HBO’s latest comedy, Angry Boys, is their second go around with Australian comedian Chris Lilley. The first of Lilley’s series’ to appear on HBO was 2007’s Summer Heights High, which became wildly popular in Australia and the United States, but for whatever reason still is wildly underrated. Where Summer Heights High was entirely focused on one Australian high school and some of its funny/strange/interesting characters, Angry Boys really has no boundaries. It’s two main characters and Daniel and Nathan, two twin brothers struggling with adolescence in the middle of nowhere Australia. Nathan is deaf and his mother and soon-to-be stepfather decide he needs to go to a boarding school for hearing impaired children. Hearing this, Daniel plans to throw a wild going away party for Nathan. This is where we get the substance of the show, with Daniel trying to get their favorite celebrities (from their infamous “Wall of Legends”) to make appearances at the party to send Nathan off in style.
I know this sounds like a pretty silly premise, but it is what it is, and Lilley’s shows are never really about the story, they are about the characters. The aforementioned Daniel and Nathan are the focus of the show and played by creator Chris Lilley, but what is so impressive is that the rest of the main (and diverse) characters are also played by Lilley. For those who haven’t seen the show the rest of the main characters are as follows:
S.mouse is an awful rapper, who many are speculating is molded after real life “rapper” Soulja Boy. S.mouse has had one huge single, which is titled Slap My Elbow, and since then has not been able to produce anything of substance. His popularity is waning and he begins to become disconnected with his record label and family
Blake Oakfield is a former legendary surfer who got in a nasty accident which resulted in the removal of both of his testicles. He is a member of Daniel and Nathan’s “Wall of Legends” and began running a surf camp for fat kids. His biggest issue is that he cannot let go of his past and move on with a more relaxed family life with his wife and child.
Jen Okazaki is an overbearing mother for her young Japanese-American skateboarder son Tim Okazaki. To make him more popular and unique she promotes him as being gay (which he is not) and creates an entire brand around this idea called “GayStyle Enterprises”. Tim resents this and is a very conflicted kid due to his mothers constant pressure and manipulative ways.
Ruth “Gran” Sims
Gran is Daniel and Nathan’s loving grandmother. She is a guard at an all boys juvenile detention center, and her brute, hard-nosed ways actually resonate well with these troubled youths. Her main role in Daniel and Nathan’s lives is to try and round up the members of the “Wall of Legends” to attempt to sway them into coming to Nathan’s party. She has a strange affection for guinea pigs, but uses them to help the boys maintain some normalcy in their lives.
Looking at all of these diverse characters, it is pretty evident that Lilley is a unique talent. There have been complaints and criticisms all over the internet that Lilley is too much of a one trick pony with these mockumentary style shows with him starring in multiple roles. Those people need to relax. The guy found something that he is good at and has been successful so why wouldn’t he produce another series win that style. Summer Heights High and it’s characters were incredibly funny and honestly it would have been stupid for Lilley to hang it up after that show. He is a smart guy and a good enough writer where he had to try and recreated that success with another show, and although Angry Boys is nowhere near as funny as Summer Heights High, it is a good series for other reasons.
This may sound stupid and weird, but I think Angry Boys is a good show because of the dramatic side to it. Each character is conflicted in such a way that it brings a more serious message to the viewer than was seen in Summer Heights High. I probably seem like an idiot for saying that a silly show like this is impressing me due to the dramatic side and the characters issues, but that is really how I feel as I watch this show. There are stretches where I go 5-10 minutes without a laugh and that is not because I’m bored, it’s because these characters have real issues that countless children encounter and the show is presenting it in an effective manner. Yes, there are a bunch of hilarious and awkward moments, but the real success of the show should be its ability to capture the struggles of different adolescents.
Daniel, who is fed up with his deaf brother getting a lot of attention and struggling with his fathers death, acts out to try to get attention of his own. Tim Okazaki dealing with the pressures of his crazy mother and millions of rabid Japanese fans. S.mouse the young rapper who attained success at too young an age, pissing it all away, while pissing away every meaningful relationship he has ever made in the process. Blake Oakfield, struggling with the realization he has to grow up and is no longer a teenage surfer. All of these characters have struggles, struggles that tons of kids, and even adults, encounter all over the world and Lilley does a great job capturing them with these characters.
Don’t get me wrong, this show is a comedy at heart, but it uses its comedic elements to bring out the real issues that the show presents. On the whole, I enjoyed Summer Heights High more than I have been enjoying Angry Boys, but both shows have been impressive work by Chris Lilley. I’m interested to see how the show wraps up and to see if each of these characters will eventually end up at peace with their problems, or if they will just continue living their lives with their respective weight on their back.
On a comedic note to wrap up the post, every single time that Daniel is trying to get Nathan’s attention I laugh: