What The Heil?
September 21st, 2018 – “Honey, I’m home!” was a common intro line for husbands to say to their wives in sitcoms from the 1950s. “Heil honey, I’m home” was a line only exclaimed once, and it came out of the mouth of sitcom hubby Adolf Hitler. The tired-from-his-long-day spouse greets his wife, Eva Braun, who is fed up with him being late for dinner every night of the week [insert laugh track].
If this seems like an odd summary so far, that’s because, well, it is. Heil Honey, I’m Home was an actual television show from British Satellite Broadcasting. It premiered on September 30th, 1990 and then never saw the television airwaves again. It’s been reported that an additional seven episodes were in production, but only the pilot is available to view today.
During the 25-minute episode you find Hitler and Braun sporting thick New York accents (in 1938 Berlin) as they fret about their nosy neighbors, Arny and Rosa Goldenstein, who, you guessed it, just happen to be Jewish. Amidst all the trappings of a 1950s sitcom, the couples anticipate a visit from British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain who isn’t too happy with the Führer’s behavior lately.
“I’ll show him around the town, we’ll have a few beers,” Hitler tells Braun. “He’ll forget about Czechoslovakia. He’ll think ‘hey, this Adolf Hitler is a regular guy.'”
The show was created by Geoff Atkinson, who bounced back from this cancellation by producing the Emmy-nominated series Getting On. He sat down with Entertainment Weekly last year to discuss his motivations, regrets and how he’d approach the series if given the chance for a re-do.
Throughout the interview, it’s clear that Atkinson knows he missed the mark. Insisting that the intent was satire, he says they never meant to offend but rather make fun of Hitler by making fun of American sitcoms from the 50s.
When asked if it was troubling to portray Hitler as a stereotypical sitcom husband he said:
“I worried the argument would be ‘You can’t make fun of Hitler.’ But he cries out for it. If you have a monster like that, and everyone says, ‘You can’t make fun of him,’ then we’ve made him even more a monster. That’s what fascists want, to keep people in fear of them, when surely we should be debunking and destroying them.”
Atkinson goes on to say that he wishes he had followed in the footsteps of The Producers or 30 Rock. Allowing the audience to work through the questionable moments before realizing they can laugh at something or doing a show within a show would give a defense for why they’re going to extreme places.
Heil Honey, instead, tries to make you laugh at the uncomfortableness from the moment the theme song ends. With plenty of Nazi salutes, conga lines, and silly talk of invading Poland, the show failed in what Atkinson believes could have been a rich debate that lead to strengthening the world outside of television.
“You mentioned doing a sitcom about Trump. What do you think is comedy’s role in skewering politicians?” EW asked.
“I’ve watched Saturday Night Live, and I love it,” Atkinson replied. “They’re great and they’re also obviously provoking Trump. The fact that he can be bothered to comment and say it’s rubbish means it’s working. We’ve got the same thing here with our government. You need to laugh at them. In a way, [comedies] make the government stronger. If a comedian could bring the government down, then it was probably not much of a government.”
The pilot is still available on YouTube, and Atkinson doesn’t mind if you watch it. After all, Netflix could come calling for a reboot.
Give Heil Honey, I’m Home a watch and let us know what you think. Did it deserve to get cancelled after one episode or would it have found its footing in satire if given an entire season?