Last night's viewing - Citizen Khan, BBC1 Hunderby, Sky Atlantic

 

I had seen the hat before, I was sure of it. Mr Khan's, that is, from Citizen Khan. So I Googled it and sure enough, it was the very same hat worn by the Asian man in Mind Your Language – not the one with the turban but the other one who smiled unctuously and shook his head from side to side every time he spoke. Mr Khan didn't shake his head in the same way, but he may as well have done, and he certainly wore the same hat, which must have been gathering dust in ITV's costume cupboard since the late 1970s, before being taken up now, three decades later, by the BBC.

In fact, the whole show seemed like it was stuck in a 1970s time warp. If the BBC's billing of it as the channel's first British Muslim comedy series had intended to give it some edge, this first episode quickly dispelled the spin. There was even a mention of Mr Mainwaring, from Dad's Army. Perhaps the point was that Mr Khan, a pompous community leader from Sparkhill, in Birmingham, was stuck in the past, but did this mean the jokes had to be too?

It's not to say that it was bad comedy, it just wasn't new. The straight-faced homage to sepia-tinted shows was all too transparent. In a scene in which a rotund, lusty woman called Mrs Bilal cornered the quivering Mr Khan in an office, it looked as if she had been directed to play Hattie Jacques (in a headscarf) to his (multicultural) Kenneth Williams. The smutty last line, as Mr Khan bundled her into his car – "Mrs Bilal, get your hand off my gearstick" – might just as well have been written by the scriptwriter for Are You Being Served?.

There were small moments of originality, but sadly, these were just flashes (the British convert, Dave; the Somali man whose accent Mr Khan couldn't understand – "what's he saying?"); and the odd topical joke – after watching News at Ten, Mr Khan proudly announced: "Pakistan was mentioned seven times… two in a good way."

The characters – Mr Khan, his long-suffering wife, his favourite daughter, who donned a headscarf every time he came in the room but was secretly a party girl, and his other daughter, who was preparing for her Big Fat Asian wedding – were such clichés that they may as well have been dragged out of the same dusty costume cupboard as the hat. How far has this come since Goodness Gracious Me? Not far at all. How much more contemporary is it than East Is East, or Bend It Like Beckham? Less so. How much funnier? Same answer.

To help the audience figure out that this was a PAKISTANI family who acted in a very PAKISTANI way, there were PAKISTANI flags on every window. Mr Khan was a tight-fisted old sod who bought mountains of cheap toilet rolls from the Cash & Carry and watered down the washing-up liquid because he was PAKISTANI. Mrs Khan wiped down the plastic cover on the sofa to keep it looking new because she was PAKISTANI. And they were having a wedding in the local mosque because they were all PAKISTANI. Comedy doesn't have a duty to represent real people, but it does need to be funny, and while a family comedy requires a broad appeal, this is no reason to unspool recycled jokes that worked a treat 40 years ago.

Hunderby, thankfully, did what it was supposed to. A spoofy period comedy drama whose plot seems like a cross between Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca and Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, it might have gone the way of so many previous period spoofs like it, and sunk. It did the opposite. Not every joke worked wonders, but it did manage to be funny in a creepy, faux-gothic sort of way. It's written by Nighty Night creator Julia Davis (who seems suddenly omnipresent on TV), and her performance as the quietly crazed housekeeper is by far the strongest.

twitter.com/ArifaAkbar

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor