The character of Jonah Takalua was originally introduced to viewers in Aussie comedian Chris Lilley’s mockumentary series Summer Heights High, where, when we last left him, the inappropriate delinquent was expelled from high school and sent to live with his uncle in aboriginal Tonga in hopes of straightening him out.
In Jonah From Tonga, a six-episode comedic follow-up airing on HBO, we fast-forward four months, when cameras document how the troubled teen is adapting. As expected, things aren’t good. “Everything was happy, and it was a peaceful place until Jonah came along,” a cousin begins. “Jonah’s like a @#$%in’ idiot. He uses swear language all the time. He’s very annoying. No one likes him here.”
So after four months of terrorizing the island, he is sent back to Sydney to attend a Catholic high school where he is assigned to a house for teens with behavioral problems. Despite his efforts to be “a good boy” and the support of his long-suffering teachers, Jonah’s actions leave havoc in his wake. But even with his pervasive depravity, there is something mildly endearing about Jonah’s spirit.
Jonah is an irritating character to those who inhabit his world and to TV viewers. He’s like a teenaged Borat whose frenetic chatter indiscriminately slings insults at friends and foes alike. The show, however, is primed to become a lightning rod for controversy, and if you’re a fan of Lilley — who’s pushing 40 and still playing 14 —you’ll like Jonah From Tonga. If you’re unfamiliar with Lilley and his very particular brand of comedy, this might be the most insulting (Lilley portrays Aboriginal Jonah in brownface and a curly wig) and torturous television experience of your life.
Jonah From Tonga > HBO > Fridays beginning Aug. 8
image © HBO