The history of television is littered with many shows that fall into the category of “What the hell were they thinking?” but none as bizarre as “Heil Honey I’m Home!” a British sitcom about the wacky hijinks of Adolph Hitler and his wife Eva Braun. A series like Hogan’s Heroes, which ran for a surprising six seasons, is looked on less kindly now for trivializing the realities of the WWII POW camps by showcasing one with an incompetent commandant and it’s wise cracking prisoners, but that show aired back in the 60s and a lot of fucked up stuff came out of the 60s, “Heil Honey I’m Home!” does not have that excuse.
I’m certainly not saying you can’t make a good sitcom that takes place during wartime, M*A*S*H is easily one the best sitcoms ever made, but this show is bad even beyond the subject matter. Now Hitler has appeared in comedies before, dating back as far as 1940s The Great Dictator with Charlie Chaplin and Mel Brooks’1967 The Producers, and these examples of comedy gold prove that you can use one of the most despised men to have ever lived in a comedy, but this show tries to turn Hitler into a Nazi version of Ralph Kramden and fails on all counts
The basic premise of the show is that Adolph Hitler (Neil McCaul) and his wife Eva Braun (Denica Fairman) live in an apartment next to a Jewish couple, Arny (Gareth Marks) and Rosa Goldenstein (Caroline Gruber). Wackiness ensues. If one was to tune into such a show called “Heil Honey I’m Home” one would assume you were about to see a parody of the Third Reich but it is more of a parody of the sitcoms made in the 50s than it is a comedy about Nazis. The show drops in characters and references to WWII but most of the jokes hinge on the standard put-upon husband of 50s sitcoms who works hard all day while the wife causes endless problems. The show even had a Carl Reineresque opening with Adolph walking into the apartment to say the title catch phrase…
Now something like this could maybe work great as a 10 to 15 minute comedy sketch on SNL with John Belushi playing Hitler and Jane Curtin as Eva Braun, but as a weekly sitcom I’m not sure where the producers thought this show could go. It’s reported that if the show had lasted audiences would have been treated to episodes of Adolph Hitler trying to kill his Jewish neighbours. Yeah, that just screams comedy gold. Successfully referencing the Holocaust in comedy would have taken a defter writers than this show had. Geoff Atkinson, writer/creator of the show, has stated that it, “The aim of the show was not to shock, but to examine the appeasement surrounding Hitler in 1938.” And in this pilot episode you do see that attempt as Adolph informs Eva that British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (Patrick Cargill) is coming over to dinner to discuss what a “Naughty boy” Hitler has been for invading Czechoslovakia. Chamberlain is of course portrayed as an idiot aristocrat who tells corny jokes and believes Hitler when he tells him that he won’t invade Europe.
Now most of the episodes “humor” stems from Adolph not wanting the Goldensteins to know that the Prime Minister is coming over for dinner, he’s mostly worried about Eva telling Rosa because Eva is a bit of a blabbermouth and rightly so as she almost immediately informs Rosa so she can brag (she does it through charades so she can tell Adolph that she honestly didn’t say anything to her about Chamberlain coming). Using tired jokes from I Love Lucy and calling it “parody” only works if the jokes or the actors are funny. Neither is the case here.
The entire 25 minute running time is like that; Rosa and Arny fight about his mother-in-law, Adolph and Eva fight about him spending too much time at work, and Rosa tries some match making with Chamberlain and her dull niece Ruth (Laura Brattan). The jokes are dull, corny and couldn’t get a laugh out of a manic hyena. The apparent comedy highlight to the episode surrounds Adolph getting the Goldensteins drunk which results in everyone getting into a conga line. The level of groan inducing awfulness this show reaches is quite staggering. Worse is that it isn’t even offensive enough to be interesting, it’s just plain terrible and unfunny.
That it was cancelled after airing one episode should shock no one, but it does make one wish they were a fly on the wall during the meeting that greenlit the show in the first place. Geoff Atkinson must have had one helluva great pitch. This is one British television show that we don’t have to worry about an American Network trying to do a North American version of and screwing it up, but damn would I love to see them try.
If you are brave enough you can watch the whole episode here on Youtube.