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Hercules Audits HBO’s

I am – Hercules!!
An eight-episode Australian mockumentary series that looks at the faculty and students at a Melbourne high school, HBO’s “Summer Heights High” was masterminded by a fellow named Chris Lilley, who plays a drama teacher and two of the students. It was a huge hit Down Under. While Lilly’s ability to disappear into his three characters is admirable, I can’t say I found a lot of funny in the first four episodes. I got a good laugh at delinquent Jonah’s foul apology to a tiny red-haired kid in the first episode, but by episode two I already found myself numbed to Jonah’s casual barrages of vulgarity. Overall I didn’t notice a lot of new comedy ground getting broken. Lilly’s drama teacher character is to Corky St. Clair in “Waiting For Guffman” what Mohinder Suresh is to Seth Brundle in “The Fly.” Which it to say not as good but with a different accent. Entertainment Weekly gives it an “A-minus” and says:
… Brilliant! …
Time Magazine says:
… quite funny. …
The New York Times says:
… But are they funny? … I suspect that a lot of American viewers will be inclined to ask what all the fuss was about. …
The Los Angeles Times says:
… all in all, it's a rich work, full of detail and small moments, and grounded in reality by an utterly believable supporting cast partly drawn from the school where the series was shot. …
The Washington Post says:
… starts slowly -- but builds. Eventually, even farcical characters inspire emotional investment. It's cringe comedy, with suspense growing out of how mortifyingly the three main characters -- a drama teacher, a girl who's transferred from private school and an incorrigible sociopath -- will humiliate themselves. …
The San Francisco Chronicle says:
… The documentary look is engaging, and Lilley's wildly over-the-top performance as three distinct characters is made all the more funny as it clashes against the reserved nature of the nonactors. … niftily overcomes its familiar premise to bring fresh laughs to these shores.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says:
… Fans of character comedy may get a kick out of the "Summer Heights High." You just have to go in expecting to smile occasionally or maybe chuckle. It's not the kind of comedy that will produce big laughs.…
The Newark Star-Ledger says:
… in comedy, which is more important: versatility or the simple number of laughs? Much as I admire Lilley's ability to pull off a sort of one-man Christopher Guest movie, only one of the three "Summer Heights High" leads is funny on a consistent basis. … Lilley's obviously a talent, but for his next project, I'd like to see how he plays with others.
The Boston Globe says:
… hysterical … gives us an idea of what Christopher Guest, creator of spoofs such as "Waiting for Guffman" and "Best in Show," might come up with if he were to make a TV comedy series. …
Variety says:
… One newspaper dubbed Chris Lilley "Australia's answer to Ricky Gervais" -- a comparison that, alas, is funnier than almost anything in this mockumentary fished up from Down Under. … seldom rises above silliness and mostly proves just plain irritating. …
The Hollywood Reporter says:
… has all the ingredients for a hilarious mockumentary without the benefit of actually being funny … Lilley himself has moments of inspiration but far too few, falling back on easy stereotypes that quickly grow tedious. … The inescapable conclusion: them Aussies are far too easily entertained.
10:30 p.m. Sunday. HBO.


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