Chris Lilley’s latest series sees him take on the role of Jamie – sorry, Ja’mie – King (she added the apostrophe in Grade Eight). Ja’mie first appeared in Lilley’s outstanding We Can Be Heroes, but anyone outside Australia might be unfamiliar with Lilley’s early work and a little puzzled at the notion of a thirty-nine year old male comedian anchoring a show as a seventeen year old private schoolgirl.
The joke here isn’t, as you might expect, the very notion of a man dressing as a girl. Mrs Brown’s Boys this ain’t. Lilley disappears into the role; halfway through the episode you’ll have forgetten that you’re watching a middle-aged man.
Lilley’s work is largely observational satire, elevated by its specificity, authenticity and the depth of its sympathy for its characters; he’s a master of getting you to laugh at, then cry with a character. His last series, Angry Boys, had a more global setting but lacked that authenticity. With Ja’mie: Private School Girl, the magic is back in a funny and breezy half hour. Lilley surrounds himself with a cast of actual high school students, and this has reaped dividends: the show demonstrates a full understanding of the modern habits of private schoolgirls.