Archives for posts with tag: Home

There are certain sitcoms that can only be made at a particular time. They are informed by the current political environment and tell a story that is uniquely matched to it. Of course, this risks a lack of timelessness that is needed in order to become a classic, but a lucky few can straggle both.

Home is one that could make such a breakthrough. For those who missed my discussion of the first series, it follows a middle-class family who accidentally gain a Syrian refugee. For a comedy it can be incredibly bittersweet. The first series saw Sami, the refugee give up his family who had settled in Germany to live the life he wanted in the UK, while Katy and Peter struggled to keep their relationship afloat in the face of Peter’s intolerance.

Season two continues these themes with a few added complications. Both Katy and Peter become unemployed, the former the victim of unfounded sexual harassment rumours, the latter due to his company relocating to Sweden following Brexit. Both chime with current social and political themes.

Kudos to Rufus Jones playing out Peter’s breakdown in the office so brazenly, going for full-frontal nudity without a pixilation or flesh stocking in sight. Is 10 at night the cut-off point where genitals can go on full display I wonder?

Anyway, moving on from that distraction, it is hard to imagine the various plotlines being so central at another time. Immigration, Brexit, #metoo are all at play here in a way that they wouldn’t have been ten years ago, or ten years from now for that matter.

One particularly haunting scene saw Sami collaborate with Raj on a marmalade but was barred for not being British in the most genteel-yet-authoritarian way, leading to an outburst with Raj that raised the spectre of our hypocrisy to immigration. The way we treat more acceptable refugees as a token of our so-called tolerance whilst slamming the door in the faces of others is a wake-up call.

This all sounds very downbeat, but actually, overall, it’s not. It is warm and kind, and on occasions, very silly (see Sami taking someone hostage in a sauna for an example of this). Of course, it doesn’t quite attract the belly laughs, but you get the feel that they don’t care for these. It’s about making you want to be kinder, better, more caring people. The fact we need a TV show to tell us to do this says a lot about the times we are living in.

Comedy has long been used to make a political point. In fact, that was pretty much the reason it was invented. You can trace it from the plays of Ancient Greece, through the satire of Swift and the comic pieces in Dickens, right up to now, through both stand up and sitcoms.

One of the newest sitcoms to attempt to get some laughs out of modern Britain is Home. It revolves around Sami, a Syrian immigrant who sneaks into Britain in the back of a family’s car. Peter, who we later learn is not even himself fully part of the family but is just mum Katy’s new partner, is appalled, and represents all the anti-immigrant behaviours that we see and hear. The rest of the family though are delighted and welcoming.

A lot of the humour comes from the misunderstandings that we have around immigrants. This includes the sincere and well-meaning, for example, the family automatically assuming Sami is a Muslim and making him a prayer room in the home office, not realising he is actually Christian. But it also covers the less pleasant – the belief that an immigrant comes to take advantage of our welfare system, the constant gnawing fear they may be a terrorist.

When the show is trying to make these points through comedy it can be very, very good. The prayer room scene was a brilliant example of this, ditto the scene where Sami mistakes marmite for chocolate spread.

Yet it also has increasingly become a drama. The scene where Sami found out his family were safe and well in Germany before finding out they had no intention of coming to Britain was designed to be one of ecstasy followed by agony. But the emotional gut punch missed me. It all felt slightly out of place.

The show also strays over into preaching. Maybe I’m too aware of the media bias against immigrants, but the scene where the newsagent showed pro-immigrant newspapers being dwarfed in size and popularity by the anti- ones was as unsubtle as they come. The fact is the people who need to be converted won’t watch this show; they will simply hear the premise and run a mile. Those who do watch will already be in sympathy to the lead character and see Peter’s xenophobia as ripe for mockery.

What Home really needs is to make a decision about what it is – culture-clash comedy or social commentary drama. Whilst it can have aspects of both it needs to wear one hat more (I would recommend comedy) and leave the other in a minor key. Currently it is trying to be all things to all people, causing the message to be both lost and also too obvious. And it is far too important a message for that to happen.