ZDF wants to be funny with a new web TV series about a neo-Nazi flat-sharing community. But what comes out is disturbingly cute at best.
So, Dad, here I am: Lara (Nomie Lane Tucker, l.) in Thomas’ (Edin Hasanovic, r.) apartment. Photo: c.pausch-photography/ZDF
Kai (Vincent Kruger) and Thomas (Edin Hasanovic) were just about to shoot a new video for their YouTube channel, in which they show how to embellish jute bags in potato-printing ("German!") fashion, when the doorbell rings. Kai shouts out another tight "Sieg heil!" while his comrade walks past the swastika flag to the apartment door. "Is that the cops?" calls Kai from the background. "No, it’s a Negress," Thomas answers, confused.
In fact, a black woman (Karmela Shako) is standing there with a little girl and explains to him that six-year-old Lara (Nomie Lane Tucker) is his daughter ("2009? Demo in front of refugee home? Both drunk? In the basement at night?"). Because she is now being deported ("Foreigners out! You know that, don’t you?") she leaves the sweet little girl with her perplexed father and has disappeared.
The starting point for the ZDF-produced web series "Familie Braun," which the station has also added to its linear programming starting today in five-minute double episodes on each of four Fridays in the late-night "Innovation Track," sounds almost subversive by German television standards at first: A comedy series about a neo-Nazi flat-sharing community. After all, for years everyone has been crying out for real antiheroes in local series productions – here you go!
At the same time, the station is somehow fulfilling the wish expressed a few years ago by director Thomas Bellut for a German "Two And A Half Men. For all the younger ones: That was the men’s joke sitcom with Hollywood star Charlie Sheen that used to dominate ProSieben’s programming before it was eventually replaced by the nerd sitcom "The Big Bang Theory" on constant rotation.
All eight episodes of "Familie Braun" are available online, and ZDF will show two episodes at a time starting Friday (Feb. 12) at 11 p.m. and all episodes at once on Monday, Feb. 15, at 0:15 a.m.
So it’s pretty brave to deal with the subject of right-wing radicalism in a comedy series, isn’t it? Goes like this. Actually, the premise of "Familie Braun" (hoho) already destroys all hope for really black (hihi) humor. Because through the sweet childlike naivety of a six-year-old, the blunt ideology of the protagonists can of course be wonderfully counteracted and their bigotry exposed. Here, then, things get right back to public-law correctness and boringness.
In general, the subversion of the series is limited exclusively to supposed verbal ("Negroes," "Hitler," "Sieg Heil!") and visual (swastika flag, swastika mobile…) taboo-breaking; even established ZDF formats like "Die Anstalt" and the "heute-show" are meaner. Beyond that, the two neo-Nazis are hardly more than young teenagers who provoke grannies in buses, break (!) windows in former (!!) refugee homes and play forbidden ball games.
From neo-Nazi to costume-making dad
And Papa Thomas, of course, instantly becomes a caring father who wants to protect his little girl from the provocations of his roommate. Actually, as "Familie Braun" makes clear from the very first minute, he really is quite a sweetheart. And he’s also really sweet: when Lara wants to dress up as Hitler for the costume party, he prefers to make her a ladybug costume out of the swastika flag! And his only real act of violence is directed against an acoustic guitar that reminds him of a past love (hach)!
Roommate Kai is more crass, but beats up someone only once, and he’s not even a foreigner, but just some guy on a bridge. Well, a neo-Nazi comedy series on public television can probably never be really bad, at most "cheeky".
And if you seriously want to see a cheeky neo-Nazi comedy on German TV, raise your right arm. Sorry, little joke.