I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx

Parody Opprobrium: Heil Honey, I’m Home


by Kristen Bialik
May 25, 2013

It’s hard to imagine how the studio pitch for Heil Honey I’m Home! went beyond ‘Picture it: It’s the 1930s and Adolph Hitler and Eva Braun are living in their Berlin apartment/American suburbia home. But they keep getting into zany situations because they can’t seem to get along with their Jewish neighbors, the Goldensteins! (Pause for overenthusiastic chuckles)Any post-WWII audience is gonna love it!’ Really, it’s hard to imagine even getting there, but the British Satellite Broadcasting channel Galaxy went so far as to create an entire series around the premise. Yes, I said series. The world would never know the extent of Heil Honey I’m Home!, however, since the show was cancelled after the first episode aired in 1990. Who’s surprised?

The basic plot of the first (and only) episode to see the light of day takes place around the 1938 German annexation of the Czechoslovakian Sudetenland, though this is largely just an odd backdrop to Adolph Hitler and Eva Braun’s domestic issues. Neville Chamberlain does make an appearance, a fact Hitler tries to hide from his “meddling” blatantly stereotypical Jewish neighbors. Of course, the Goldensteins find out because Eva (read: women) can’t keep secrets and so they pop over to meet Chamberlain and set him up with their frumpy teenage niece. Eva Braun’s plan to get the Goldensteins out of their hair before the Chamberlain visit is to get them knocked-out drunk and “bundle them back to their apartment.” Of course, the scheme backfires. The Goldensteins get rightly hammered and hang out at the Hitlers to play charades and josh around with old Neville. Chamberlain’s appearance is essentially a boiled down, ridiculous depiction of the Munich Pact where Chamberlain meets Hitler at his apartment and drinks schnapps with the Goldensteins, the Anglo-German Agreement remaining an unimportant aspect compared to the party and accompanying conga line. By the end of the episode, Hitler has disingenuously signed the pact and Chamberlain is off to (presumably) give his “peace for our time” speech1 back in England, but not before he takes dour Ruth Goldenstein out to dinner.

The show is unfathomably bad. But, all controversy aside, it was (at least marginally) supposed to be. Heil Honey I’m Home! is an over the top spoof of every 1960s American situational comedy in the line of Leave It To Beaver and The Brady Bunch. This is made clear from the fabricated opening that describes how the gem was unearthed from the annals of a Burbank, California backlot; and the show does, almost systematically, inflate every American sitcom trope and cliché imaginable. Unmerited applause whenever a character enters a scene. Hammy overacting. Cheesy theme music. Exasperating breaks of the fourth wall. Open disdain of mother-in-laws. Exceptionally gratuitous canned laughter. The list could go on. Ignoring the fact that a third of the characters were involved in mass genocide, switch out a few names and Heil Honey would be largely indistinguishable from any other cheesy, mid-century sitcom.

As far as I can tell, the goal was to take a genre done badly and parody it by adding content in incredibly bad taste. By taking a period in history worth serious re-examination and trapping it within the vapid world of situational comedy “problems,” every sitcom trope or cliché is more than just mildly annoying and ignorable. It’s actually uncomfortable. The flurry of applause that meets Adolph Hitler as soon as he walks in the door and later, when he manages to boot the Jews out of his apartment is jarring. Hitler looks like a wholesome sitcom dad in khaki pants and an argyle sweater and Eva Braun is in an apron and oven mitts for half the episode. Supplanting racial and political issues with upsettingly trivial domestic ones, Eva Braun is royally pissed that Hitler has been meeting with Joachim von Ribbentrop and Joseph Goebbels not because the latter was, say, plotting the execution of an entire race of human beings but because Adolph was repeatedly late to dinner. To really drive the point home, the episode ends (of course) happily with Adolph and Eva sharing a kiss on a loveseat as the scene fades to credits.

The crassitude could be excused if the parody was remotely clever. Heil Honey is by no means the first comedy involving Nazi Germany. Hogan’s Heroes, 'Allo 'Allo! and The Producers also did very well. Though Hitler couldn’t exactly be described as a protagonist in any of them. Perhaps one of the worst aspects of the show is that it thinks it’s smart. Saturated in puns like the conga line chant “I came, I saw, I conga’ed!” the show relies on historical name-dropping and German references to appear as witty dialogue. But a couple Deutschlandlied and Schicklgruber allusions can’t make up for the fact that Neville Chamberlain sings “I’m A Little Teapot.” Though the remaining seven episodes were never aired, by the third time Chamberlain refers to Hitler as a “naughty little boy” you can’t help but hope the series ends the way life did – with ampoules of cyanide, thereby sparing the world a second season.

For more information on Heil Honey I’m Home! visit:

IMDB

BBC.co.uk Guide to Comedy,

The British Comedy Guide

tvtropes.org.

1 Interestingly, the date Heil Honey I’m Home! aired is the same date that the Munich Agreement was signed and Prime Minister Chamberlain went to Hitler before his “peace in our time” address – September 30. Coincidence?

 

Kristen Bialik works in public relations in Milwaukee, WI. When she’s not doing that, she’s trying to learn Korean, trying to write short stories, or trying to scheme up ways she can work for Conan O’Brien in Burbank. They’re works in progress.