Summer Heights High

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Summer Heights High
SummerHeightsHighIntro.jpg
Summer Heights High intertitle
Genre Mockumentary comedy
Created by Chris Lilley
Written by Chris Lilley
Directed by Stuart McDonald
Starring Chris Lilley
Country of origin Australia
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 8 (List of episodes)
Production
Producer(s) Laura Waters
Running time 27 minutes
Production company(s) Princess Pictures
Broadcast
Original channel ABC
Picture format 576i (SDTV)
720p (HDTV)
Original run 5 September 2007 – 24 October 2007
Chronology
Preceded by We Can Be Heroes
Followed by Angry Boys
Related shows We Can Be Heroes
Ja'mie: Private School Girl
Jonah from Tonga
External links
Website

Summer Heights High is an Australian television soap opera mockumentary series written by and starring Chris Lilley. It is a documentary series of high-school life experience from the viewpoints of 3 individuals: "Director of Performing Arts" Mr G; former private-school 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.

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,[1] 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.[2] In 2008, the series won a Logie Award for Most Popular Light Entertainment/Comedy Program.[3]

On 26 March 2008, it was announced that the show had been sold for international distribution to BBC Three in the United Kingdom, HBO in the United States, and The Comedy Network in Canada.[4]

Following the success of Summer Heights High, Lilley premiered his next mockumentary series Angry Boys on 11 May 2011.

Format[edit]

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 exchange student originally from a private school; and the teacher. The three main characters' storylines never intersect. The school principal, Margaret Murray, appears in all of their stories.

Characters[edit]

There are three primary characters featured in Summer Heights High, all portrayed by Chris Lilley.

Ja'mie King[edit]

Main article: Ja'mie King

Ja'mie King, a private school exchange student, immediately makes friends with the 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 and specifically a racist attitude toward Asian people. She makes several attempts to exclude Bec, who is of Singaporean descent, and 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 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 lesbian student Tamsin to the formal 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 take Sebastian; they stay together this time, although she still checks his phone messages.

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!"

Mr G[edit]

Main article: Mr G

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.[5]

Jonah Takalua[edit]

Main article: Jonah Takalua

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 a teacher's car. He shows all teachers a total lack of respect and constantly discriminates against his classmates, such as calling red-haired students 'Rangas'. He seems to be locked in 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 there 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.

After being accused of threatening Miss Wheatley, Jonah is expelled from the school. Before he leaves, he reads his last story at the Gumnut College and promises to try to become a better reader.

He and his friends Leon, Thomas, Ofa (Kiran Singh), 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.

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.

Other characters[edit]

  • 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. Unfortunately, she is hit by a car; it's reported that she died, but in the finale Mr G reveals that she survived after being rushed to hospital and now uses 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. 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.[6]
  • 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 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 and very talented breakdancer.
  • Annabel Dickson (Coby Ramsden) – She dies of an ecstasy overdose and Mr G is making a musical about it. 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 music (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.
  • Holly (Jessica Featherby) - One of the girls of Jai'me's inner circle, considered slutty.

Characters crossing paths[edit]

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 one of Mr. G.
  • 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.

Episodes[edit]

Soundtrack[edit]

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,[7] peaking at number 7 on the Australian ARIA Singles Chart. There was also a new music video clip to go with the song.

Ratings[edit]

Average ratings for
Summer Heights High (five capital cities)

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.[2] Along with Spicks and Specks, Summer Heights High helped ABC TV to achieve its strongest midweek ratings for 2007.[8] The second episode rated stronger than the premiere with an average of 1.375 million viewers tuning in.[9]

The third episode managed to rate very well with 1.275 million viewers[10] while the fourth episode fared well with 1.235 against the season premiere of Prison Break.[11] 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.[12] The sixth episode picked up slightly in viewers from the previous week with 1.192 million tuning in.[13] The seventh episode grew in ratings as the penultimate episode, picking up to average 1.307 million viewers for the night.[14] 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.[15]

International syndication[edit]

Country Broadcasters Time Slot Notes
Australia Australia ABC1, ABC2, The Comedy Channel Premiered 5 September 2007. Currently showing on The Comedy Channel on Foxtel and Austar
United Kingdom United Kingdom BBC Three Premiered 10 June 2008.
United States United States HBO Premiered 9 November 2008. Currently showing on HBO/ HBO Go.
New Zealand New Zealand TV1, Comedy Central Premiered 30 August 2008. Currently showing on Comedy Central on Sky
Togo Togo TV H6 Tuesdays, 22:30 Premiered 12 September 2008.
Kenya Kenya TV H6 Tuesdays, 21:30 Premiered 12 September 2008.
Israel Israel Yes Stars Comedy Premiered 14 December 2008.
Republic of Ireland Ireland RTÉ Two Wednesdays 2:05 am Premiered September 2009, started repeat on 25 May 2010.
Denmark Denmark TV 2 Zulu Premiered 26 January 2010. Currently showing.
Canada Canada HBO Canada, Comedy Network Premiered on The Comedy Network on 16 May 2010. Currently showing on both channels.
Hungary Hungary HBO Hungary Sundays, 22:00 Premiered 18 April 2010. Currently showing on HBO Comedy
Croatia Croatia HBO Croatia Sundays, 22:00 Premiered 18 April 2010. Currently showing on HBO Comedy
Norway Norway  TV 2 Zebra Sundays Currently showing.

Controversy[edit]

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.[16]

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.[17] Education Union branch president Mary Bluett stated in response that the show was "clearly tongue-in-cheek".[18]

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.[16] 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.[16]

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.[19]

DVD releases[edit]

Summer Heights High
Summer Heights High DVD.jpg

Set details

Special features
  • 8 episodes
  • Two-disc set
  • 16:9 aspect ratio
  • Subtitles: yes
  • English (2.0 stereo)
  • Total running time: approx 465 minutes
  • 3 hours and 48 minutes of deleted scenes, bloopers and outtakes[20]
    • Mr G: 80 minutes
    • Ja'mie: 80 minutes
    • Jonah: 50 minutes
Release dates
Summer Heights High Special Edition
SummerHeightsHighSEDVDcover.jpg

Set details

Special features
  • 8 episodes
  • 3 disc set
  • 16:9 aspect ratio
  • Subtitles: yes
  • English (2.0 stereo)
  • Total running time: 729 minutes
  • Over 5 hours of deleted scenes, bloopers and outtakes
  • Behind-the-scenes featurette
  • Mr G's performance at the Logies
  • "Naughty Girl" music video
  • Trivia game
  • Scenes recreated by fans
Release dates

References[edit]

  1. ^ Schwartz, Larry (27 September 2007). "Location, sweet location". The Age. Retrieved 2 December 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Dale, David (9 September 2007). "The ratings race: Week 36". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2 December 2013. 
  3. ^ "50th Annual TV WEEK Logie Award Winners". TV Week. 2008. Archived from the original on 5 May 2008. Retrieved 2 December 2013. 
  4. ^ "Summer Heights High to air in US and UK". The Australian. AAP. 26 March 2008. Archived from the original on 25 October 2013. Retrieved 2 December 2013. 
  5. ^ "Chris Lilley Scales New Heights". ABC. 30 October 2006. Retrieved 2 December 2013. 
  6. ^ Reilly, Tom (9 March 2008). "New school of thought on Ja'mie and Jonah". The Age. Retrieved 2 December 2013. 
  7. ^ http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,23254095-5006009,00.html.  Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  8. ^ Bibby, Paul (7 September 2007). "ABC hits new heights". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2 December 2013. 
  9. ^ "Seven – Daily Ratings Report". ebroadcast.com.au. 13 September 2007. Retrieved 13 September 2007. 
  10. ^ "Seven – Daily Ratings Report". ebroadcast.com.au. 20 September 2007. Retrieved 20 September 2007. 
  11. ^ "Seven – Daily Ratings Report". ebroadcast.com.au. 27 September 2007. Retrieved 27 September 2007. 
  12. ^ "Seven – Daily Ratings Report". 3 October 2007. Retrieved 3 October 2007. 
  13. ^ "Seven – Daily Ratings Report". ebroadcast.com.au. 11 October 2007. Retrieved 11 October 2007. 
  14. ^ "Seven – Daily Ratings Report". ebroadcast.com.au. 18 October 2007. Retrieved 18 October 2007. 
  15. ^ "Seven – Daily Ratings Report". ebroadcast.com.au. 25 October 2007. Retrieved 25 October 2007. 
  16. ^ a b c "Anger over Summer Heights High drug death joke". ABC News. 21 September 2007. Retrieved 2 December 2013. 
  17. ^ Deery, Shannon (16 September 2007). "Parents fear cult of Lilley's new ABC TV school satire". Herald Sun. Retrieved 2 December 2013. 
  18. ^ "Summer Heights High condemned". yourTV. 21 September 2007. Retrieved 21 September 2007. 
  19. ^ Drill, Steve (14 October 2007). "Summer Heights High a rip-off, says writer". News.com.au. Retrieved 2 December 2013. 
  20. ^ Burns, Sunny Hitting the heights of comedy Sydney Star Observer 25 October 2007. Retrieved on 25 October 2007

External links[edit]