Summer Heights High
Summer Heights High is an Australian mockumentary television series written by and starring Chris Lilley. Set in the fictional Summer Heights High School in an outer suburb of Melbourne, it is a documentary series of high-school life experience from the viewpoints of three individuals: "Director of Performing Arts" Mr G; private-school exchange student Ja'mie King; and disobedient, vulgar Tongan student Jonah Takalua. The series lampoons Australian high-school life and many aspects of the human condition and is filmed documentary-style with non-actors playing supporting characters.
|Summer Heights High|
|Created by||Chris Lilley|
|Written by||Chris Lilley|
|Directed by||Stuart McDonald|
|Country of origin||Australia|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||8 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||27 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Princess Pictures|
|Picture format||576i (SDTV)
|Original release||5 September– 24 October 2007|
|Preceded by||We Can Be Heroes|
|Followed by||Angry Boys|
|Related shows||Ja'mie: Private School Girl
Jonah from Tonga
As he did in a previous series, We Can Be Heroes: Finding The Australian of the Year, Lilley plays multiple characters in Heights, including the aforementioned Mr G, Ja'mie and Jonah. Filmed in Melbourne at Brighton Secondary College, the series premiered on 5 September 2007 at 9:30 pm on ABC TV and continued for 8 weekly episodes until 24 October 2007. Each episode was also released as a weekly podcast directly after its screening via both the official website and through any RSS podcast client in either WMV or MPEG-4.
Summer Heights High was a massive ratings success for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and was met with mostly positive critical reaction. In 2008, the series won a Logie Award for Most Popular Light Entertainment/Comedy Program.
Following the success of Summer Heights High, Lilley premiered his next mockumentary series Angry Boys on 11 May 2011. Alongside Angry Boys, the success of the series inspired Lilley to continue the stories of the characters in two spin-off shows; Ja'mie: Private School Girl which premiered in 2013 and focused on the character of Ja'mie King, and Jonah from Tonga which continued the story of Jonah Takalua and premiered in 2014. Lilley has long mentioned that he wishes to complete the Summer Heights series with a show that focuses on Mr G.
According to the prologue, a production and filming team travelled to an Australian public high school and followed the daily life of the students and staff for one term. The team would film a documentary from the opinions of the students and staff, especially the three main characters: Ja'mie King, a mean girl-type perfectionist exchanged from a private school; Mr G, a self-proclaimed drama teacher; and Jonah Takalua, a stereotypical Tongan delinquent, all played by the series' writer, Chris Lilley.
The series is filmed in a documentary style, with the supporting cast drawn from the real-life students and staff of the school where the series was filmed. The program explored the facets of a typical Australian public high school such as social problems, bullying, teenage slang, stereotyping, sexism, racism and homophobia by showcasing three different individuals: the bully; the rich private school girl; and the teacher. The three main characters' storylines never intersect. The school principal, Margaret Murray, appears in all of their stories.
There are three primary characters featured in Summer Heights High, all portrayed by Chris Lilley.
Ja'mie King, a private-school exchange student, immediately makes friends with the four most popular girls at Summer Heights High, but it soon becomes obvious that her friendship is not genuine when the girls discover her poster that makes fun of "public school skanks". Her manipulative character is reinforced when she manages to convince her new friends that the poster was meant as a joke and that they need to "get a sense of humour".
Ja'mie exhibits general snobbishness, unkindness, and a racist attitude toward Asian people. She makes several attempts to exclude Bec, who is of Singaporean descent, harasses Holly about her large breasts, Jess about her skin problems, and Kaitlyn for being a slow learner.
During the show, Year 11 student Ja'mie falls in love with Year 7 student Sebastian, but when she steals his mobile phone she discovers that a girl named Madeline has been texting him, asking to sit with him in English class. Ja'mie dumps him and claims he made her "question her hotness".
Ja'mie and her friends go on to form a student representative council and organise a Year 11 formal. Ja'mie plans to have it at a popular nightclub with an expensive DJ, but at $450 a ticket, the student council faces cancelling the event because students can't afford tickets. Instead, Ja'mie arranges a day to raise money for AIDS in Africa, which is enough to cover formal expenses. The Head of Senior School learns that the reason for this fundraiser is actually to fund the expensive formal. As a compromise, Ja'mie is offered to hold the formal in the school's staff room, with no DJ and cheap hand-made decorations. She invites lesbian student Tamsin to the formal to make a big impression, but when Tamsin finds out that Ja'mie is not lesbian, she declines by SMS, forcing Ja'mie to take Sebastian; they stay together this time, although she still checks his phone messages.
Ja'mie's storyline ends with her leaving the school after her term at Summer Heights High in the car with her mum and friend Brianna. At the very end, she stands up through the car's sun-roof and shouts, "Public schools rock!"
Hellen 'Greg' Gregson, aka Mr G, is Summer Heights High's effeminate and egotistical 37-year-old drama teacher. Mr G believes that he is an incredibly talented, well-liked teacher whose students share his intense passion for drama and performance. His narcissism places him in constant conflict with other staff members, and especially the principal. He frequently loses his temper with his students and is hostile to mentally disabled drama students because he believes they'll damage the quality of his musical. It's obvious that he is unaware that few of his students share his perception of his teaching abilities. He has written several musicals for the school, including You Can't Skate, Mate, based on the Avril Lavigne hit single "Sk8er Boi", and Tsunamarama, based on the events of the 2004 tsunami disaster, set to the music of Bananarama, and also IKEA, The Musical. Mr G has previously been featured on the Seven Network sketch series Big Bite.
Mr G's main plot revolves around his latest school musical, based on a girl in the school, Annabel, who died after overdosing on ecstasy. It follows the casting and creative process, in which Mr G's short temper and perfectionism make the project increasingly more difficult for all involved. Finally, Annabel's parents intervene and tell Mr G they are uncomfortable of the dramatisation of their late daughter's life and death, in particular the song "Naughty Girl" that painted Annabel as a vapid party girl addicted to drugs. Mr G then quickly writes "Mr G: The Musical" and is forced to cast a boy with Down syndrome as the lead. Mr G's beloved dog Celine is hit by a car, and all aspects of his life seem to be in a downward spiral. However, the musical goes off without a hitch, with Mr G providing the vocals. In reflection, Mr G expresses happiness that "Mr G: The Musical" was able to happen, and claims the project was salvaged due to his creative genius. It is later revealed that Celine survived the car crash, and life returns to normal for Mr G.
Jonah Takalua is a 13-year-old schoolboy of Tongan descent in Year 8 at Summer Heights High, which is his third school; he was expelled from 2 others for setting fire to a student's locker and for drawing a penis on the principal's car, respectively. He shows all teachers a total lack of respect and constantly insults his classmates. He seems to be locked in the bitterest conflict with his English teacher, Miss Wheatley; the constant conflict between them puts him at serious risk for expulsion. His trademark insult to teachers is: 'Puck you, miss/sir.'
Jonah has learning difficulties and attends "Gumnut Cottage", Summer Heights High's remedial English class. His teacher is Ms Jan Palmer, who seems to understand Jonah better than the other teachers. Although Jonah acts out in her class, they start to form a connection. He and his friends Leon, Thomas, Ofa and Joseph have formed a Polynesian breakdancing group named Poly Force. His most-hated peer seems to be Keiran, a breakdancing rival in Year 7. Jonah bullies and fights him constantly. When Miss Wheatley caught Jonah throwing Keiran's shoe on the roof, he was banned from the amphitheatre where his group hangs out and forced to stay at least 10 metres away from all Year 7 students. The buildup of Jonah's microaggressions towards Miss Wheatley finally make her overreact by screaming at him and telling him she's "just had enough". Shortly after, Jonah is expelled.
On the final day of term Jonah returns to Summer Heights High to read his story he made to Gumnut Cottage, where he claims that all Summer Heights High teachers are gay except for Ms Palmer, who is awesome. He promises to read books every day back in Tonga. He also shakes Doug Peterson's hand and calls him a good bloke. When he sees Keiran, his friends want to bully him but he refuses with "Why do you want to do that?" This suggests that he has reached a level of maturity and acceptance—until we are shown that he has placed his graffiti tag, "DICK"tation, on various student and staff belongings like Keiran's backpack, Miss Wheatley's office door, and every vehicle in the faculty carpark in silver spray-paint. As a final farewell, he places a mural-sized "DICK"tation on the roof closest to the school entrance, and we see him walking away with his friends for the last time, insulting a driver as he crosses the road and then further agitating that driver by breakdancing with Leon in the road.
- Celine – Mr G's dog, who has an "oversized brain" and is said to be quite talented. According to Mr G, she can do simple maths by stomping her feet and jump through hoops at questionable heights, and she has modeled for commercials. She comes to school with Mr G and stays in his office.
- Margaret Murray (Elida Brereton) – The principal of Summer Heights High School. She is often referenced in all three stories but plays the biggest part in Mr G's story. Her impatience with Mr G's irrationality almost caused him to resign, but she halted that by saying she'd continue the production of the musical with or without him. Elida Brereton actually was a principal at Camberwell High School, until the end of 2009.
- Rodney Parsons (Stan Roach) – A science teacher at the school who is also Mr G's officemate and close friend. It is evident that Rodney cares deeply for Mr G, but his sentiments aren't always reciprocated. Rodney provides piano accompaniment for the school musicals.
- Doug Peterson (David Lennie) – The student welfare officer who is determined to help Jonah and to keep him from getting expelled. Mr Peterson also runs the "Polynesian Pathways" course. Jonah sometimes refers to him as "Paedophile Pete".
- The Year 11 Girls – Despite Ja'mie's harassment, Holly, Bec, Jess, and Kaitlyn almost instantly become her friends. Together, they form a student representative council. Also in the council is less-popular girl Ashley, who volunteered to show Ja'mie around the school. Although Ashley seems to have the qualities of a nice girl, Ja'mie doesn't like her, calling her 'fugly' on numerous occasions.
- Leon Pullami (Asolima Tauti) – Jonah's best friend and partner in crime.
- Candice Coxmurray (Kelly Dingledei) – Candice was the star of Mr G's original musical, and goes on to have a small part Mr G the Musical.
- Keiran McKenna (Ashley McLerie) – Jonah's breakdancing nemesis, a Year 7 student and very talented breakdancer.
- Annabel Dickson (Coby Ramsden) – The inspiration for Mr G's initial musical. In the series her only appearance is in a photograph, but she's featured in a deleted scene.
- Ofa (Ofa Palu) – The only girl in Jonah's friendship group. Her gender is often confused; she's generally referred to as "one of the Islander boys". It's only revealed that she's a girl before the Middle School Dance in Episode 3: Jonah points it out when they discover what he claims are semen stains on 'his' pants.
- Toby (Danny Alsabbagh) – A boy in Year 10 who has Down syndrome. He is Mr G's backstage assistant, then becomes Mr G in the musical (with Mr G doing the voiceover).
- Rocky Takalua (Tovia Matiasi) – Jonah Takalua's no-nonsense father, who constantly threatens to send Jonah back to Tonga if he misbehaves. Mr Peterson and Ms Palmer accused him of sexually abusing Jonah until Jonah confessed that he made up the story to get out of an English assignment.
- Ms Wheatley (Kristy Barnes Cullen) – One of the teachers at Summer Heights High. She teaches language and is a hard-working teacher, but is constantly aggravated by Jonah and his friends, and at times lets them affect her emotionally.
- Ms Palmer (Maude Davey) - One of the teachers at Summer Heights High. Teaches students with reading difficulties at Gumnut Cottage which both Jonah and Leon attend. Ms Palmer is Jonah's favourite teacher and often describes her as "mad", but in his opinion, mad teachers are good teachers.
Characters crossing pathsEdit
Mrs. Murray, the principal, is the only character mentioned or acknowledged in all three of the main characters' lives. The main characters do not interact with each other; however:
- Doug Peterson, the head of student welfare, is mentioned in Ja'mie's storyline in Episode 5 when she tells Mr. Cameron, the upper school head, that she's been cutting her wrists because he wouldn't let them have a formal.
- One of the students who attends Gumnut Cottage with Jonah and Leon also appears in Mr G's musical
- Miss Wheatley is acted out in Mr G's musical, but her name is not mentioned.
- When Mr G was pointing to the 1999 staff photo in Episode 1, Mr. Cameron's picture is seen beside Mr G's.
- A teacher named Mr. James makes two short appearances – once in Jonah's storyline when his in the toilets in Episode 1, and once in Mr G's storyline when he's in the staff room demonstrating his songs in Episode 3.
A soundtrack was released through ABC Shops and the Australian iTunes Store, the latter also containing audio extracts from songs in the series including Mr G's "Bummer Heights High", "Naughty Girl", "She's a Slut" and Jonah's "Being a Poly". Part 2 of the soundtrack of the Summer Heights High album contained songs such as "My Name Is Mr G", "This Time You're Dead" and the Summer Heights High theme. Most of the songs from Part 2 are from the final musical.
"Naughty Girl" was released as a single on 8 March 2008 with remixes by Paul Mac, John Paul Talbot and Stylaz Fuego, peaking at number seven on the Australian ARIA Singles Chart. There was also a new music video clip to go with the song.
The premiere episode of Summer Heights High did well in the ratings as a strong lead-in from the return of The Chaser's War on Everything. It peaked at 1.6 million viewers (5 capital cities) with an average of 1.22 million. Along with Spicks and Specks, Summer Heights High helped ABC TV to achieve its strongest midweek ratings for 2007. The second episode rated stronger than the premiere with an average of 1.375 million viewers tuning in.
The third episode managed to rate very well with 1.275 million viewers while the fourth episode fared well with 1.235 against the season premiere of Prison Break. The fifth episode only managed 1.156 million viewers, the lowest ratings for an episode of the show, although the program remained the highest-rating show in its timeslot. The sixth episode picked up slightly in viewers from the previous week with 1.192 million tuning in. The seventh episode grew in ratings as the penultimate episode, picking up to average 1.307 million viewers for the night. The eighth and final episode achieved the highest ratings for Summer Heights High with a total of 1.512 million viewers watching the concluding episode to the series.
|Australia||ABC1, ABC2, The Comedy Channel||Premiered 5 September 2007. Currently showing on The Comedy Channel on Foxtel and Austar|
|United Kingdom||BBC Three||Premiered 10 June 2008.|
|United States||HBO||Premiered 9 November 2008. Currently showing on HBO/ HBO Go.|
|New Zealand||TV1, Comedy Central||Premiered 30 August 2008. Currently showing on Comedy Central on Sky|
|Togo||TV H6||Tuesdays, 22:30||Premiered 12 September 2008.|
|Kenya||TV H6||Tuesdays, 21:30||Premiered 12 September 2008.|
|Israel||Yes Stars Comedy||Premiered 14 December 2008.|
|Ireland||RTÉ Two||Wednesdays 2:05 am||Premiered September 2009, started repeat on 25 May 2010.|
|Denmark||TV 2 Zulu||Premiered 26 January 2010. Currently showing.|
|Canada||HBO Canada, Comedy Network||Premiered on The Comedy Network on 16 May 2010. Currently showing on both channels.|
|Hungary||HBO Hungary||Sundays, 22:00||Premiered 18 April 2010. Currently showing on HBO Comedy|
|Croatia||HBO Croatia||Sundays, 22:00||Premiered 18 April 2010. Currently showing on HBO Comedy|
|Norway||TV 2 Zebra||Sundays||Currently showing.|
The series is renowned for its controversial portrayal of such issues as mental disabilities, homosexuality, sexual abuse, and racism. Even before Summer Heights High aired, some community groups complained about a "rape joke" and Mr G's inappropriate "touching" of a boy with Down syndrome.
The Herald Sun reported that parents and some teachers have considered the possibility that the show is influencing children to misbehave at school. Students were reportedly imitating Jonah and Ja'mie, repeating lines that were bullying, racist, and homophobic. Education Union branch president Mary Bluett stated in response that the show was "clearly tongue-in-cheek".
After episode three, in which a character called Annabel dies after taking ecstasy, the family of Annabel Catt, a girl who died taking drugs at the 2007 Good Vibrations Festival in Sydney, complained that the program had been lampooning Annabel's death. ABC apologised to the family, stating that the situation was purely coincidental and assured them that the filming of the episode in question had been completed eleven days before her daughter's death. ABC thereafter began to display a message before each episode stating that there is no link between the series' characters and people in real life.
A writer for the 2000 Network Ten series Sit Down, Shut Up claimed that Lilley had borrowed ideas for characters and plots from the series including the school name and aspects of the Mr G character.
|Summer Heights High|
|Summer Heights High Special Edition|
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