Thursday, November 13, 2008

TV Review: Summer Heights High

Last night I had the chance to watch the first episode of Summer Heights High, a satirical Australian comedy series recently picked up by HBO. The show follows a flamboyant drama teacher, a female exchange student, and an absurdly immature bully all played by actor/writer Chris Lilley.

Packed with wholly inappropriate and politically incorrect jokes, this show was destined to end up on HBO.

Though this series is a comedy, any tv/film dealing with the subject matter of high school will surely include themes and situations we've already seen (or even worse experienced). But the thing that sets this show apart from others is its faux-documentary format. The mockumentary genre is usually reserved for film.

If nothing else this show will prove to successfully emulate the look and structure of a documentary... about high school life like you've never seen it before. Therefore expect no conventional television plot from Summer Heights High as the 30 minute episodes consist of quick humorous interwoven scenes almost exclusively involving the three main characters.

With only seeing the introductory episode, I think the thoughtless humor and lack of plot are conducive to fast paced entertainment, but these things take away opportunities to sing to the moral wants/needs of the audience, which is the theoretical reason people enjoy watching film/tv. When the characters aren't tried by worthy causes, when they don't have a chance to be express themselves through anything more than dick jokes, I can't help but get the impression that Summer Heights High is just another sign of the times where ultra-dumb humor rises above the rest. Don't get me wrong, its fun in short doses but not worthy of a stellar review.

The other problem I had with this show was the pace of the editing. There are far too many cuts. What happened to the good old days when cutting between one shot and another would convey something. I know this is television for the face-book generation but in my opinion cuts should be made for a better reason than simply keeping attention deficit-ed (new word, yeah! sorry I lost my train of thought) viewers from switching the channel.

If you believe watching television should be little more than pure entertainment, then Summer Heights High is for you. As immature as the humor is, its filled with plenty of laugh out loud moments. And on a final note, its impressive to see that an unknown actor (at least in the States) has somehow written and starred 3 times in a single show.

The Good: Jokes push the limit of being in really bad taste.

The Bad: Face value humor and an obnoxious editing detract from any sort of meaningful viewing experience.

The Ugly: When I said offensive jokes were good... that doesn't include the ones making fun of handicapped kids.

Watch this show if: You need to stop thinking for 30 minutes... and have HBO. If not there's always MTV or Youtube.


Anonymous said...

Summer Heights High is actually an Australian show not British. Neither is Ja'mie an American exchange student. She's just a local private school student. Though I can kinda understand why you made the mistake- she does have a vague Valley Girl-esque accent.

Actually I think the jokes concerning handicapped kids do not make fun of the kids in question, but lampoon the patronising attitudes held by people such as Ja'mie and Mr G instead.

Jesse Berger said...

Thanks for the heads up. The people I watched it with said it was British, and I blindly assumed she was supposed to be American.

Zach said...

Since when do jokes about handicap kids bother you? The less appendages and brain activity they have, the more to ridicule them for!