Tuesday, 23 September 2008

The High Point of Summer

I don't watch a lot of television. Therefore, I count myself lucky to have discovered the Australian show Summer Heights High on BBC3. In my opinion, this is the best comedy series to hit our screens since The Office which is one of the highest accolades I can award it.

The show is a mockumentary series, set in an Australian high school. It tells the story of three characters, all played by writer and director and all round genius Chris Lilley.

Jonah - A year 8 student that has a history of behavioural difficulties and a great passion for break dancing. The show ends on a heartfelt moment as Jonah is finally expelled from the school after teaching staff effectively gave trying to rehabilitate him.

Ja'mie - pronounced 'Jamay' is a exchange student from a private school who needs to be the centre of attention and recognised as the "hottest" girl in the school. She is devious enough to organise a fashion show with a false charity, but rich enough to let her Mum pay for her mistakes.

Mr G - A drama teacher with a real passion for performance. His real name is Helen Gregson ("...from the greek masculine version of the name"). The reality is that he prefers using his three talents ("Singing and acting and dancing is my life") than teaching them.

The series was recently broadcast in the UK for the first time on BBC3 and gathered a cult following that discussed the show on various social networking sites. It will rely on these sites to propel it to the same level as the Office. It did not gather as big a following as other BBC3 graduates, The Mighty Boosh and Little Britain.

The sincerity beneath the comedy is what puts this series in the same league as Ricky Gervais's masterpiece. Jonah is as misunderstood as much as he is malicious and clearly designed to demonstrate the deficiencies in the Australian school system when it comes to handling wayward teens. Ja'mie emulates the large variances in attitudes between private and public school children and Mr G is a signal that talent and enthusiasm can be suppressed by an overambitious teacher, obsessed with basking in the limelight themselves.

As with many successful comedies, the ability empathise with the characters and recognise many of their attributes is what makes it brilliant. I hope it will be repeated, as Lilley has already said he is unlikely to make another series. Alternatively, the DVD comes highly recommended.

This clip features Mr G adding a bit more drama to the routine school drills.