It’s funny, silly and casually groundbreaking. Naomii Seah reviews Three’s new sitcom Homebound 3.0.
“Auckland, New Zealand. Ever wonder how many 30-year-olds are still living at home these days?”
So begins the narration of new local sitcom Homebound 3.0. The series follows down-on-his-luck Henry Li (played by creator and writer Sam Wang), an aspiring writer who lives at home with his parents while he tries to get his career off the ground. “Loser,” the narrator gleefully declares as Henry clacks away at his laptop in a dark room. Later, we discover the narrator is Melissa Wu (Michelle Ang), a 30-something dermatologist who also lives with her parents.
As a condition of living at home, both Henry and Melissa are being subject to “family Tinder”, a matchmaking service run by Aunty Linda (Helene Wong), the “number one matchmaker” in the Chinese community. Brash, bold and unapologetic, Melissa has gotten herself banned from Aunty Linda’s matchmaking service. Although Melissa herself is unfazed, her mother Mrs Wu (Irene Siu) is determined to get back into the family Tinder group chat.
Meanwhile, Henry, still reeling over his break-up with successful sci-fi author Yang Yang, has gone on 23 first dates with no luck. “没感觉,” Henry tells his parents. But without a second date, Henry faces being turfed out of home. To his friends Jen – a divorced literary agent camping in her parents’ front yard – and Aidan, it’s a no-brainer. Fake it.
And so begins Henry and Melissa’s tumultuous relationship. Although the premise is pretty standard romcom fare, Wang’s Chinese-New Zealand spin provides a fresh and engaging take on the genre, and the show is laugh-out-loud funny. From the larger-than-life personalities to the sparkly stage set of Aunty Linda’s eponymous restaurant, there’s a lot to love about Homebound 3.0. A special mention must go to the fabulous costumes by Lani Perkis, including Vaughn and Mandy’s colourful LA garb and Henry’s Cobra Kai PJs.
One of my personal favourite quirks of the show is the way Wang’s script moves fluidly and convincingly between Mandarin, Cantonese and English. As a Chinese-New Zealander myself, there’s something touching about seeing our diverse linguistic heritage and community represented so consistently on screen. It wasn’t too long ago that my own family was being told to “speak English” at the supermarket.
And besides being a lovingly sardonic representation of the way mine and many other New Zealand families communicate, Wang’s dialogue is also genuinely funny. Of course, it helps that the cast’s delivery is so consistently fantastic. Special shout-out to actors Patrick Leung and Xiao Hu, and Gabriel Chao Ren and Irene Siu, who play Henry and Melissa’s parents respectively, as well as Helene Wong (of Being Chinese fame) as the hilarious Aunty Linda.
“Why are you looking at that?! 妈的, do you want me to die?” yells Mrs Li as Henry struggles to get his porn off his father’s phone. Mrs Li, played by Xiao Hu, has particularly apt comedic timing, and I find myself missing the Lis and Wus when they’re not on-screen.
Michelle Ang is also fantastic as Melissa Wu, who you find yourself rooting for despite her bad attitude. Between Wang’s script and Ang’s performance, we get the sense that behind her fun, messy exterior Melissa is desperately trying to escape herself, and the moments where we see her drop her guard are so much more impactful because of it. Besides, Melissa’s don’t-give-a-fuck exterior and wilfully bad decision making (which leads to increasingly high stakes for Henry and the team) are somehow endearing. From quietly celebrating her sister’s bad news, to her obsession with popping pimples and quiet eye-rolls, Ang consistently steals every scene.
And although I find Henry’s struggling novelist backstory largely unsympathetic, Wang still manages to make him a likeable lead. Ultimately, both Henry and Melissa want their parents’ approval, and will do just about anything to get it. It’s a motivation that speaks to almost everyone. Like any good romcom, Homebound 3.0 has a solid emotional core to hang its hat on. It’s funny and it’s silly, but it’s also heartfelt and honest.
Undoubtedly the full eight episodes will have plenty more delightful moments in store for us and I, for one, can’t wait to see how Wang plans on topping Henry’s love-rap about chicken feet.
Homebound 3.0 airs at 9pm Thursdays on Three, or you can watch here on Three Now