Paul Fenech’s new comedy centered around a housing commission block in fictional Sunnyvale started on SBS Australia a couple of weeks ago. Much like his other comedies, Fat Pizza and Swift and Shift, the emphasis is on slapstick and offensive humour. What makes this new program so appealing to me, even as a fan of his previous works is its location. Like the characters in the show, I too grew up on a commission estate. I am escapee houso. While a lot of the criticism in regard to the show focuses on the strong language and crude humour, this former Houso wonders if said critics have ever been to, let alone lived on a commission estate. Had they such experience they might not be so quick to attack.
Growing up as a houso I have seen first hand ethnic based violence, welfare scams, domestic violence, neighbourhood violence, robberies, beatings, vandalism and hopelessness. The world of housos is not uniform, there are decent enough areas, even if I have never had the experience in living in them. Fenech’s portrayal of this reality, if anything is far kinder and more affectionate than it should be. I believe may viewers/critics out there would find this the most disturbing.
While my own Sunnyvale was a hard lot to cop, just like Housos, there were moments of real joy and possibility. It is a world to which I do not desire to return, nor do I feel particularly nostalgic about it. Nevertheless, it rings true to me and although exaggerated in many respects it is great to see a self-reflexive, humorous depiction of a world I thought would never be seen outside of A Current Affair and Today Tonight.