Character actor specialist, Chris Lilley, initially introduced audiences to his over-achieving, relentlessly self-absorbed and superficial private school girl character, Ja’mie King on 2005’s We Could Be Heroes, as one of six unlikely contenders for Australian of the Year. He then plunged her into the unchartered territory of public school on his next series, Summer Heights High in 2007. Now, Ja’mie is the centre of attention in Ja’mie: Private School Girl.
A co-production of ABC, BBC and HBO, the series premiered last night on ABC1 to a total audience, inclusive of regional ratings, of 1.27 million.
Memorable quotes and buzz words from the show were already trending on Twitter shortly after the first episode aired; particularly the term ‘quiche’ which Ja’mie uses to describe someone who is especially attractive, or in her words, “better than hot.”
Some critics sang the Hillford Girls’ Grammar School Captain’s praise, such as David Mills from the Herald Sun, who wrote, “It was vintage Ja’mie: narcissistic, offensive, bullying and hilarious.”
Debi Enker of The Age admired Lilley for his ability to captivate us with abhorrent characters we love to hate, but whom we then feel for as their worlds begin to fall apart. “That’s part of his genius. Even with characters as contemptible as Ja’mie, he guides us to engage with their wrong-headed exploits,” she wrote, and concluded, “Over the years and through an array of series, we’ve become accustomed to Lilley’s edgy creations and extraordinary transformations, and perhaps we’re no longer dazzled by them. But we should be.”
However, many critics also expressed concern about the series lacking a balance of light and shade, wondering whether or not Ja’mie might just be too mean to stomach without the contrast of a variety of characters alongside her.
From The Guardian, Rob Moran considered Ja’mie way too cruel this time around, calling her a “teenage Medusa” and claiming that “Ja’mie’s all-encompassing nastiness could become this series’ biggest obstacle.”
A fan of Lilley’s, Ben Pobjie, also of The Age, named him “one of the most brilliant comedic minds and greatest actors Australia has produced,” however, Pobjie felt as though the character of Ja’mie has already reached her full potential and may not have enough comedic power to carry a series alone. He writes, “It looks like Private School Girl is the same old mannerisms, the same old situations, the same old teen-grotesque routine.”
Ja’mie: Private School Girl airs on ABC1 on Wednesday nights at 9pm.