SBS delays documentary series as character lied about his criminal past

Michael LaHoud

Michael LaHoud

Telegraph SBS Punchbowl front page

The Telegraph front page

SBS has pulled its heavily promoted real-life series Once Upon a Time in Punchbowl from its January 7 debut following reports one of the show’s lead characters had lied about his criminal past.

Heavily tattooed Michael LaHoud, who features in three episodes of the four part series, had told the show he had done time in a maximum security prison after he was sentenced to almost five years in jail for armed robbery in 2007.

LaHoud also told the show he had  fathered three daughters during his incarceration during conjugal visits with his now-estranged wife.

However court documents revealed LaHoud had been arrested in June 2006 and granted bail after his first court appearance in Parramatta Bail Court, The Telegraph reports.

SBS had rolled out a high-profile  publicity campaign with a TV promo and outdoor executions set to roll out before the series launch on January 7, but has now pulled the show to review the work with production company Northern Pictures.

Once Upon a Time in Punchbowl“The integrity and accuracy of SBS programming and respect for our audience is paramount, therefore the network has decided to remove the series from its schedule until full investigations are carried out to its satisfaction,” an SBS spokeswoman said in a statement.

“SBS will work with its production partner Northern Pictures to review and verify the documentary’s material. Once Upon a Time in Punchbowl will air later in 2014.”

LaHoud featured in three of the four episodes of the show, as did his mother Wendy LaHoud.

In the production description of LaHoud he is said to have become a drug runner at 15, joined street gangs, and served time in juvenile detention.

“He would later be sentenced to a jail term in Silverwater maximum-security prison. After experiencing the brutality of prison Michael finally turned away from crime. Becoming a father of three daughters has helped Michael start a new life,” the description of LaHoud reads.

They are one of four families interviewed for the series, as well as police and community workers, as the series explores the history of the Lebanese-Australian community in Sydney’s south-west and how they fought to find their place in multicultural Australia.

Once Upon a Time in Punchbowl is a follow-up to the series Once Upon a Time in Cabramatta, which scored high ratings for the network in January 2012 and won a Walkley Documentary Award that year.

Northern Pictures said in a statement: “SBS released a statement this morning and we refer you to that statement, which we completely support and which reflects our own view that the program that goes to air is a true picture of life in Punchbowl. The Lebanese-Australian community has faced challenges in its history, and Michael LaHoud and his family are part of that community. We believe the story of Once Upon a Time in Punchbowl is an important one to tell and the series will give a unique insight into what it means to be Lebanese-Australian.”


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