There’s a bit in the Citizen Khan Christmas Special where Mr Khan splays his legs in a birthing pool, makes high-pitched, moaning noises and thrusts his crotch into his son-in-law’s face. It’s as dignified as it sounds. It’s odd, contrived and not actually even slightly funny.
It’s the best bit in the whole show.
It’s a Christmas special, so there’s a vague attempt to float a nativity theme to give the aimless blundering from one inane scene to the next some appearance of structure. The main storyline is that Shazia’s having a baby and she wants a homebirth. Then she has one. For the uninitiated, homebirths are disgusting. They’re all blood and meconium on suede upholstery and exploding placentas. Have you ever tried to wash placenta out of your hair? There are bits of gristly membrane that cling to the follicles and start smelling like a dead animal if you miss any. Anyway, that didn’t happen in this episode, which is a shame, because it probably would have improved things.
Instead, there are acres of forced, tiresome dialogue building up to one awful punchline that you could have already picked out ten minutes before its delivered and brief moments of shoehorned slapstick. On the plus side, the canned laughter people are having a brilliant time.
At one point, there’s an attempt at establishing that this is a family comedy and therefore there is real affection between these characters. This could be a saving grace if it had worked, but the characters are so thinly drawn that it’s impossible to feel any attachment to any of them. Alia, in particular, is a hijabi who actually isn’t very devout and likes looking at her smartphone and that’s it. She has no other personality traits whatsoever.
In the past, Citizen Khan has been accused of being offensive and perpetuating stereotypes. It does perpetuate stereotypes and not particularly pleasant ones either. Misogyny, chauvinism, bitter, deep-rooted ethnic tensions. That being said, it manages pull off the trick of not being offensive. The ham delivery and predictable punchlines of all of these jokes are so crass and juvenile that it’s impossible to be insulted. That’s an achievement of sorts.
The Citizen Khan Christmas Special will be broadcast on 19 December at 8.30pm on BBC1.