Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Magic of Chris Lilley

I couldn't be more excited that HBO has been plundering even more from down under by picking up the Australian mockumentary series Summer Heights High, which is set to air this Fall. It's an outstanding move on their part, and a great companion piece to Flight of the Conchords. Coming from creator/writer/character actor Chris Lilley, the eight-episode series is absolutely hysterical, and here's hoping an American success could spawn a second series or further outings from this supremely underrated talent.

"Look, Jordan. Who am I? Mom."

Chris Lilley first got notice in Australia with his initial mockumentary series, the equally brilliant and essential We Can Be Heroes: Finding the Australian of the Year. That series, like Summer Heights High, has Lilley himself disguised flawlessly within each of the offensive, pathetic and lovable characters as the camera documents their every unpleasant moment. The Office popularized the format, but Lilley's shows owe even more to the work of Christopher Guest. His influence is especially felt in Lilley's Corkey St. Clair-like Mr. G, a charismatic drama teacher with lofty aspirations for his musical based on a popular student's lethal overdose. There is a uniting link between both of the series in a character named Ja'mie King. Potentially my favorite of Lilley's characterizations, Ja'mie is the rich bitch at the private Hillford Girls Grammar who's always taking up a good cause -- such as collecting Sudanese refugees in order to win awards and be photographed while looking hot.

"Get heaps of photos, okay? Especially if I cry.... Can you, like, turn around and be, like, clinging at the fence, like you're trying to get out?"

Throughout both series there's a nice mixture of the crude and carefully sentimental. Chris Lilley's not above having a Down Syndrome child lip-sync and dance to a song called 'Naughty Girl,' nor is he below giving a heartfelt sendoff to each of his wonderful characters. I'm convinced he'll find a ground-swell of American fans once the show airs -- beyond those like myself who've already scoured the net for anything and everything the man has touched. After checking out Ja'mie in these clips from We Can Be Heroes, you might find yourself doing the very same... Seriously. D'ya know what I mean?

(another brilliant clip here)


Kamikaze Camel said...

Yay! Always great to hear someone who's not Australian talking about him.

Adam said...

Is he at work on any new Australian series? I'd be totally content with the feature-length 'Ja'mie' movie.