Summer Heights High (2007)

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A Hidden Gem of an Overcat

There is word that Chris Lilley ( creator of Summer Heights High) has begun work on a new six-part series for ABC. The national broadcaster has not released any information about the project except to say that it is a co-production with the US cable channel HBO. The series will be produced by Lilley and the Melbourne-based production company Princess Pictures. With that said, this amazing news has inspired this week’s TV Series Saturday Review.

 Overview:

SUMMER HEIGHTS HIGH

I remember toggling through my digital cable menus back a few years ago and stumbling upon this one of a kind show. At that point I had not heard anything about it, or how amazing of it was. Like with anything, I will try it out, and take it for a spin to see if it deserves my loyalties.

Summer Heights High earned that trust not even 10 min into the first episode. It’s a brilliant parody of the Australian public school system, and the background escapades students and teachers face daily.

Chris Lilley is a hands-down a comedic mastermind. His first series, We Can Be Heroes was an excellent serving of humour and realistic satire. He  pulled it off again with Summer Heights High, a mockumentary that follows three different people who attend the high school Summer Heights High: Jonah, Ja’mie & Mr. G

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Jonah, probably the most beloved character, a 13 year old boy from Tonga who has a lot of baggage/issues. He has no respect for his teachers, and he constantly swears as well as engages in radom acts of aggression and vandalism around the school. His only joy seems to come from Gumnut College where he is developing his own personal story.

Ja’mie is a transfer student from Hillford Girls Grammar School, an extremely upper class school which is totally different from Summer Heights High, which is your average public school. She befriends a group of girls and is constantly looking down on everyone and trying to organize events that will lift school spirit.

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Finally, there is Mr. G (my personal favorite), an eccentric and very feminine/flamboyant Drama teacher. His methods are odd, he is extremely full of himself and his musical “Annabel: The Musical” is about ecstasy. To put it simply, Mr. G provides a model/guideline for real-world teachers of what not to do in your classrooms.

Mr G not only believes that he is an unbelievably gifted and trendy teacher, but also that his students share his vigorous passion for drama and performance. His narcissism places him in steady disagreement with other members of staff; and the school principal in particular. His self-absorbed manner extends to repeatedly losing his temper with the students, and he is intimidating (also a bit hostile) to the disabled students being involved in his musical as he is under the certainty that they will harm its quality.

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It is also clear that Mr. G  is oblivious that his own insight of his teaching abilities is not shared by most students. He has written several musicals for the school, including You Can’t Skate, Mate, based on the Avril Lavigne hit single “Sk8er Boi”, and Tsunamarama, based on the events of the 2004 tsunami disaster, set to the music of Bananarama.

We follow these characters and all their misfortunes and aspirations throughout their daily lives at the school. The show is always hilarious, but it is always realistic as well. It captures everything flawlessly from the state of public schools, students with ADD, what people from private schools are like, and how teachers muddle through hardships.

It is important to also point out that none of these characters ever meet, which is for a reason — all three are expertly played by Lilley himself. Most of the show focuses on highly comprehensive improv comedy filmed at an actual school, with a large cast of teenagers all participating in the storyline. Although the show is largely a parody, many real social issues in Australian society are examined, and Lilley’s characters get some very authentic moments as the story progresses (One of the many strengths of this show).

The series very much takes refuge in audacity, saying and doing things that most other shows refuse to do (which is what I like to see). As a result of this, it became extremely popular, but was most popular among school students, who recognized parallels with the show in their own daily lives.

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In Addition, the show’s popularity resulted in Lilley (in the Mr. G persona) releasing a single, Naughty Girl, based off a song from the musical in the show.

Chris Lilley is an immensely talented man and I cannot wait to see what he does next.

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