Count me among those who were generally unimpressed by Chris Lilley’s first series acquired by HBO, “Summer Heights High,” which mostly showcased the youthful-looking actor’s ability to play a variety of roles — sometimes creepily — in a high school setting.
Lilley’s back with “Angry Boys,” a series premiering Jan. 1 with back-to-back half-hour episodes, a premiere date (moved up from Jan. 8) which suggests to me HBO doesn’t really know what to do with it either.
In the latest show, Lilley again plays multiple characters, including a female guard in a juvenile-detention facility, an African-American rapper named S.mouse and a pair of twin brothers. But get past the chameleon act and the accents and there’s really not much there there, other than a sort of grudging admiration for Lilley’s energy level.
Among critics, this represents a minority opinion, based on the mostly favorable Metacritic scores for “Summer Heights” when it made its U.S. debut in 2008. But I suspect part of that has to do in part with a failure to separate the general idea and execution from just how thin, in terms of comedy, Lilley’s shtick is, with an exaggerated emphasis on foul language and moments of general discomfort to obscure those shortcomings. And I don’t think that reaction is cultural as much as it is simply a case of the show being low-brow and, once Lilley gets past the basic conceit, uninventive.
In any event, the episodes will be running through January and into February, and I’m sure somebody in the HBO universe will like them.
They didn’t leave this boy laughing, though, or even feeling angry. I was just … bored.