Oh Mr Pobjie, two weeks of us reacting to your TV review column with words like “ire” and “irk” and then you go and do this:
I hesitate to say this, and it is said with a heavy heart, but … I think I might be a bit over Ja’mie King. In fact, to be honest, I think I was a bit over her halfway through Summer Heights High.
Lucky he hesitated to say it or we might have thought he’d been possessed by the evil spirit of someone who actually had an opinion. But seriously, all bitchiness aside – well, aside from the show being discussed, which runs entirely on bitchiness – Pobjie has manfully stepped up to the plate with this one:
In all of these shows Lilley has demonstrated an uncanny Sellers-esque ability to inhabit his characters that brings them to life with a humanity seemingly at odds with their ridiculous premises.
Okay, not that bit, because comparing Lilley with Sellers is like saying Mahatma Cote is on par with Dame Edna because they’re both a man in a dress. Yes, we know Cote isn’t actually wearing a dress: that’s just how wrong the comparison is. But this, this we can get behind:
It looks like Private School Girl is the same old mannerisms, the same old situations, the same old teen-grotesque routine. Eventually Ja’mie will need to find a way to make us care, a way to make herself the character in a story, rather than just a snapshot of satirical horror
Still, to paraphrase a famous Chris Rock comedy routine, you don’t deserve praise for just doing your damn job and Ja’mie: Private School Girl is a project that deserves to have an extremely sceptical eye cast over it from day one. After all, stuff like this –
Of all the loveable, though self-deluded, ogres Chris Lilley has foisted upon us – miscreant schoolboy Jonah Takalua, nerd-turned-theatre impresario Ricky Wong, country-hick twins Daniel and Nathan Sims – none pierces the nerves quite the way Ja’mie Louise King does.
So it’s unsurprising the self-obsessed, privileged and potty-mouthed teenager would get a ”one-woman” show of her own in the multi-talented writer-director’s latest enterprise.
– isn’t helping anyone. Why exactly is it “unsurprising” Lilley’s doing a series focused entirely on Ja’mie? Sure, you say it’s because none of his other characters “pierces the nerves” like she does, but isn’t it slightly more likely that after the critical and ratings flop that was Angry Boys Lilley has retreated to creatively safer ground? Isn’t that the kind of thing you should mention in passing at least once in a story about Chris Lilley in 2013? And don’t get us started on “multi-talented”: what’s the bet Private School Girl has the exact same sweeping choral opening music every other one of Chris Lilley’s shows has because he writes the opening music for them all and he can only write one tune?
Sure, ratings aren’t everything and plenty of good comedy shows either rate poorly or have a fall in audience numbers across a series. But from highest point to lowest, Angry Boys lost a million viewers: the only way most comedy in this country could lose a million viewers would be by murdering strangers door-to-door.
Blah blah iView figures blah blah international sales blah blah globally recognised. Yes, all those things are nice and with them in his back pocket there’s no reason why the ABC shouldn’t have leapt at the chance to give Lilley yet another series of the same old tat. The fact remains: the ratings dropped alarmingly across the course of Angry Boys, critical reaction was – for an Australian show – increasingly negative, and no-one walked away from Angry Boys thinking it was an unqualified success the way Summer Heights High was. This is Lilley attempting a comeback; that’s your story about Ja’mie: Private School Girl.
Instead, we get this:
The next obvious step after year 12 is university. Will you be going or do you have another career in mind?
I’m taking my gap year next year to focus on modelling and I’m gonna do aid work in Africa. And like stop child slavery and stuff. And because it’s Africa there’s hardly any food so I’m gonna look SO thin. I can’t wait!
Eh, we can’t really blame the Murdoch press for going down the “wacky in-character interview” path here, as otherwise their (often slightly-more level headed when it comes to local product) coverage actually would have to point out that Angry Boys tanked. Don’t go there, girlfriend!
What that faux-interview does reveal is that Lilley is running on empty. It’s the same old same old wall-to-wall in that article and while you wouldn’t really expect anything less from a promotional puff piece you can’t keep selling the same three jokes forever. She’s a bitch who thinks she’s hot who is played by a man: we get it. Even Ben Pobjie gets it.
That said, we’d be remiss in our duties here if we didn’t point out that for a scathing take-down of Chris Lilley’s upcoming series, Pobjie sure does have a lot of nice things to say about the guy. Things like:
This is not to put down Chris Lilley, who I believe is one of the most brilliant comedic minds and greatest actors Australia has produced
Summer Heights High brought Lilley the big hit he deserved and was followed by the ambitious Angry Boys, not such a hit but in my view, a greatly underrated series.
it would be a shame to see a pull-back from the whip-smart inventiveness that has characterised his career to date
If Lilley can find a way to make that happen, Private School Girl could be another triumph for this bona fide genius.