TV Review: Ja’mie: Private School Girl – The First Three Episodes (Australia, 2013)

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Forget the Big Brother finale or the latest instalment of Underbelly, Australia’s television event of 2013 comes with the return of everyone’s favourite (or least favourite) polarising comedian.

Chris Lilley’s Ja’mie: Private School Girl essentially picks up where we left off after Summer Heights High – it’s Ja’mie’s last year of high school, she’s the ‘quichest’ girl in grade 12 and she’s on a mission to win her school’s top prize, the Hillford medal. She’s got new arm candy in the form of year 10 rugby hottie Mitchell, and her fellow prefects are the best friends a girl could have.

I was quite skeptical when I heard about Lilley’s latest venture onto our TV screens. Personally I found Angry Boys to be hugely disappointing, and considering that this is Lilley’s third outing involving Ja’mie King, I was hoping for something a little more original. Still, I found both We Can Be Heroes and Summer Heights High to be wildly entertaining, so I was hopeful.

Has he delivered?

I’m not so sure. The first episode was fantastic, with Lilley’s trademark borderline offensive humour front and centre. It had its flaws – certain scenes were much longer than necessary, which didn’t do it any favours – but overall a very solid beginning. However, despite Ja’mie’s party of the year and the arrival of her latest “project” – nothing much happened at all in episodes two and three; the overlong scenes seem to be a recurring instance, and it’s not quite as funny as we could expect from Lilley in top form. Now we’re at the halfway point with three episodes to go, I’m wondering if the eventful year Ja’mie hinted at in episode one is going to be quite as momentous as we’d hoped for.

One interesting talking point about Private School Girl is the fact that it’s a co-production between the ABC and HBO in the US. Considering the way Australian humour usually fares to overseas audiences (we all remember how US Kath and Kim turned out), I find it bizarre that his shows have been adopted by the rest of the world. But Chris Lilley’s success is a testament to how universal his portrait of the self-obsessed teenage girl really is. The main complaint I hear from Lilley’s critics is that Ja’mie is insufferable to watch – but as annoying as you might find the character, take it from someone who lived through the private girls school environment and know that it’s absolutely dead on. My sister came home from school the day after the premiere and announced that the entire student population had already adopted quiche as their latest buzzword. It’s grating to watch, as teenage girls can often be, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show portray this so candidly.

So for me, Private School Girl sits somewhere below Summer Heights High and miles above Angry Boys; it’s been enjoyable so far but here’s hoping Chris Lilley delivers something truly special before the season is done.

Review Score: THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Ja’mie: Private School Girl continues Wednesday nights on ABC1.