And I really didn’t like it.
Look, there are some things that I don’t laugh at that I can see are funny to others. I get why people find Peep Show, The Office (UK), Jimmy Carr and a whole bunch of sitcoms, people and movies funny while I don’t. I’m caring and sharing like that. I get why people don’t find Miranda, Green Wing, The Inbetweeners and other movies, people, books etc. that I find hysterical.
But with Angry Boys, I was left completely mystified while Twitter almost bent itself out of shape with people praising the genius of Chris Lilley. I was left staring at the television asking, ‘Was that it?’
Granted it was episode 1 of 12. Twelve episodes is quite a number to fill and judging by the promos, this one is going to unfold very slowly. According to a review I heard on 702 ABC Sydney, it takes four episodes for all of the characters in the series to be unveiled. I hope it gets better from here for Lilley’s sake.
So, in episode one we were…um…treated to a redux of twins Daniel and Nathan who we met in We Can Be Heroes almost six years ago (wow…). These two teenagers were the subject of a storyline where one donated an ear to the other who was profoundly deaf. They’re a sullen, unlikeable pair and I really, really don’t see the humour. Daniel swears relentlessly, calls his brother a fag (among other things) and Lilley recycles every playground gag played against the hard-of-hearing. Ground-breaking, apparently. Genius, say others. Old, say I. So very old.
Then we met Gran. Gran is a guard in a juvenile prison who operates under the tough love theory. Racial epithets fly thick and fast, a boy is ridiculed for poor soccer-playing by his mother’s heroin addict being raised as a possible cause for said skills deficit. Confronting, apparently.
I find characters who are not ‘supposed’ to swear as funny as the next guy but there wasn’t much here for me.
The pre-show hype was all about how dark and confronting the show was, but it really isn’t. It smacks of Little Britain in both style and content, with the big exception being that the darkness isn’t absurd, it’s just uncomfortable. The promo for episode two relies heavily on the rapper with punctuation halfway through his name and it’s going to take some steely determination to sit through it because if there’s one thing that irritated me about episode one was this:
It was boring. Utterly, mind-numbingly boring.
First episodes are often hard because we’re doing something new, but Lilley isn’t. I’ve never considered his writing especially clever and found his strength to be his rock-solid, if stereotyped (or, well, racist) performances. He’s consistent and impressive at carrying the entire show on his shoulders.
I’m vaguely offended by poor writing and racist jokes being re-cast as confronting and edgy. I’ve seen edgy, this isn’t it. I’ve seen confronting and there was barely an f-bomb in six shows whereas Lilley’s short-cutting with a constant barrage of them became tedious. I don’t object to swearing in media, especially after 8:30pm when the kids are tucked up in bed, but it was dull.
The thing for me was that I couldn’t really see why people found it funny. The best it got from me was a wan smile and a half-finished ‘hah.’ I couldn’t work out where all this confronting and edgy talk came from but will happily agree he is an excellent performer.
He’s just in search of some quality writing.