Thursday, 19 May 2011



OK. I'm going to go out on a limb here. Not just any old limb, either, but the highest limb I can find. On the most sacred tree in town. And I'm taking my shiny new hacksaw with me. Want to watch me fall? Stick around now. I'm going to think the unthinkable. I'm going to  - I can’t believe I'm really doing this! - I'm going to criticize a National Treasure. Right in front of your eyes. Wow! It's high up here and the view is awesome. I ready my blade, and I start sawing. Here we go then: the new Chis Lilley show (zzz zzz zzz go the teeth of my saw slicing into the flesh of the branch) called Angry Boys (zzz zzzzz zzzz - I can feel the bough starting to give way under my weight already) which screened for the second time last night on the ABC (zzzzz zzzzz oh shit - here I go!) well, sorry folks, but it simply isn't funny.

SNAP! There! I've said it. Somebody had to. I know it's not the politically correct thing to do. And I know there's a legion of crazed fans just waiting with baseball bats raised high over their heads to club me to a pulp for even daring to suggest it, but I can't help myself. Angry Boys just isn't funny. Not even remotely.

Partly, I suppose, it was the heightened expectations, which, let's face it, could never hope to be met. Nothing will ever compare with the unique and exquisite humour of Summer Heights High. The insights, the characterization, the razor sharp observations, the awesome performances, and the wonderful - almost magical - world Chris created. As the camera swooped down into the schoolyard you felt yourself happily being drawn into the lives of a cast of characters who were simultaneously scarily familiar and bizarrely alien. Achingly funny, you could return there time and time again without ever tiring of the place or the people. Or the jokes. They were just too damn good!

I'm not sure I'll be hurrying back to the Boys Juvenile Detention Centre. It just depressed me. The character Gran is basically Mr G with a gender re-assignment transposed into a new, and desperately unappealing environment. Unusually, Chris barely seems to bother trying to disguise the similarities in the two characters. Gay, racially insensitive, fond of theatre, etc. Even the same intonations and expressions started to creep in. The only obvious difference is that Mr G was funny. Gran isn't.

And please, spare me the twins and their tedious middle-finger-permanently-raised attempts to entertain. They weren't particularly good in We Can Be Heroes, and I can't help thinking there's a sniff of desperation about trotting them out again. Whereas Jonah and J'amie were equally obnoxious, arrogant, stupid and tragic, what made them so utterly compelling and irresistible was their wonderful naivety and self-belief. Nathan and Daniel, in contrast, offer no redeeming characteristics whatsoever. They are, quite simply, too awful to watch. Can someone please enlighten me as to what part of watching a bunch of bogans do burn-outs in a suped-up Commodore is funny? You'll love Parramatta Road on a Friday night then.

But the second episode sank even further than the first. Half of it was devoted to an Eminem meets Ali G meets Snoop Dog character. Ten years too late. And not even remotely funny. Worse, it was actually boring.

Masturbating dogs, anyone? Defecating on cars? Big black balls? Put your dick on my shoulder? Poo on you? If you were wise enough not to waste your time watching last night, that’s what you missed out on.

I must admit to having had an inkling that Angry Boys might fail to live up to its two predecessors. There was the trailer on the ABC over the last few weeks. None of the gags seemed particularly special, but I told myself this was a deliberate strategy to save the best for the show itself. Apparently not. Then came Ruth Ritchie's weird review just before the show premiered. Alarm bells tinkled faintly in the distance, even though I chose not to listen to them. Refusing to either praise or criticize the show, Ruth (one of our best TV reviewers) appeared to be performing some strange high wire act of her own making, dreading to put a foot wrong in her appraisal of the show. It was a cop out, demanding that the audience judge for themselves.

Anyway, I'm in free fall now and the ground is rushing up towards me. On Twitter on the opening night, #angryboys was briefly the most discussed subject in the world. Check out the tweets again this morning and you'll find the plenty of fans worshipping at the altar, loving every second of it, in praise of the maestro. Yes, if water coolers still existed the consensus would be clear. Angry Boys was hilarious. And awesome. Pure genius, even.

So Chris and the ABC can relax. They're safe. And who knows? Maybe it's a slow burn and it'll get better and better. And by the end of the ten part series it'll be an absolute classic and I'll be desperately embarrassed that I ever dared think let alone commit to paper these four shameful words: Angry Boys isn't funny.
But somehow I doubt it. After all, that's what limbs are there for. To go out on.

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