Summer Heights High
|Summer Heights High|
Summer Heights High intertitle
|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|
|Picture format||576i (SDTV)
|Original run||5 September 2007 – 24 October 2007|
|Preceded by||Big Bite
We Can Be Heroes
|Followed by||Angry Boys|
Summer Heights High is an Australian television mockumentary series written by and starring Chris Lilley. It is a parody of high-school life epitomised by its three protagonists: effeminate and megalomaniacal "Director of Performing Arts" Mr G; self-absorbed, privileged teenager Ja'mie King; and disobedient, vulgar Tongan student Jonah Takalua. All played by Lilley, the characters never interact. It lampoons Australian high school life and many aspects of the human condition and is filmed in a documentary style, with non-actors playing supporting characters.
Following a similar format to Lilley's previous series, We Can Be Heroes: Finding The Australian of the Year, Lilley plays multiple characters in the show. Filmed in Melbourne at Brighton Secondary College, the series premiered on 5 September 2007 at 9:30 pm on ABC TV and continued for eight 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.
According to the prologue, a production and filming team travelled to a typical Australian public high school and followed the events and daily lives surrounding 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 prefect exchanged from a private school; Mr G, a self-absorbed 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 cliques, bullying, teenage slang, stereotyping, profanity, racism, and homophobia by showcasing three different individuals: the bully; the exchange student (originally from a private school); and the teacher. The three main characters' story lines never intersect. The school principal, Margaret Murray, appears in all of their stories, but she is most seen in Mr G's 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 most popular girls at Summer Heights High. It becomes obvious, however, that her friendship is not genuine when her so-called friends discover a poster in which she has made fun of them, calling them "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 a racist attitude toward Asian people, as well as general snobbishness. She makes several attempts to alienate Bec from their group of friends, as she is of Singapore descent. She also harasses Holly about having large breasts, Jess for having skin problems, and Kaitlyn for being dumb and doing restricted maths. During the show, Ja'mie falls in love with year 7 student Sebastian (Ja'mie is year 11) and decides to go out with him. However, the relationship only lasts a short amount of time as Ja'mie steals Sebastian's mobile phone and finds out 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."
Later on in the show, Ja'mie and her friends form a student representative council, and decide to organise a Year 11 formal. Ja'mie plans to have it at a popular nightclub with an expensive DJ. However, 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 not to raise funds as intended, but 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 Tamsin (a lesbian student) to the formal, as she wants to make a big impression, but when Tamsin finds out that Ja'mie is not lesbian, she ditches her by SMS, forcing Ja'mie to instead take Sebastian, with whom she gets back together, and stays with this time, despite still checking the messages on his phone. The Ja'mie segment 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 an effeminate 37-year-old drama teacher at the school. Mr G not only believes that he is an incredibly talented and well-liked teacher, but also that his students share his intense passion for drama and performance. His narcissism places him in constant conflict with other members of staff, and the school principal in particular. His self-centred attitude extends to frequently losing his temper with the students, and he is hostile to the disabled students being involved in his musical as he is under the belief that they will damage its quality. It is clear that he is unaware that his own perception of his teaching abilities is not shared by most students. 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.
Jonah Takalua is a 13-year-old school boy of Tongan descent in year 8 at Summer Heights High, which is his third school after being expelled from two others for setting fire to a student's locker and drawing a penis on the principal's car. He causes trouble at the school by treating his teachers with a lack of respect, and bullying younger students. His most hated teacher appears to be Miss Wheatley, his English teacher. There is constant conflict between the two characters and as a result he is at serious risk of being expelled. Jonah also frequently insults teachers particularly Miss Wheatley and Mr Peterson with his famous quote 'Puck you, miss/ sir'.
Jonah also has difficulties learning, and attends "Gumnut Cottage", a remedial English class for students at Summer Heights High who have reading difficulties. His teacher there is Ms Jan Palmer, who seems to understand Jonah better than her fellow teachers and begins to form a connection with him, even though Jonah also acts out in her class. After being accused of threatening Miss Wheatley, Jonah is expelled from the school; before he goes, he returns to the Gumnut Cottage to read his story, and promises that he will really try to become a better reader.
In the closing scene his graffiti tag *dick*tation appears at numerous locations around the school, and this is seen as his final revenge. His friends are Leon, Thomas, Ofa (Kiran Singh) and Joseph and have all formed a Polynesian breakdancing group named Poly Force. His most hated peer appears to be Keiran, a breakdancing rival in year 7. Jonah is in constant fights with him and often bullies him. He was banned from the amphitheatre where his group hangs out and was forced to stay at least 10 metres away from all year 7 students because Miss Wheatley caught him throwing Keiran's shoe on the roof and fighting with him.
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 teachers at Summer Heights High are gay, except for Ms Palmer whom he says is awesome. He then promises that he will read books every day in Tonga. Also, on the final day of term, Jonah walks up and shakes Doug Peterson's hand; he then calls him a good bloke. When Jonah sees Keiran on the final day, his friends want to bully him but Jonah refuses, saying "Why do you want to do that?". This suggests Jonah has reached a level of maturity and acceptance; however, this impression of Jonah is then mitigated when we are shown the graffiti around the school and he starts "breakdancing" in front of cars.
- Celine (Mr G's Dog) that has an "oversized brain" and is said to be quite talented. She is, according to Mr. G, able to do simple maths by stomping her feet, jump through hoops at questionable heights, and has modeled for commercials. She comes to school with Mr G and stays in his office. Unfortunately, she gets hit by a car and is reported to have died, or so it was thought until Mr G reveals in the finale that Celine was actually rushed to the hospital and survived, albeit now using a wheelchair.
- Margaret Murray (Elida Brereton) – The principal of Summer Heights High. She is often referenced in all three stories but plays the biggest part in Mr G's story. She is not fond of Mr G's irrationality which almost caused Mr G to resign though she was able to stop him when she told him that she would continue the production of the musical whether he was there or not. Elida Brereton used to be an actual high school principal for Camberwell High School, until the end of 2009.
- Rodney Parsons (Stan Roach) – A science teacher at the school who is also a close friend to Mr G and shares an office with him. It is evident that Rodney cares deeply for Mr G, however the sentiments are not generally reciprocated. Rodney is also a piano player and provides musical 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 Pulami (Asolima Tauti) – Jonah's best friend and partner in crime.
- Candice Coxmurray (Kelly Dingledei) – Candice is the star of Mr G the Musical, as Annabel/Jessica
- Keiran McKenna (Ashley McLerie) – Jonah's breakdancing nemesis, a year 7 student who is actually a very talented breakdancer.
- Annabel Dickson (Coby Ramsden) – She dies because of an ecstasy overdose and Mr G is making a musical about it (while she is only portrayed in the series in a photograph, she is featured in a deleted scene).
- Ofa (Ofa Palu) – The only girl in Jonah's friendship group and her sex is often confused due to being referred to as one of the islander boys. We do not find out that she is a girl until Episode 3 before the Middle School Dance. Jonah points out her gender when they discovered what he claimed to be semen stains on 'his' pants.
- Toby (Danny Alsabbagh) A boy in Year 10. He has Down syndrome and is Mr G's assistant during the play. He later becomes Mr G in the musical, though Mr G voices over him.
- Rocky Takalua (Tovia Matiasi) Jonah Takalua's no-nonsense father who constantly threatens to send Jonah back to Tonga if he misbehaves. Rocky was accused of sexually abusing Jonah by Mr Peterson and Mrs Palmer. Jonah confesses he made up the story to get out of an English assignment.
Characters crossing paths
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 one.
- A teacher named Mr. James makes two short appearances - once in Jonah's storyline in Episode 1, and once in Mr. G's storyline 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 7 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.|
|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 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. The 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. The 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.
The 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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- Summer Heights High
- Summer Heights High on MySpace
- Summer Heights High at the Internet Movie Database
- Summer Heights High at TV.com