We at The Flaming Nose are nothing if not at least a little ahead of the curve. Hit Australian comedy Summer Heights High, which we wrote about last April in connection with its win at the Banff TV Festival, joins HBO's incredibly entertaining Sunday night line-up beginning this week. Actor Chris Lilley, who's earned audiences and accolades for his several Aussie TV series over the past few years, simply is Summer Heights High, creating, producing, writing and acting in the imaginative skein.
The setting is an urban secondary school, with Lilley bringing to life three separate starring characters who mingled with actual students during filming on location at a real high school. SHH is made "mockumentary" style, using the candid camera conceit to enhance the comedy as Lilley's trio -- a snobby rich-girl transfer student (Ja'mie), a deliquent (Jonah), and an over-the-top drama teacher (Mr. G) -- go about the school day. It's absurd, of course, and hilarious, but also uniquely hard-hitting and revealing in a way that often engendered controversy during its Australian premiere run.
This isn't the first time U.S. audiences have seen Lilley -- his earlier series about a competition to find the most exceptional Australian (re-named Nominees here) -- ran on Sundance Channel a couple of years ago, but Summer Heights High on HBO really is his big breakout. SHH's time slot, coming after TrueBlood and Entourage, puts it square on the most exciting night of TV, and in front of an audience that should be extremely receptive to Lilley's singular vision and sense of humor. Here's one of the network's Summer Heights High promos:
We've also got an extended clip for you from Chris Lilley's May 2008 appearance on the Australian Logie Award show, where his Mr. G character from Summer Heights High presented an elaborate musical number. It will give you a good idea of Lilley's skillful total immersion into his characters.
You might enjoy reading a little more about Chris Lilley -- here's a nice article from an Australian paper, here's another one, Heather Havrilesky did a great piece on Salon.com, and this article from AP has been syndicated this week. The original SHH site for Australian TV is here (and it's got lots of extras), and HBO's site for the show is located here.
Will the Sunday night goodies never end? TrueBlood, Entourage, Summer Heights High, Dexter...the best night on television!