Originally published on Failure Walk with Me
The problem with trying to do a faithful parody of classic ’50s sitcoms is the style of humor in those shows has been ditched for a reason. Like everything else, humor evolves. These shows come with all kinds of expectations on how humor worked when they were written; hence it’s no longer an acceptable joke to walk on stage wearing a dress and just stand there. With some jokes, what used to be a punchline is now a set-up to another punchline. If you follow the old style too closely and don’t make any attempt to do something new with the jokes, people aren’t going to enjoy the show. They’re just going to find it corny and unfunny.
The only way to clear that hurdle is to give the show memorable, interesting characters that the audience cares about and wants to watch. And here we have the biggest issue with Heil Honey I’m Home! The show revolves around Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun living together as a loving couple in an apartment. Since they are the main characters, you, the viewer, are forced to like them, or at least smile when spending time with them. They live next door to two Jewish stereotypes named Arny and Rosa Goldenstein. The show operates on the premise that it’s a long-lost sitcom (or “hitcom” according to the text that opens the program) created by a TV executive called Brandon Thalburg Jr. that has been found in a Burbank backlot and involves the wacky day-to-day misadventures of Hitler trying to go about being a good husband while at the same time invading other countries.
Out of seven allegedly filmed episodes, only one ever made it on the air. Viewers thought that it was in poor taste and were shocked, yes, shocked that someone dared make a sitcom with Nazis in it. The plot of the aired pilot revolves around Neville Chamberlain coming to the Hitlers’ home for dinner to discuss Adolf’s “Czechoslovakia nonsense.” His irritating neighbors Arny and Rosa are expecting a visit from their niece Ruth, who has the general demeanor of Marla Hooch from A League of Their Own. Because Hitler hates the Goldensteins (not only for coming over uninvited, but also for being annoying. And Jewish), he tells Eva not to let them know about Chamberlain’s visit. Rosa comes over for a visit while Hitler’s out doing things, and for no other reason than probably just hating her husband, Eva lets her know who their visitor is through a long, unfunny game of charades. Rosa excitedly tells Arny about it, and they decide to fix their niece up with Neville for a date.
The Goldensteins pop in, Hitler yells at Eva about it, and they come up with the idiotic plan of getting the Goldensteins drunk, so that when they pass out they can carry them back to their own apartment and as far away from Chamberlain as possible. Predictably, the Goldensteins stay perfectly awake when Chamberlain arrives, and are even more obnoxious than when they’re sober. Chamberlain is played as a doofus, who loves the wacky antics of the Goldensteins when he sees them. An example of this comes when, for no apparent reason, Chamberlain starts singing “I’m a Little Teapot,” which ends with the studio audience wildly applauding as if he did something mind-blowing. When he asks to speak to Hitler privately in the kitchen, it’s revealed that he brought along a treaty for Hitler to sign promising “peace in our time.” When Chamberlain leaves the kitchen, Hitler chucks the treaty into the icebox, telling the audience he has no intention of signing it.
When Hitler comes back he sees Chamberlain, Arny, and Eva in a conga line chanting “I came, I saw, I conquered,” then joins in. Ruth finally pops in and is introduced to Chamberlain, and her strangeness does little to scare him away. She even asks him, “you want a lock of my hair for your wallet?” Out of nowhere, the Goldensteins drunkenly tell Chamberlain about Hitler hiding tanks and planning on invading more countries, and then somehow pull out a copy of the missing treaty and try to read what it says. This thankfully leads to Hitler yelling at them to get out. After the disastrous dinner party, Hitler signs the treaty to prove that he’s a “nice Hitler,” and Chamberlain makes him promise “no more naughty little invasions.” After Chamberlain leaves with Ruth for their date, Hitler and Eva get cozy on their couch. Eva lovingly calls Hitler “Mr. Sausage” and he calls her his “Hootchie Cootchie Girl.” The end.
I’m not one who gets offended over Hitler jokes, but I do get offended over bad, annoying humor, and this show was loaded with it. Keeping with the “classic sitcom” feel, Hitler sounds like the Vlasic Pickles Stork (whose name is Jovny, by the way), but is clearly a take on Ralph Kramden, with Eva Braun being a take on Alice. Switching shows, the Goldensteins play more like Fred and Ethel Mertz than Ed and Trixie Norton. The jokes are typical, with Arny talking shit about his mother-in-law, the dinner party gone bad, the botched attempt to hide something important, etc. It’s actually pretty similar to another parody of classic sitcoms, Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s That’s My Bush! Hell, they both even end with an exclamation point. A big difference has to do with how they decided to work with this format. Parker and Stone added bad taste plots involving aborted fetuses and botched lethal injections. This show just added some hated historical figures and said things like “I’m a bad little Hitler” and hoped for the best. It wasn’t exactly razor-sharp parody.
Even though there have been comedy shows about the Nazis before, this one is notably different because regardless of how bad the humor is, you can’t help be sympathize with Hitler and want him to succeed over the course of the show. You are just as annoyed as he is with his Jewish neighbors. You want the treaty he hides to stay hidden. If this show became a hit, then millions of viewers would grow to love being with this character. That’s how these shows work. Therefore, it’s a little disingenuous when people watch the pilot and say “it wasn’t that bad” or claim that it’s no different from the other Nazi comedies. No shit this show was immediately yanked off the air. It inadvertently asked the viewers to love Hitler.
This type of show only works as a short skit. When stretched out to half an hour, it gets old really quick. If it found an audience, it would probably have had the typical short run that most British sitcoms have and be remembered as “that strange comedy with Hitler in it.” It’s hard to tell what would have happened once the show ran through all of the standard sitcom plot devices, but it seems strange to think that the creators expected this to have a long run at all.
Recommend for: fans of bad parodies, people who thought The Honeymooners needed more Nazis.