completely, just back off a little bit. This episode does start to do that and focuses more on character development and history, which I appreciated.

I almost felt like Mariam’s parents were caricature characters, other than a brief mention of the Lebanese Civil War and the fact that Jiddo has no respect for Fou Fou, there is nothing else to find out about them. I felt that the writers wasted the opportunity for genuine character development and history with Mariam and her family.

I did enjoy Olivia getting her just desserts for making assumptions about the Habibs. As Jack puts it “just because you saw something and did some research on the internet, that doesn’t mean that he’s a terrorist.” It was predictable that she would be arrested, however I found the police scenes cringeworthy. Both Olivia and Jack’s trespassing scenes reminded of me of a fitting moment from a fitting episode of The Simpsons, which can be found below:


Source: YouTube (via Carmelina Mete)

I did enjoy the scenes between Fou Fou and Jack in the distillery panic room. Rather than focusing mainly on stereotypes, it was about their shared frustrations with their respective in-laws, as well as the interlinking predicaments they are both in with Fou Fou’s in-laws and Olivia’s arrest.

The smaller moments such as Toufic riding the jetski in the pool as part of a photo shoot, Jiddo’s skills from the war being used to free Fou Fou & Jack and Toufic’s idea for the Cabab-Ab, were enjoyable to watch, due to the fact that these moments were brief. Sometimes the most brief, understated and comically well timed moments are the most memorable. What I didn’t enjoy was the episode starting and ending with Olivia’s sex dreams, it didn’t serve the rest of the episode and were just plain weird.

I’m looking forward to seeing the next episode and what direction the series will head towards, now that it has passed the halfway point.

Here Come the Habibs–Season 1, Episode 2–Members Only

This episode was all about discoveries, specifically the extended Habib family as well as Toufic, Elias and Layla discovering that Fou Fou won the lottery and Mariam discovering the local yacht club.

It was obvious that the extended Habib family would find out about Fou Fou’s lottery win and it was a good choice by the writers to have the O’Neill family be both directly and indirectly involved with the discovery. Directly with Olivia going to the press and indirectly with Madison telling Jahesh and Toufic, not realising that they didn’t know. The discovery was going to be obvious as it was inevitable, the real question was how would Fou Fou get the family off his back without having to give in. Of course Fou Fou was going to ask for Jack’s help, especially since Jack was in fear that Fou Fou would find out that Olivia made the news public.

The interaction between Fou Fou and Jack was a lot more friendly and less awkward, which I enjoyed. Despite the rocky start, I can see a solid friendship between them down the line. I thought that the idea to have Fou Fou buy his extended family life-long yacht club memberships was brilliant, especially since it tied in with the Mariam subplot.

I felt that the Mariam subplot was a little over-the-top and frustrating, even for this show. However the fact that the caricature snobby character, Commodore, takes a shine to Mariam and that Olivia’s neighbour, Anthea, nominates her for membership, shows that Olivia’s dominance in her Anglo and snobby community is breaking down. It will be interesting to see how far the breakdown will go.

The interaction between Toufic, Jahesh, Elias and the police was very amusing. I did enjoy the joke of Jahesh and Toufic wearing balaclavas and getting caught by the police as the money suitcase opens, it was a moment of rare, well-planned comic timing. I personally thought it was sweet that Jahesh thought that Madison was a badarse for not paying her parking tickets, emphasising the point that the police were racial profiling just a little bit. I also enjoyed the interaction between Jahesh, Toufic and the male police officer.

I felt that the final “boat people joke” at the end of the episode was in bad taste, it’s one thing to build the writing on stereotypes, it’s another to make light of refugees.

Overall this episode shows improvement and I hope they do flesh out the characters even more rather than focus purely on race and snobbery.

 

Another review can be found here: http://www.sbs.com.au/guide/article/2016/02/16/review-here-come-habibs-episode-2-its-better-thats-not-saying-lot

Here Come the Habibs–Season 1, Episode 1–Here Come the Habibs!

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/