It’s been a long wait for a British-Asian sitcom. The first wave of Asian Ugandan Asian immigrants came in 1972 and since then we’ve had Goodness Gracious Me, Number 59 at the Kapoor’s and All about Me but nobody, not even Meera Syal, could be fucked to write a situation comedy reflecting the experience of being British and Asian and not knowing what to do about it. Set in the real Asian community of Sparkhill, Birmingham Citizen Khan follows that most British of comedy archetypes: the blustering deluded fool.
Younger daughter Alia dresses like a slutbag when dad is not around yet slips on the veil and plays lipservice to tradition when he is. Interestingly, this has provoked many of the several hundred complaints from the Muslim community but if you think there aren’t Muslim girls like that then frankly you better acks somebody. Preferably, one of the Muslim girls there are like this, for they are legion.
If you think there aren’t Muslim girls like that then frankly you better acks somebody. Preferably, one of the Muslim girls there are like this, for they are legion.
In the first episode Mister Khan forgets to book the mosque for his daughter’s wedding. Shazia (Maya Sondhi) is the bride-to-be and she’s not getting fiance Amjad‘s (Abdullah Afzal) cock in her until the wedding night so time is of the essence. When confronted with the screwup Mister Khan blames Amjad and we’re quickly in that sitcom trope the lie that gets out of hand.
Mister Khan sees himself as a leader of the Asian community although nobody acknowledges him as such. At the mosque he’s sexually harassed by huge flagcracker Mrs Bilal (Rani Moorthy). She’s a one-dimensional grotesque, played for broad laughs that never seem to come. Back at the ranch Mrs Khan is houseproud, neurotic and obsessed with social standing and we’re on familiar territory there to.
Kris Marshall takes time out from screwing succubus thundernause in the BT Hub adverts to play mosque manager Dave and I imagine it is news to many as it was to Aerial Telly that mosques have managers, much less white ones. Dave is a convert but he somehow seems to lack the zeal of one.
Much like every other ethnic group on the planet Mrs Khan has to deal with shitty snobby future in-laws. Mrs Malik (Harvey Virdi) knows her son is marrying down and is very happy to let the Khans know this without ever really saying it. She shouldn’t be too cut up because her son is a simpleton. There’s a lot of mileage to be had in the comedy dummy but he really isn’t a good one. Bad writing and bad acting dovetail for this one.
There’s a lot of mileage to be had in the comedy dummy but he really isn’t a good one. Bad writing and bad acting dovetail for this one.
So what are we to make of Citizen Khan? Character mix is good, the premise fine, the execution shite. It never fails to go for the obvious payoff and doesn’t do much work distancing itself from Asian stereotypes. It has the odd good line (Mister Khan’s comment on his younger daughter “She’s a bloody marvel. Almost like a son she is” was pretty funny) but for the most part it honks like an old batch of collared greens. It’s progress of a kind. This is the final stage of Asian assimilation into British society. They can now make safe, boring, shitty sitcoms just like everyone else.
The verdict: Dude… you’re Asian?
Marks out of 10: 5