TV Classic Review: Summer Heights High – The Complete Series (Australia, 2007)

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As everyone is talking about the new ABC series Ja’mie: Private School Girl at the moment, lets take a look back at Chris Lilley’s last project Summer Heights High. Set at an Australian public high school, Summer Heights High is a mockumentary starring Ja’mie King, Jonah Takalua and Mr. G – all played by funny man Chris Lilley.

We all know Ja’mie King now as the ‘quiche’ spoilt girl from Hillford who is just trying to make it through her final year of high school. But before this, year 11 Ja’mie spends a term at Summer Heights High in a student exchange program where she discovers that ‘public schools are so random’. She tries her best to fit into the public school lifestyle by forming a new group of friends, developing a crush on a year 8 and planning a school formal which all turn out to be very entertaining. This role is continuations from Chris Lilley’s first venture We Can Be Heroes, and I feel is where Ja’mie truly shines and creates a freakishly realistic take on the modern day ‘mean girl’.

Jonah Takalua, a favourite amongst this series, is a breakdancing troublemaker from Tonga who always seems to be getting himself into trouble. This foul-mouthed, hip-hop obsessed year 8 student prides himself on being the ‘best break-dancer in the suburb’ and is in an ongoing battle with year 7 Kieran, his teachers and not wanting anyone to think he’s a homo for going to Gumnut College. Not only is Jonah hilarious, this character also exposes the issues of students with ADD and how they do not get the right attention from teachers. The final episode especially succeeds at tugging at some heartstrings.

Chris Lilley’s final Summer Heights High character is the hilarious Mr. G – my personal favourite. He is a drama teacher who has the miraculous talent of turning any crisis into a musical and is not afraid to let the world know of his talent. While struggling with the lack of funding for the schools drama department, Mr. G decides to run his own musical based on the death of a student. A terrible topic, which is somehow made hilarious with the lyrics ‘She’s a party girl with a bad habit for drugs’, all the while sung with such conviction and a cheesy smile. Mr. G is guaranteed to leave you in stitches, especially in one of his first scenes which features him demonstrating his talent to his students that never fails to crack me up!

When Summer Heights High first came out I was right in the middle of high school so most of what was displayed felt very true to me. The troublesome students who are always disrupting the class, eccentric teachers and mean girls are quite accurate and so while Summer Heights High is wildly exaggerated it also hits the nail right on the head. Summer Heights High has become a major favourite of mine and still after 6 years since it’s aired it is as brilliant as the first time I watched it. Having seen We Can Be Heroes, Angry Boys and now Ja’mie: Private School Girl, none of these can compare to Summer Heights High in my eyes!

Review Score: FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Summer Heights High: The Complete Series is out now on DVD!