First Review: Summer Heights High

Much has been aimed at Chris Lilley in recent weeks for the gags he is using in the upcoming Summer Heights High. Media reports some sectors of the community offended by gags that draw upon rape, ecstacy deaths and Down Syndrome children. I’m not sure if they’ve actually seen them yet. I have, and I have news for them. They need to add homosexuals, Asians, Polynesians, and princesses from the Eastern Suburbs as well.

Lilley has never maintained his mockumentaries are to be taken at face value. In We Can Be Heroes even cancer was the source of much mirth, as Pat Mullins attempted to roll her way to Central Australia. She died before she got the chance. So is offensive humour ok? All depends on the context, but Greek comedies and social commentators will tell you that provoking reactions is part of comedy’s charter.

In Summer Heights High the chameleon-like Lilley again spotlights individuals from various social classes, this time within a public high school. The popular schoolgirl character Ja’mie is back, as part of a student exchange program. “Many of you come from povo families,” she tells an assembly of students. “Some of you don’t even have Foxtel.”

Then there’s Jonah Takalua, a foul-mouthed Tongan Year 8 bully who beats up poofters or kids with red hair. He spends a lot of time graffiti tagging his trademark image of a penis and the word “tation.” Dick-tation.

Finally, his Big Bite character, drama teacher Mr G returns. Mr G. is “an industry professional at high school teacher rates” who aspires to impart his wealth of dramatic arts to blissfully ignorant pupils. Mr. G., who is dangerously effeminate, has previously staged such wondrous self-devised musicals as Ikea The Musical and Tsunamarama, a tsunami tribute set to the music of Bananarama.

Anyone who adored We Can Be Heroes knows Lilley is the best comic to emerge from the ABC since Kath & Kim came into their own. He will eventually align with now-cherished acts such as Garry McDonald, John Clarke and Max Gillies, who hold a mirror up to our society and allow us to fall over our own laconic Aussie feet. But first he will have to endure insipid critics who don’t understand his humour. Yet.

Get on board early. Summer Heights High is a treat.

Summer Heights High premieres 9:35pm Wednesday on ABC.


  1. Sportscurve

    I don’t know much about Aussie comedy or Chris Lilley. But as a UK comedian and comedy lover in general, i can say without a shadow of a doubt that Summer Heights High is a truely special peice of work. Funny and Unique This show even eclipses ‘The Office’ which similarly manages to make you laugh, cringe and feel empathy for the characters all at once. The main difference is Lilley is actually playing 3 different roles and playing them extremely convincingly. Thanks Chris Lilley for bringing me some new ground breaking comedy ! I think Aussies will be a bit mixed up by this but in the UK, You will be got straight away. Everyone here is raving about it and lets face it, Us Brits know true comic talent when we see it !!!!!

  2. Nearly a year on from this blog, and the first comments in response to it, The show is now over, but the high public response, the excitement it produced, the quotes everyone know says daily, and yes, the controversy still remains.
    The “MR G” song about ecstasy use is the most current controversy surrounding Chris Lilley and the show, however if critics looked beneath the surface, and took the song, the film clip and the lyrics themself for more than just face value, it would be clear it is simply another of Chris Lilley’s satirical comments on society and trends in todays youth.
    The show has remained popular and the DVD sales can back me up in this, because as mentioned in previous comments, the show did not follow the “insipid format” of most, and the mockumentary really was a mock of Australian schools today. The show was not only humorous in its approach to characterisation, it was fantastic for over exaggerating, and emphasising ideas and stereotypes prevalent today.
    Summer Heights was truly a fantastic program, and Chris Lilley is more than worthy of his Gold Logie nomination.

  3. I think this show is funny. I don’t understand why someone would write a novel saying how crap it is, why would someone even bother. They have invented remote controls, so touch the little numbered buttons and watch something different if you don’t like SHH.

    I remember my povvo pubic school days, and Chris ain’t too far off the mark.

  4. ahahha this is tha funniest show out mann.. i wish it was on every night i still watch it if it was at 1 in the morning. man its so funny. funniest show out!! the stupid guy up the top has no idea mann look at his comment he rote it at 2 in the morning lmaoo he must hav no life.. mate get a life and if u dnt hav anything good 2 say dnt say it at all u loser. 🙂
    love you all 😉

  5. “Second of all.. HELLOOOOOOO!!!! Im sure your aware of “Waiting for Guffman” from the genuis Christopher Guest, this terribly bland and over acting little geek is just ripping of the format, the jokes and even the characters.”

    No, Lilley did not invent the format of the mockumentary; but that does not mean he or anyone else should not make them if they want to. And his Mr G does resemble the Christopher Guest character from Waiting for Guffman, as well as David Brent from The Office. He is, for me, definitely the most interesting character in the show, though, (followed closely by Jonah).

    I thin kthe big difference between Guest and Lilley is that, as far as I know, the scenes in Guest’s movies are all ad-libbed. I don’t know if I can say the same for SHH, which seems a little too ‘scripted’ sometimes.

  6. “seriously what the f%%k is wrong with you people”
    “its as simple as not watching it.”

    I have shortened the previous comment, now it sounds right, and thanks for the advice watched 1 episode (last week) and wont be back. Terrible rubbish!

  7. seriously what the fuck is wrong with you people if you dont want to see it… then its as simple as not watching it. Lots of people might think that its not funny and rude to those people… you dont have a good sense of humour.

    by the way good review

  8. Driving into Melbourne last night with two 18yo and 14yo, hubby and me: we were in hysterics impersonating the Summer Heights High characters. The 18yo’s in particular who did Yr 12 last year said they could really relate to the characters. It turns out that the character of OFA is played by a girl from their school and the photo of Annabel that Mr.G flashes around is actually a photo of a past student from their school. Girls school dresses are also from their school.

    Anyway, if you don’t like Chris Lilley’s humour then turn off.

  9. I would have to say that this is by far the most hilarious show on air, on any channel. Even after watching the show again off the website I still find it just as funny as the first time. I do struggle to understand how all these people complain. It is simple if you don’t like it then don’t watch it, stop ruining everybody elses entertainment. Narrow minded people with such negativity only make this show twice as funny, and really it’s not so hard to switch channels or re-open your bible at 9:30..

  10. well people having a 13 year old my self and knowing other kids between 13 and 16, i just want to say my daughter and i loved it and we cant wait until next week! we can see the kids of today in those roles and thats what made it so funny… they really are like that! lol well to a point…. while i have you here search the song ” shoes ” by kelly…. we love him 🙂

  11. honestly mate
    you’re out of touch with public high schools these days in every co-ed public high school you will fing people who match the characters of summer heights hig

    you have no idea what kids do today

  12. Yeah well if the show’s so good then surely it can hold its own against a couple of anonymous criticisms on the internet without its fans getting so defensive about it?

    The comedic and satiric visions of Peter Cook, the Pythons et al. and more recently Ricky Gervais were obviously in vain if anyone in the twenty-first century honestly believes that this show is even vaguely edgy or sophisticated (or funny, for that matter).

  13. I dont believe that you are forced to watch the show, if it offends you don’t watch it. I personally believe it is the funniest show on television at the moment and i am a big fan of it. People need to get over themselves what may offend one person might bring happiness and laughter to another, honestly if you don’t like it watch another show or turn the television off don’t ruin it for the rest of us that aren’t so closed minded and ignorant. Get a life don’t you have better things to do than to be so immature in criticising one of australian televisions greatest actors and comedians, if you really think hes untalented and should come out of the closet write him a letter, don’t be so cowardly as to post it all over the internet, i bet if you met him on the street you wouldn’t even bother, i don’t think chris lilley would waste his breath talking to you anyhow. Good work chris you have produced a great show which both myself, my family and my friend are big fans of!

  14. Chris Lilley is a comic genius and deserves every accolade that is thrown his way. “Summer Heights High” is highly entertaining and also has some very poignant moments, particularly relating to Jonah. I’m a product of a state school education and have also taught in both the state and the private systems. My school had remedial English classes and a musical was staged every two years, with a rock eisteddfod entry produced in alternate years, so Summer Heights High is authentic, in my experience! The situation was similar in the state school where I worked. Kudos to Chris for making something that’s so funny (albeit very unPC)!!!

  15. “How any true Aussie who has gone to a public school in Australia could not find this hilarious is beyond me.”

    Myself also coming from a public school in Australia, I can’t help but gape at the kingdom-of-heaven where this thing is set. We never had remedial English classes; nor did we ever put on productions for Drama; nor ANY kind of behavioural management program for the pupils who really should be in Juvie, or on a bus with ‘SPECIAL’ emblazoned across the side. The calibre of Summerheights High is just way-out, man. Only a few years ago I was among the poor scrubbers who sat in collapsing demountables with rotting garbage beneath the floorboards, dreading P.E. and the inevitable headbuttings doled out by the apes lurking in the change rooms. Our school couldn’t afford grammar, but I DID learn current dope prices, how to raid a speed lab successfully, how to break in to a car, and how to rob a bottle shop (run quickly and don’t look back).

    The point I’m trying to make is that Lilley is above all a pornographer of education. If he actually stood outside his experiences at Xavier college or wherever, he’d see that the nation’s dismal public schools are not deserving ridicule; rather, they require elegy.

    Also, the most convincing of all the characters in the show (the gobby college girl) is hardly far enough. You want realism? Try to portray the fact that in this very university library there are scores of people who despise me only on the basis of my being too poor to attend their school. Actually that’s shite. That would be HILARIOUS to send up (no sarcasm). Chris Lilley: go all out on your next project. Lampoon the foul Middle Australia mentality of huddling in one’s own socially incestuous community, hoping that the cops and the imposing leafy surroundings keep the smack addicted working class scum out of their green, hilly suburbs with all the other pollution. It’s not enough that Ja’ime calls the kids’ families ‘povo’ – Middle Australia isn’t just ignorant. It’s the end of history: hateful, selfish, and rotten to the core. Send THAT up, please please please.

  16. Brilliant Austrlian Comedy.

    How any true Aussie who has gone to a public school in Australia could not find this hilarious is beyond me.

    I assume the poster who wrote a long rant about the negativities of this show is currently looking at a “half empty glass”.

    Whingers and whiners go away – the creative brilliance of Chris is here to stay.

  17. Chris is a ‘genius’ at observing middle australia. I can identity with every one of his characters – it’s extremely true to reality. This show is my new favourite and definately the funniest on TV at the moment – keep the episodes coming!

  18. Im not against the topic of humour at all. South Park and Family guy go way further than this… TRIPE.

    First off the guy is an ego maniac, he could power the entire ABCs energy needs off his own self satisfaction.
    Its 2007, if a guy dressed up as a girl is “edgy” or “progressive” humour then we should never become a republic.
    Second of all.. HELLOOOOOOO!!!! Im sure your aware of “Waiting for Guffman” from the genuis Christopher Guest, this terribly bland and over acting little geek is just ripping of the format, the jokes and even the characters.
    The reason he hasnt caught on yet is becuase the public isnt as stupid as one thinks, they can smell a hack a mile away.
    Oh, okay, I’ll say one positive thing, the writing is OK (like 5 out of 10 ok) and if he actually wrote and got other actors besides himself to play the chracaters, then he may get somewhere, the New Zealand kid was not too bad and the only REAL performance in the show.
    The jokes are below sub par, and even when his trying to get shock value his delivery and his lack of energy makes it just cringe worthy.
    ITs not that the public doesnt understand him, its just we have all seen Spinal Tap and the over self confident, delusions of granduier type character who is un aware of there arrogance, it has been around thirty years.
    1. Discover some good actors to play the parts.
    2. STop trying to prove to AUstralia that your some sort of character god.
    3. Stop ripping of Chris Guest.
    4. To put this dickhead in with the likes of Kath and and KIm and ffs Norman Gunstan is just a plain insult.

    Gte this crap off the air and put money into something desent.

    (p.s oh and come out of the closet while yoru at it 😉

  19. I agree with your comments David. I have a Downy cousin AND I’m gay. I’m not precious at suchhumour .. it usually is a relevant social comment on the views of the status quo.

  20. You know how most commercials for sitcoms show you one or two gags that make you smile or chuckle the first couple of times you see them, but by the time comes to watching the full episode, you’re so sick of that joke and the rest of the show isn’t funny?
    I believe Summer Heights Hights won’t be following that insipid format.

    Everytime I see the ads, I’m craving more and more and I haven’t been this excited about a new comedy since..well…possibly never.

    Bring it on!

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