In September of 1990, American comedic television was dominated by Cheers and The Cosby Show. Seinfeld had just finished its first season. Across the Atlantic, Britain must have sat down one day as a collective nation and said to themselves, “How can we possibly compete with America’s mastery of the sitcom?”
I imagine that weeks, perhaps months went by as this great land used every ounce of their brainpower to come up with the single greatest idea for a television show in history. At long last, this concept came to fruition. Scripts were made, actors were cast, a studio was rented, and hundreds of people helped a certain show see the light of day. That show, of course, was Heil Honey I’m Home!
Now based on that title, you might have a creeping suspicion that this show is a sitcom about Adolf Hitler. Obviously that’s not the case.
This is a sitcom Adolf Hitler’s married life to Eva Braun while living down the hall from a Jewish Couple.
Obviously I can’t even here. I’ve known this show existed for a few years, but I sat down today and actually watched the whole thing for the first time. I was…amazed. But before we got into my play by play, what exactly is Heil Honey I’m Home?
Heil Honey is a British sitcom written Geoff Atkinson. Mr. Atkinson intended this show to be a mockery of early American sitcoms as well as a satire of Britain’s appeasement to Hitler in the late 1930s. Needless to say, it didn’t go over very well. Heil Honey was cancelled after a single episode and is widely considered to be one of the absolute worst television shows of all time. So of course, today I’ll be examining it in excruciating detail. As is always the case with my reviews of awful movies and shows, everything in quotes was actually said.
MY RECAP / REVIEW OF HEIL HONEY I’M HOME!
***SPOILER ALERT: It’s offensive.***
Heil Honey starts off with a text crawl detailing the fictitious history of this show. Apparently many years ago a nearly unknown television executive named Brandon Thalburg Jr. greenlit a television program called Heil Honey I’m Home (the exclamation point is missing in this fictitious iteration). The tapes of this sitcom were recently discovered and are now being aired.
It’ll be a hit com, don’t you know!
This short introduction to the show may seem completely pointless, but that’s because it is. There’s absolutely no reason to do this; nothing interesting is added to the show’s plot or mythos here.
Up next we get the show’s theme song, which mostly consists of extremely upbeat repititons of the phrase “Heil honey, I’m home!” Of course, Mr. Atkinson did have a little more creativity than that. He also threw in this beautiful phrase:
“Gee it’s great to be top gun, but it’s nothing like the fun that I get when I say Heil honey I am home.”
Now is this the worst way to start a sitcom about Eva Braun and Adolf Hitler living next door to a Jewish couple? Yes, of course it is! If this show is going to be a mockery of Britain’s appeasement to Germany, maybe you could ease us into the sitcom aspect? Not just throw a bunch of cheery Heil Honey’s at us?
After the theme song’s done, Hitler walks through the front door and we get the first line of the show.
“Heil honey, I’m home!”
Just in case the title card and theme song haven’t made things clear by now.
It’s revealed Eva is miffed at Adolf for being late for his schnitzel dinner.
“I’m a very very bad Hitler.”
Two things become readily apparent from this short clip: I get the sense that there was an actual studio audience, but they were too uncomfortable to laugh reliably. The network therefore threw in a laugh track in a lot of cases. The second, and by far bigger issue, is that the actress playing Eva is one of the worst people ever.
Although admittedly not as awful as the actual Eva Braun.
After listening to Eva’s whining, Adolf protests that he’s the Führer and can’t just walk out the door at five o’clock. This is when I began to feel extremely uncomfortable and guilty for watching this.
I lasted 40 seconds.
Typical sitcom bullshit happens for a while, including Adolf speaking directly to the camera and proclaiming “Boy, this is going to be some night.”
To be fair, when your leading man looks like that you want to show off his mug.
Adolf tries to apologize for being late, but Eva just keeps laying it on him.
“And don’t think you can smooch around me like that, Adolf Hitler.”
I never thought I’d say this, but I’m going to defend Hitler here. Eva is being way too fucking unreasonable. Adolf is trying to run an empire, he’s not raising his voice, and he’s owning up to his mistake. Eva can’t cut the guy a little slack?
Now to be fair, the pilot does a great job of getting the plot moving. After a mere two minutes we’ve got a good introduction to our two main characters and the episode’s plot is revealed: British ambassador Neville Chamberlain is coming over tomorrow to discuss Adolf’s planned annexation of Czechoslovakia. Of course, on the other side of the coin, this is still a sitcom about Hitler and Eva living next door to a Jewish couple.
But gosh darn it, a twinkle of clever satire shines through in this scene. When Eva protests that Adolf went over the line by invading Czechoslovakia, he tries to downplay the situation with Chamberlain.
“I’ll show him around the town, we’ll have a few beers, he’ll forget about Czechoslavakia.”
But with this show it’s one step forward and about a thousand back. That first step back is Adolf and Eva hugging and dancing while singing, “Hoochie coochie smoochie.”
I’m not making this up!
We just keep getting off the rails with the introduction of Hitler’s Jewish neighbors, Arny and Rosa Goldenstein. Adolf absolutely does not want Eva telling Rose about Chamberlain coming over; he’s furious that she always blabs to Rosa about his secrets.
“When I finally get to invade Poland, who will be the first to know? The Poles? No. Rosa Goldenstein!”
It would take a much better writer than I to make all this okay.
This is the point where I seriously started to wonder what this show was trying to do. If you want to make a statement about the failure of Britain’s appeasement, why would you mix that with harping on American sitcom cliches? Those are two wildly different things. Also, this isn’t a satire of those sitcom cliches; it merely utilizes them. Satire adds something to the stuff it’s making fun of; this show doesn’t do that. Having a show utilize every single sitcom cliche might be funny for an episode, but how can it sustain an entire series if that’s all it does?
And why does it need to have Hitler?
This show is an idea that, at most, should be a handful of comedy sketches. Eight episodes of this show were planned and at least a few were recorded. How was this concept supposed to maintain a series?
Okay, enough intelligent analysis, let’s get back to the jokes. So while Eva and Adolf argue, we shift focus and actually meet the Goldensteins. This less than loving husband and wife engage in some banter that I don’t think anyone really processes because the fucking Hitlers are arguing next door.
Arny – “I hate your mother!”
Me – “What the hell is going on?!”
It’s also hard to focus on the Goldsteins because this scene is all the same old sitcom stuff we’ve seen a million times before. The Goldsteins have fallen out of love. Arny doesn’t want Rosa’s mother coming over. He’s even less thrilled that Rosa’s niece Ruth is staying with them. Nothing here is original and again, it’s not clever or funny because there’s no commentary on it. Simply repeating something doesn’t make it funny.
Friedberg and Seltzer take note.
Again, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but at this point I was asking for more Hitler. We’re obliged with the second joke that works. The next morning Hitler wakes up, throws open his window, and shouts to the city below:
“I love you Berlin, you knuckleheads!”
Why does this joke work? One, because the actor who plays Hitler is worlds better than Eva Braun’s. Two, because it’s not hurting anyone or directly making fun of, you know, mass casualties in World War II. Three, because it’s characterizing Hitler in a humorous, over the top, and (again) harmless light.
This is the only way this show could have worked; if they committed absolutely fully to Hitler being a buffoon that gets stomped on by the world around him. I still don’t think that idea could last more than an episode, and you wouldn’t want his wife to be an annoying bitch who you crave to get offscreen, but I don’t think the pilot would have been such a disaster if this had been the case. Now for this to actually work you would probably want to avoid Hitler living next door to a Jewish couple.
I know this because a few seconds after this greeting to Berlin, Arny enters Adolf’s apartment.
This made me uncomfortable for so many reasons.
This is just wrong in every conceivable way. First of all, look at Adolf’s stare up there. It’s fucking murderous, which is a problem because Hitler actually murdered six million Jews. Second, the plot of this episode is about Hitler taking Czechoslavakia. This happened in 1938, when the Nuremberg laws were in full effect. At this time in Germany Jews were segregated and demeaned in countless ways. How is Arny unaffected by this? Why does he want to be friends with Hitler? This makes no sense!
This madness continues when it’s confirmed that, much to our fears, Eva is best friends with Rosa.
No wonder there’s no fridge in this kitchen. Eva survives by chewing the scenery.
Remember my suspicions about the studio audience feeling uncomfortable? I think that’s confirmed here when there is dead silence after Eva worries that Hitler will kill her. The actress was obviously (horrendously) playing that line for a joke, but there’s no response from the audience.
The worst issue in this scene is the first case of truly bad writing. I don’t mean it’s offensive or steals jokes from other sitcoms, just that it’s so simply awful it should have been removed from the first draft. Eva tells Rosa twice that the “most important person in Europe” is coming over for dinner. Despite this, Eva decides it’s necessary to play charades in order for Rosa to figure out who this guest is.
I didn’t say they weren’t still copying sitcoms, just that it wasn’t the biggest issue in this scene.
Rosa eventually guesses that Neville Chamberlain is coming over because it’s fucking obvious. Eva makes Rosa swear to secrecy the only way they know how.
Much, much worse (I know, I can’t believe it either) is the fact that included in Rosa’s swear is:
“May all my children not marry someone in the professional classes.”
Great to see we’re branching out into straight up offensive Jew jokes.
A bit later, Rosa conspires with Arny to set up Ruth with Chamberlain. I always give credit where credit is due; Arny is delightfully amused by this ridiculous plan.
“Where do you get these ideas?”
Like before, we immediately take many, many steps back when Adolf finds out Eva spilled the beans about Chamberlain coming over. Remember my suggestion from before that the best way to make this show not a complete failure would be to portray Adolf as an inept buffoon who gets shit on all the time? Well, maybe the best way to do that is not to have him chase Eva through the kitchen and furiously chastise her while she cowers against a door.
It tends to remind your audience that your leading man killed millions of people.
Eva chastises Adolf for being so mean, and Adolf realizes she has a point. He’s already on thin ice with Chamberlain; he needs to get in a positive mindset. He starts to think happy thoughts to accomplish this. What are these thoughts?
6,000,000 died there, by the way.
Chalk up another half million! Seriously, why stop there? Just throw some Holocaust photos on the screen for the full effect!
Eva and Adolf decide the best way to get the Goldensteins out of the apartment is to get them drunk so they’ll become sleepy and want to go home. I think that’s stupid, but what do I know, I’m not Geoff Atkinson. Hitler leaves to pick up Chamberlain at the airport while Eva stays behind with the Goldsteins. Reluctantly, I must admit the next scene has a decent stretch of jokes.
Why’d you have to ruin it, Arny? You and Rosa were making progress!
Adolf and Chamberlain get back to the apartment, but before heading inside they joke about the Wehrmacht’s walk.
Chamberlain – “Oh the funny walk?”
Adolf – “That slays me!”
Adolf and Chamberlain head inside to the fucking craziest moment of this or any show.
Adolf really didn’t hear that from the hallway?
Adolf is none too happy that the Goldensteins are still over, but Eva tries to persuade him that this is a good thing. After all, what could be a better way of proving to Chamberlain that Adolf is a good guy than showing he’s a regular joe who has fun with his neighbors?
That’s a real stretch, Eva.
Somehow, Adolf goes for this. But before he can make any headway, Chamberlain asks for a word with Adolf in private. Adolf obliges, and this is the result:
Chamberlain: “It’s just that I feel, well, well, well, well, we all feel that you have been rather a naughty boy. All this Czechoslovakia nonsense ay?”
Adolf: “Oh, come on Neville. It was just having fun.”
Chamberlain goes on to offer a “Peace in Our Time” agreement; it is a promise that Hitler will not invade Europe. Hitler’s not a fan, but Neville tells him he doesn’t have to decide anything right now and can think about it. Adolf shoves it in the icebox as soon as Chamberlain leaves the kitchen.
Look, I get the joke here. I actually think it’s handled pretty well. This is a satire of Britain’s appeasement to Germany, it’s highlighting how it was a bad decision while playing up its negative points for comic effect. Well done. It’s just that being surrounded by all the other crap that I’ve mentioned (and will continue to mention) kind of ruins this moment. You know what else ruins the subtlety here? Adolf turning turning to the camera and summing up absolutely everything that just happened.
“Boy. You invade one little country and everyone’s on your back. Well I ain’t going to be signing this thing.”
Adolf follows Chamberlain back out to find Ruth entering the apartment while everyone is in a Conga line shouting, “I came I saw I conquered!”
Hrrgh, garsh darn it if there isn’t another decent joke when Ruth asks out Neville.
This is quickly ruined by another lame sitcom trope. Arny (freaking Arny) finds the peace agreement in Adolf’s icebox and brings it into the parlor. It’s gotten wet and smudged, so everyone takes turns trying to figure out what it says. Once they do, Neville accuses Adolf of hiding the treaty. Adolf’s response is pretty amazing.
“Oh come on.”
Then Rosa (frickin’ Rosa) reveals that’s not the only less than friendly thing Adolf’s done.
“Well you do have all those tanks and battleships you keep trying to hide.”
See, that’s the kind of joke you should be doing! You’re making me feel sorry for an inept Hitler who’s so bad at his job he can’t hide tanks and battleships from his next door neighbor. That doesn’t even make sense!
Hitler throws the Goldensteins out of the apartment, and Chamberlain is not amused by Hitler’s betrayal.
“You are a very very naughty little Hitler.”
To prove that this was all a misunderstanding, Adolf signs the agreement then and there. Neville is pleased, he takes Rosa out for dinner, and Adolf cuddles with his wife on the couch. It all ends happily ever after.
Except for, well…you know.
I hate to admit this, but Heil Honey I’m Home! is not as bad as I thought it would be. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still pretty tasteless and relies way too heavily on borrowing cliches from other sitcoms. Plus, I have no idea how this idea could have been sustained across a series. But there were more decent jokes than I expected and the guy who plays Hitler is actually really talented.
In spite of those good points, though, this thing should never have seen the light of day. The actress who plays Eva is just horrendous, the show has no clear aim of what it wants to be, and worst of all, it does seem to be making light of what was obviously one of the worst times in the world’s history. I considered giving this show a 3 / 10, but that one joke about Rosa’s children not marrying someone in the professional classes really threw it over the edge.
Heil Honey I’m Home! gets a 2.5 / 10 – Terrible