“Here Come The Habibs” already caused a stir before it even aired. In fact, the show so “offended” potential Australian audiences, that a Change.org petition was actually put up, calling for it to never even hit Australian TV. When the sitcom itself aired its pilot, though, the reaction of Lebanese-Australians was not just welcoming, there was a widespread acceptance of the fact that the stereotypes were true—and that it’s okay to actually laugh at these.
“Here Come The Habibs” is a Channel 9 sitcom that first aired on February 9 at 8:30 p.m. It’s co-created by Turkish-Australian Tahir Bilgic and Ben Davies, and directed by Darren Ashton. Not all of the cast of the show are of Lebanese descent but one of the topbillers, Sam Alhaje, assured audiences that they are “going to love [“Here Come The Habibs”].”
Sam Alhaje is of Lebanese descent, and he grew up in the predominantly Lebanese community of Greenacre in NSW. He plays Toufic Habib, one of Fou Fou Habib’s sons in the sitcom.
Fou Fou Habib, played by Iran-born Michael Denkha, is the patriarch of a Lebanese-Australian family that struck it big via the lottery then moved into Sydney’s upscale Vaucluse neighbourhood. The show utilises the “peasants win the lotto, moves up a few socioeconomic notches and find themselves as fish out of water” running gag, then ups the ante with an ethnic twist. It also irreverently references the 2005 Cronulla Riots and basically plays up the stereotypes in order to elicit laughs.
While Lebanese-Australian artist and activist Candy Royalle has been vocally campaigning against the sitcom, the rest of the Lebanese-Australian community are generally chill about the racial slurs and gags. “You see, our Lebo culture involves having a good old laugh at ourselves! #9TheHabibs,” one Twitter user who reviewed the pilot episode tweeted while another said “Im dying, its so accurate #9thehabibs.” See more reactions to “Here Come The Habibs” on these hashtags: #9TheHabibs, #9thehabibs.
On the racial issues that the show threatened to raise, Egyptian-Australian YouTube vlogger Danny Nour gave his two cents. “If it makes people laugh and if it opens up a conversation, then we can make it happen.” Later, as he reviewed the pilot episode, he conceded that while there were clear stereotypes and points that the Middle Eastern Asian-Australians may find offensive, the sitcom is actually funny.
YouTube Vlogger Danny Nour Before The “Here Come The Habibs” Pilot:
YouTube Vlogger Danny Nour After The “Here Come The Habibs” Pilot:
Is “Here Come The Habibs” racially offensive or is it just genuinely funny? It all depends on the viewer’s perspective. For most Lebanese-Australians who have a sense of humour and the humility to laugh at themselves, it seems like the show is funny, plain and simple. They’re probably saying to Channel 9, “Carry on. We’d like to see more.”