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Aside from proving to the world that rapper Childish Gambino – whose real name is Donald Glover – can really act, the sitcom Community was a hilarious look at the eccentricities of American community college life.
There was the effeminate dean who always said the wrong things at the right time, the Jelly Tots bag of friends who made weird cool and, of course, Chang, a self-absorbed oddball.
Summer Heights High, which premiered on TopTV’s Top One channel on Monday, is similar to Community in that both sitcoms take place in an educational institution.
But the biggest difference is that many of the the colourful characters in Summer Heights High are all played by one person.
In this Australian series, Chris Lilley plays not one but three of the characters who are central to making attending this public high school a would-be-funny experience.
The mockumentary reaches for the kind of humour that The Office has excelled at. Viewers are supposed to feel as if they are in on the joke and being spoken to directly, but the people in the scene are none the wiser.
Lilley plays Ja’mie King, a narcissistic teenage girl who is so happy that she isn’t fat or ugly. She also has a knack for using the word “bitch” in just about any sentence – and not in an endearing way like the women in the Real Housewives Of… Love & Hip Hop and such use it – and making a spectacle of herself. So this is definitely not a show that was made for family viewing.
Similar to the dean in Community, Lilley also portrays a Mr G (not the Isidingo guy), a drama teacher who is convinced he is the most popular teacher on the school grounds. He’s not.
Last, Lilley takes a leap and plays Jonah Takalua, a 13-year-old problem child who has been expelled twice before he finds himself at Summer Heights High.
He thinks he is a law unto him-self and bullies everyone who crosses his path. Jonah is also the least effective weapon of funny in Lilley’s arsenal.
While Summer Heights High is certainly chuckle-worthy in parts, it seems too often like its trying to be something it’s not. Like The Office. Or Community.
• Summer Heights High is on Top One (TopTV channel 150), every Monday at 8pm.