It’s kind of shocking that Australian comedy Summer Heights High is playing on HBO–it seems like exactly the kind of thing American development executives would purchase to destroy as a vehicle for a lesser Saturday Night Live player. Instead, we get the original gem to enjoy, with creator/writer Chris Lilley playing three inhabitants of Summer Heights High who are the center of a documentary on the school. It’s a pretty stunning performance (surrounded, astonishingly, by real kids), swinging from a wealthy private-school girl slumming on an exchange program to a troubled 8th grader without a mom to an over-the-top drama teacher. In fact, uninspired, oversized bully Jonah is so believable he’s almost painful to watch. He might be a mockumentary character played by a 34-year-old comedian, but he’s already so real that, like the school’s guidance counselor, we’re hoping he doesn’t get expelled again, too.
Thank goodness self-proclaimed “entertainment industry professional for the price of a teacher” Mr. G is around to lighten the mood. Fingers crossed that the mockumentary will quickly move from the traditional production of Anything Goes currently being staged so we can get to Mr. G’s more avant-garde extravaganzas. Since he has performed both Cats and Starlight Express as one-man shows as well as putting on Ian Thorpe: The Man, The Music, The Water (A Rock Musical) and Tsunamarama (dramatizing the tsunami tragedy to the music of Bananarama), I’d be willing to pay money to see what he dreams up next. That’s lucky, since Summer Heights High is available On Demand, but not on basic cable. It’s easily the best thing HBO has managed recently, so find a way to catch it on Sunday nights.