Will Americans Enjoy Or Understand Angry Boys?
Summer Heights High will forever be one of my favorite TV series. Produced in 2001, it was a parody of high-school life epitomized by three protagonists (“Director of Performing Arts” Mr G, self-absorbed, private school snob Ja’mie King and disobedient Tongan student Jonah Takalua). Poking fun at Australian high school life while depicting serious social issues, it brought back memories of my own school life back home in Sydney and was a rare acknowledgment of the real stories that take place in multicultural Australia.
The mastermind behind Summer Heights High, writer/director/producer/actor Chris Lilley, is now back with a new series called Angry Boys, this time co-produced by American cable channel HBO. With Lilley playing all the main roles once again, Angry Boys is filmed in a documentary style with non-actors playing supporting characters. This time, his characters are even more varied: S.Mouse, an African-American rapper; Jen, a manipulative Japanese mother; Blake Oakfield, a champion surfer; Ruth “Gran” Sims, a guard at a juvenile detention facility; and her grandchildren, South Australian twins (and rap fans) Daniel and Nathan Sims.
The show debuted last week in Australia to high ratings but mixed reviews. I caught this week’s second episode (I’m out in Australia this week for the DrJays.com-sponsored Bobby V tour) and have to say that while I laughed hard a few times, I was definitely a little confused by some of the characters. Lilley has played a number of multiracial characters throughout his career, but it’ll be most interesting to see how American audiences take to S.Mouse. A parody of rappers from privileged backgrounds who rep a ‘hood lifestyle (complete with actual American co-stars) S.mouse is hilariously funny, culturally relevant and awkwardly offensive. Check Lilley as S.Mouse below, talking about “writing his own shit” in a scene from this week’s episode:
Angry Boys airs on HBO sometime later this year.