In the 1950s and 60s, American television sitcoms seemed to have a similar theme — folksy, lightweight plots where laughs were induced by taking the familiar and making it slightly askew, as to be a bit uncomfortable. This recipe worked for I Love Lucy, Leave it to Beaver, My Three Sons, Lassie, Dennis the Menace, etc. And what works in one era is ripe for parody by a subsequent one. And in the 1990s, television company British Satellite Broadcasting (a part predecessor to British telecom giant BSkyB) decided to do just that: create a sitcom which spoofed the campy black and white shows of two generations prior.
And, for good measure — in what may be the worst decision in television history — they decided to make the show about Adolf Hitler and his madcap dealings with his fictitious Jewish neighbors, the Goldensteins.
Titled Heil Honey, I’m Home! (as seen in the title card below), the pilot episode aired on the UK’s short-lived Galaxy channel on September 30, 1990. Heil re-introduced us to Hitler and his companion Eva Braun — as in, the leader of the Third Reich and his mistress (that is, actors playing those roles). Their neighbors, Arny and Rosa Goldenstein, were Jewish, and hardly the favorite people of the Hitler characters. But being a sitcom, Hitler did not have these neighbors murdered, despite his disdain for them — and despite the fact that he’s Adolf Hitler.
So what did the fictional Hitler do? In the Heil pilot, Neville Chamberlain comes over to the Hitler/Braun home for dinner, and Adolf asks Eva to make sure that the Goldensteins do not find out. But Eva can’t keep the news to herself — after all, Chamberlain is one of Europe’s most recognizable leaders. Eva brags to Rosa and — cue the laugh track! — the Goldensteins crash the dinner party. Not quite the wittiest of punchlines, but still in line with the softer comedic sense common to 1950s-era sitcom — except, with the whole Nazi theme for some reason layered in.
Heil was met with disdain and ire as many thought that the show’s theme undercut the seriousness of Hitler’s depravity. It was cancelled immediately; the seven other episodes which had been written and, to some degree, filmed, never aired.
Bonus fact: Getting cancelled after your pilot episode is bad — but worse things can, and have, happened. On September 4, 1992, Australia’s Nine Network broadcast a one-hour special titled Australia’s Naughtiest Home Videos, a spinoff of Australia’s Funniest Home Videos (which was inspired by a special in the U.S. called America’s Funniest Home Videos). Australia’s Naughtiest involved sexual situations and sexually explicit content, and upset a lot of viewers — including some who were able to contact Nine Network’s owner while the show was still on the air. The owner called the studio and demanded that the episode be pulled, 36 minutes into a 60 minute broadcast. The studio claimed that technical difficulties were occurring and quickly ran a re-run of Cheers to fill the remaining time.
From the Archives: When the Nazis Invaded America: A real invasion — not a stupid television show.
Related: “What Were They Thinking: The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History” by David Hofstede. 3.5 stars on five reviews.