Chris Lilley’s new show already a King hit

Can a single name ensure a television series becomes a mammoth hit? Can Ja’mie King carry a TV show on her teenaged, private school-educated, high-school-encumbered shoulders?

The short answer is yes. The long answer is also yes. With this postscript: writer/actor Chris Lilley, who created Ja’ime and has played her in two TV series already, clearly knows when he’s on to something.

Ja’mie King was the breakout star character of We Can Be Heroes, Lilley’s mockumentary about the search for Australian of the Year.

Almost every character in the series stood out, notably skeletal dysplasia sufferer Pat Mullins, but it was King whose affected manner, snobbery and one-liners cemented her place in the national consciousness.

King was an overachieving private schoolgirl whose nuances, including the sponsorship of 85 Sudanese children through the fictitious charity Global Vision, held a wry mirror up to modern society.

She returned for a second outing in Summer Heights High, now transferred to a public school as part of a student exchange, in an exercise which peeled open Australian life with an even sharper razor.

As tipped by Fairfax Media back in February and confirmed this week, King will return for a third outing in Lilley’s new series, Ja’mie: Private School Girl.

The series, a co-production between the ABC, the BBC and HBO, is the highly anticipated follow up to Lilley’s last series, Angry Boys, which received mixed reviews when it launched last year.

Delivering a fourth series with an audience-tested favourite might seem like an easy road. Certainly Lilley and longtime collaborator, Melbourne producer Laura Waters, must have examined the very broad reaction to Angry Boys in detail.

The truth is most sketch comedies – and Lilley’s comedies, though they possess linear narratives, are born out of the sketch genre – are hit and miss. Even the iconic French & Saunders seemed to hit the mark in roughly half of their sketches.

The hit and miss rate of a sketch comedy isn’t a measure of good or bad performance, but rather, a reflection of the jagged nature of the genre. Angry Boys, while engaging at times, felt stretched.

And some of its characters, while humorous, lacked the humanity which made King, and other Lilley characters, such as schoolboy Jonah Takalua and prison guard Gran Sims, very rich platforms for humour and pathos.

Those three are, by a long measure, Lilley’s most successful characters. Pat Mullins would be a close fourth. All worked because underneath their function as comedy characters there lurked a vast well of humanity to mine.

The death of Pat Mullins was a sucker punch to the audience. Takalua’s story in Summer Heights High ended with a heart-wrenching finish. And the imperfections of Ja’ime King’s world complete a mosaic that hints at a far more complex emotional heart than first meets the eye.

In a sense, Ja’mie: Private School Girl seems perfectly timed. Though Lilley could have most likely predicted the outcome of last week’s election, as did most people, Ja’mie King is a delicious prism through which we can examine the new contemporary Australia.

Like the new Liberal government, she is same, same, but different.

Ja’mie: Private School Girl a television hit? Unequivocally.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

Posted in 杭州龙凤