Man Like Mobeen is a British TV comedy that aired on BBC Three in December 2017 and January 2018. Written by Guz Khan and Andy Milligan, the show follows the life of Brummie Mobeen (played by Guz Khan), his little sister Aqsa (played by Duaa Karim), and his two friends Nate and Eight (played by Tolu Ogunmefun and Tez Ilyas respectively). Right from the start of the first episode titled “Bagpuss”, this show is laugh-out-loud funny. With Eight buying a laptop from a dodgy-dealer but ending up with a the corpse of cat in a bin bag, Man Like Mobeen instantly feels distinctive, refreshing, and relevant…
The programme also features the underrated and underexposed Mark Silcox (who played Ronnie in Sky One’s Rovers) who has a short but very humorous role as Uncle Shady. Appearing in the episode “Wifey Riddim”, he at one point states that someone’s carpet is “almost racistly white” and his deadpan delivery makes this line all the more hilarious.
The soundtrack in the first episode alone makes this show unique; from Cypress Hill’s “I Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That”, A Tribe Called Quest’s “Can I Kick It?”, to Naught By Nature’s “O.P.P.”, Man Like Mobeen sounds unlike anything on mainstream TV these days and it’s especially great for any old-school music fans out there.
As expected, Mobeen includes jokes about arranged marriage, terrorism, Islamophobia, police profiling, and drug dealing but the central character being Muslim or Asian isn’t the core focus of the show and because of that, it’s much more open in terms of viewership. This is no Citizen Khan, this isn’t a regressive, slightly offensive caricature of British Asians, this is much more nuanced and relevant. In fact Man Like Mobeen rarely stereotypes; Mobeen looks after his sister Aks single-handedly and she routinely dominates him, Nate is nerdish and has a National Trust membership, and Eight’s gormless yet sympathetic and often confused character is very Trigger-esque (as in Roger Lloyd Pack). In some ways, Man Like Mobeen reminds me of Cyderdellic whereby a trio of very contemporary yet very contrasting characters have mini-adventures amongst the urban landscape.
The show makes comments about many pertinent issues such as minority cops being worse than their white counterparts to overcompensate for being black (there’s the line “he was never happy being a Feast, [he] always wanted to be a vanilla Magnum”). The episode “H-ALTRight” with its Tommy Robinson-like character also takes aim at high-profile, right-wing Islamophobes, and there’s even gags about gynecomastia and cancer (all seven stages!).
This being a show with a Muslim lead character, there are of course many people on social media making the comparison with Four Lions but I think that’s a very lazy comparison to make. Other than the fact that the lead is Muslim (and British Asian) this programme doesn’t really have much in common with that particular film. Although I can see that Tez’ character Eight is somewhat similar in nature to Faisal from Four Lions (the slightly dimwitted but likeable sidekick) the show for me, has a lot more in common with Only Fools And Horses… in the sense that this a genuinely funny BBC comedy following a group of very likeable and believable characters as they hustle through day-to-day life. The Brummie accent also reminds me a little of The Lenny Henry Show, and in terms of inclusivity, Man Like Mobeen features a brown and black cast which hasn’t really happened since the classic 90s sketch show The Real McCoy.
Over recent years there have been many criticisms with regards to mainstream television and the exclusion of ethnic minorities from comedy, drama, and everything in-between. I’ll acknowledge that there have been comedy shows such as Famalam, Sunny D, and Chinese Burn but they’ve felt like very intentionally niche programmes. Man Like Mobeen doesn’t feel like that at all, for me this has much more of a crossover appeal and unlike Chinese Burn and Sunny D, this show is actually funny, to the point where you want as many people to see it as possible, and I mean people from all backgrounds and faiths. In the same way you didn’t have to be a white, working-class cockney to enjoy Only Fools, you can be any creed and colour to enjoy Mobeen and that’s why this show has so much potential.
So unlike many other programmes on the channel, this isn’t some BBC Three-attempt at making a low-budget show to placate teenagers and ethnic minorities. This could easily replace the mountains of crap that plagues BBC One and could even bring sitcoms back to when they were both credible and funny. Because of all these positives, I do hope that this 4 episode show can now be granted a further series and not be left as a stand-alone-wonder like the aforementioned Cyderdellic. While other more inferior comedies (Mrs. …ahem… Brown’s Boys) seem to run for umpteen seasons, BBC’s best output unfortunately rarely gets recommissioned. Hopefully Man Like Mobeen will be the exception (fingers crossed). Catch this show while you can on BBC iPlayer because no doubt it will soon get lost in the depths of the BBC vaults like many other classic comedy gems before it.
We Want Mo.
Update: Series 2, Episode 1 airs on 7th February 2019 on BBC One at 23:45 GMT. The boxset will be available on BBC iPlayer or the BBC Three website.