The Best (or Worst) of British, (or in this case Australian on British), TV: Summer Heights High

No offence, but the best show I’ve seen lately is Australian. To be specific, Summer Heights High, which is a fabulous faux-documentary from creator, writer, actor, and all around funny man, Chris Lilley that is playing in London right now. Summer Heights High tells the ‘story’ of one term at the high school of the same name, specifically focusing on three characters: Ja’mie, Mr. G, and Jonah.

And here is where it gets funny. Lilley plays all three characters, and he plays them to perfection. Ja’mie is spending the semester at Summer Heights High in an exchange program with an exclusive private school. In Ja’mie (pronounced Ja-may, btw) Lilley has perfected that popular girl, “I’m better than you” stereotype. Her favorite phrase is, “no offence, but…(insert totally offensive phrase such as, “private school kids are smarter than public school kids”) and “That’s so totally random.”

Mr. G, has been newly appointed as the Head of Drama, ahem “Head of Performing Arts, spread it” and he is over-the-top. He thinks he is teaching the most important subject, and is the most popular teach on campus. Please don’t confuse him with the truth. He is currently producing and directing a play he wrote on an unfortunate death of a student, Annabelle Dickinson, due to a drug overdose (“She’s got a bad habit, a bad habit for drugs”). Although he could barely remember her, he found that “the character of ‘Mr. G’ has become a larger role in the musical than originally planned.” He also owns a little Pomeranian, prances around talking about the Centre for Performing Arts he wants to build (multi-million dollar, glass windowed, state-of-the-art, facility), and reserves the gym at all hours of the day, making him not the favorite person of the P.E. teacher.

Jonah is a “troubled Pacific Islander” who has been expelled from several schools. He’s the ‘smart but not living up to his potential’ character, from a minority and marginalised group. He meets with the counsellor on a regular basis, and has written his own “behavioural contract,” which he always breaks. Jonah has some of the most awesome lines, including “Puck You” and “Are you on your period, miss.”

Lilley has captured typical high school life in Australia (which is similar to what I remember from my high school life in the U.S.) and has in the spirit of Arrested Development (because you know I had to go there) taken it to the extreme. Ja’mie regularly cracks me up at just how self-centered she is, and yet there is much truth to her relationship with the girls at the public school. The story line where Ja’mie was trashing the ‘bogan’ public school girls to her private school friends via MSN, and the ensuing fight, was eerily reminiscent of my high school years. It also shows the weird kind of power the leader of a group of girls has over her ‘posse,’ for whatever reasons. Mr. G, is just the poor, self-centered, over-confident, soul who is teaching drama instead of performing on Broadway, but he makes the best of it by being the cattiest teacher out there. Jonah is actually the most realistic portrayal, the way he lowers his eyes when not telling the truth, acts out when he is uncomfortable, and is always causing problems. All three characters make me laugh out loud, and I can’t say that I have a favorite, though I know I have a soft spot for Jonah. I just want him to get it together, and be loved. And to answer your question: yes, I know he is fictional, and that if he actually got it together he wouldn’t be half as funny.

Lilley is extremely talented and previously produced the television series We Can Be Heroes where the character of Ja’mie was introduced. (As soon as I can get my hands on that series, I’m sure I’ll be writing about it too). I have to thank my Aussie flatmate for pointing out the series that has become “Sara’s Latest Obsession.” Summer Heights High is currently being aired in England, at 9:30 pm on Mondays, on BBC3, and in the United States, at 9:30 pm central time, on HBO. I wanted to include a clip montage of all the characters, but I couldn’t really find one that was appropriate. I’ve embedded one of my favorite Jonah exchanges, from the first episode, which has the “I said puck you, miss, with a p.” I will warn you that this clip is unedited and contains some choice words that sound like puck, but begin with a different letter.

On an unrelated note, I really must apologise for the total lack of posting in the past month or so. I’ve been having a tough time work wise and just simply didn’t have the energy for posting. Things are calming down in that regard, and I really hope I’m through the worst. So, that coupled with the imminent return of Lost, means more posting for Sara.

Ok, enjoy Jonah, and go watch (however you can, I don’t judge) Summer Heights High. And, “spread it” to all your friends. Otherwise, and “no offence,” but “puck you.”

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  1. Great post!! I’ve recently fell in love with Summer Heights High and highly suggest watching We Can Be Heroes (The Nominees) if you can! I hope this means we’ll see more of him!

  2. Kym

     /  28/12/2008

    I was wondering if you had seen this or not! So far, I haven’t seen all of the episodes yet, but I love what I’ve seen. And I agree with you – he’s really spot on in his portrayal of high school. And I’m not surprised that you favor Jonah!


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