26 January, 2010

Summer Heights High

One time I read about this TV show that was like a mockumentary and the review I read mentioned a scene where a teacher was talking in a really patronizing way to a student who was intellectually disabled, and you're supposed to laugh at the teacher. I just remembered this today because I realized that I started watching Glee because I thought it was that show. You can imagine what a disappointment that was and soon I got caught up in the disappointment and forgot about the other show. But this is a real show, right? Is it? I want to find it. Does anyone know what it is?

Okay I just noodled around on Wikipedia and I think it might be Summer Heights High. I guess I'll watch it and post about whether it sucks or not.

If it wasn't two years old I'd think this was a parody of Glee; as it is, it makes me laugh a lot:

Mr G is a thirty-six year old drama teacher at Summer Heights High. Mr G not only believes that he is an incredibly talented and well-liked teacher, but that his students also share his intense passion for drama and performance...He is hostile to the disabled students being involved, under the belief that they will damage the quality of his musical.

HA HA HA, whoever wrote this show is clearly psychic

two scenes from Episode 1:

Ja'mie: I think my teachers like me because I'm, like, the smartest non-Asian, and I can do sports and all the stuff that Asians can't do.

(Toby, a boy with Down Syndrome, comes up to Mr. G. and hugs him)
Mr. G: This is Toby, one of our specials from the special education center...it's a separate part of the school, down at the bottom, but we allow them to play with the normal kids at recess and lunch and that sort of thing...(hugging Toby with his hand on Toby's back) Normally you're not allowed to touch students like this, 'cause there are child protection laws, but we normally turn a blind eye with these ones. This sort of thing: fine. (moves his hand lower) Not fine. (moving his hand up and down) Fine. Not fine.

<---so, those are examples of how you do ironic racism and ableism. Racism and ableism are slightly heightened to reach a stylized, and therefore funny, level: Ja'mie matter-of-factly stating that Asians can't play sports, and Mr. G. referring to disabled kids as "specials" and saying that teachers can behave inappropriately with them (this might not be funny to everyone but stylization always gets me really hard--the word "specials," in particular, kills me). Ja'mie and Mr. G. are over-the-top characters and their statements serve to show how awful they are; they don't seem like something the audience is expected to take seriously. We're not presented with an Asian character, played straight, whose only dialogue is about schoolwork. That wouldn't be ironic, it would just be stereotypical and boring.

Yeah, so this show is just incredibly stunning in terms of actually being funny in all the ways that people claim Glee is funny. I'm not going to post more unless something really interesting happens that's related to disability. But if you currently put yourself through the agony of watching Glee, know that you should be watching this instead.


  1. I will say nothing about what happens to Toby in the end. (there are 6 episodes or 8).

    Hope you enjoy Summer Heights High.

    My own favourite character was the naughty Polynesian boy, Jonah Taluhka.

    And the dog, Celine, is just ... gorgeous.

    We Can be Heroes, Lilley's previous show, has Nathan, the boy who happens to be deaf. He and his twin brother love to beatbox in the country.

  2. Oh no, does Toby die or something? Just tell me, it's better for me to find out now.

  3. Whoa, nice find! It's always super refreshing to find examples of people who are doing it RIGHT amidst all the callouts of people who are fucking it up--edgy humor doesn't have to be completely written off if you're not totally clueless and boring about it. I'll definitely be looking for this.

  4. Toby plays Mr G in the musical which turns out to be all about him.

    The special education centre gets destroyed.

    There is a really good Chris Lilley message board (not official, it's by and for the fans):

    Chris Lilley fan Forums

  5. okay I just finished it.
    the portrayal of Toby isn't especially great but at the same time, a disabled actor is actually getting paid, and they don't do anything shitty towards him, he's just there, which is the case for most of the non-Chris-Lilley characters. also he's like the cutest kid I've ever seen and I want to adopt him.