Summer Heights High
Airdate: 10:30-11 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 9 (HBO)
"Summer Heights High" has all the ingredients for a hilarious mockumentary without the benefit of actually being funny -- which is too bad, considering the fact HBO could really use a comedy hit right about now. It underscores the fact that what's a smash hit in Australia doesn't necessary translate into mirthful gold on these shores (and, no doubt, vice-versa). Of course, I also didn't find HBO's "Flight of the Conchords" amusing in the slightest, so perhaps I'm just missing the laugh-at-the-unfathomably-subtle-and-obvious gene. This eight-parter is essentially a showcase for the comedy stylings of Chris Lilley, who created, wrote, co-produced and stars as "Summer Heights'" three chief protagonists. It evidently follows a similar format to a previous series Lilley mounted Down Under wherein he played multiple chartacters, and it seems too many people must have told him he's a genius because here he is doing it again.
A satire of Aussie high school life, the show finds Lilley portraying Mr. G., the effeminate, anal-retentive and megalomaniacal director of performing arts at the fictitious Summer Heights High; the self-absorbed, tall, flat-chested teen girl Ja'mie King; and the foul-mouthed, doltish, disruptive Tongan student Jonah Takalua. Of the three portrayals, the one of the teacher Mr. G is the most vivid and least cartoonish. The storylines in the first pair of episodes are less linear than a collection of mini-vignettes strung together without a whole lot of care taken for cohesion. Lilley himself has moments of inspiration but far too few, falling back on easy stereotypes that quickly grow tedious. Again, the fact this thing was such a massive ratings success in the land of kangaroos gives one pause, as if the punchline portion of the audio feed had to be somehow malfunctioning. The inescapable conclusion: them Aussies are far too easily entertained.
Production: HBO Entertainment, Australian Broadcasting Corp. and Princess Pictures
Executive producers: Laura Waters, Bruce Kane, Courtney Gibson
Developed by: Chris Lilley, Laura Waters
Writer-creator: Chris Lilley
Producer: Laura Waters
Director: Stuart McDonald
Line producer: Georgina McClements
Associate producer: Rosie Travers
Production designer: Carrie Kennedy
Costume designer: Fiona Harrison
Choreographer: Jasna<cq> Harris
Editor: Ian Carmichael
Music: Bryony<cq> Marks, Chris Lilley
Sound mixer: Keith Thomas
Casting: Alison Telford
Cast: Chris Lilley, David Lennie, Tovia Matiasi, Kristy Barnes-Cullen, Sam Albert, Vincent Chiang, Peter Heame, Stanley Roach, Caren Ruck, Danny Alsabbagh.