Heil Honey I'm Home!
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because, in the pantheon of bad ideas, any of yours probably don’t even come close to this.
By Eugene S. Robinson
You ever sit in a meeting and have someone say, in the spirit of expediency, “Just give me the elevator pitch!”? Something born of the possibly apocryphal tale of some Hollywood exec who had so clearly and cogently set the scene for a possible motion picture that, by the time the elevator had reached its appointed destination, the deal to make it had been made?
How this one ever got beyond “Sorry, I’m getting off early,” we’ll never know, but in 1990, Brit writer Geoff Atkinson set in motion a completely genius situation comedy, or sitcom, called Heil Honey I’m Home!, a self-described “Hitcom.” And faster than you can say, “No, you didn’t,” we can say, in a world that had already greenlighted Hogan’s Heroes, a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp comedy, and seen the very Jewish Mel Brooks send up those naughty Nazis in a film of a fictional musical designed to be terrible as a tax-investor dodge in The Producers, that someone at British Satellite Broadcasting had said, “Yes, we should.”
Possibly because it was designed as a piss-take on American sitcoms from the arguable “golden age” of sitcoms from the 1950s, the powers that be at the satellite-TV channel Galaxy, inspired, we imagine, by the 1982 success of the decade-running ’Allo ’Allo!, also about Nazis and small Brit towns, signed on. While we can appreciate their confusion when things started to go wrong, given the fact that ’Allo ’Allo! was such a hit, we can’t really imagine how fast they would go wrong.
In Zap! A Brief History of Television, historian Marian Calabro glosses it “the world’s most tasteless situation comedy,” and it just got worse from there. Or better, depending on how finely tuned you are to schadenfreude. Part of the Galaxy Comedy Weekend, Heil Honey, I’m Home! had Hitler and Eva Braun, in full-blown Honeymooners fashion, bunking next door to Arny and Rosa Goldenstein, who were — ready? — JEWS! An irksome fact to the notable criminal anti-Semite. So while this was supposed to succeed as a shot at their cross-pond cousins, who did, admittedly, have a heart for the worst kind of dreck, it completely failed as a shot — the fact that the actors had New York accents notwithstanding.
“Anything having to do with Nazis, New Yorkers as Nazis or immediate and significantly large public outcry might ordinarily draw my attention,” says critic and reviewer Judge Roy Bean. “But this? Oh, no. It really did suck.”
How much? The writing, which was supposed to be “purposefully” horrible, was actually horrible, and despite attempts to have this work like trilevel chess, on any number of fronts — postmodern irony, conceptual art, comedy — it worked on none. Despite the fact that they wove in British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, drunkenness, conga lines and canned laughter.
“One episode,” says Bean. “You know how good you have to not be to get yanked after one episode?”
Good enough that you’d not want to leave the planet without seeing it even once. You can thank us later.