Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Awesome Show Alert: Summer Heights High

To call Summer Heights High (on HBO for 8 episodes) an Australian version of the British version of The Office wouldn't be doing it justice. On its face it sounds like kind of a gay idea: have one guy play three different characters that attend one school, and see what happens.

It sounds like a bad Mike Meyers project, I know. But trust me, this show is goddamned hilarious.

The three characters are: Mr. G, a super-effeminate music and theater teacher who is as oblivious as The Office UK's David Brent but maybe even more selfish; Ja'mie (pronounced ZHA-may), a transfer student from a ritzy high school who tries to ingratiate herself with the "cool kids" at the new school; and Jonah, a Tongan thug who hangs around with other Tongans and gets into all sorts of trouble.

If you didn't know better, you would think that Mr. G was gay, Ja'mie was a real girl, and Jonah was really 13 years old. But what makes the show isn't the parlor trick of having one person play all the parts, Peter Sellers-style. It's the writing.

For example, the third episode featured a junior student dying of a drug overdose. Mr. G responds by writing a musical about the girl's life called "One Girl, One Pill." Most of the songs talk about how the girl was a slut and a drug addict. I couldn't possibly do it justice. In the first episode, one particular line made me laugh for about 5 minutes: all I'll say is "Tsunamarama."

I use the Office UK comparison only to give an idea of the style of humor, since it's very subtle, with no laugh track and lots of quick jokes that hit you and then immediately switch to another scene, just like Ricky Gervais's masterpiece. Though it's Australian, it bears little-to-no resemblance to Flight of the Conchords, but is more like a Christopher Guest miniseries.

So even if you can't stand Australians, comedy, actors playing multiple parts, high school or Tongans, give this show a shot. You know you can trust me.


Toastie said...

I've seen previews, is it on HBO now??

Bill said...

It's on HBO now and on-demand. I think it's on every Sunday but I usually watch it on DVR or on demand.