Angry Boys Farce Angers Audiences
SPOILER ALERT – MAY CONTAIN CRITIQUES OF VITAL PLOTLINES
There was a touching moment in the season finale of Angry Boys, where Nathan stood at the site of his father’s death and cusped his hands in prayer. His otherwise impassive brother Daniel slouched in the background, fighting away oncoming tears. Moments earlier Daniel had delivered a remorseful soliloquy, a rare glimpse into the teenager’s heart-wrenching past.
Then Nathan pulled down his pants, and pissed on the memorial.
Such a crass juxtaposition was a microcosm of Angry Boys, Chris Lilley’s third mockumentary television series. From the first episode twelve weeks ago to Wednesday night’s climactic finish, the show was marred by inappropriate asides, misplaced jokes that curtailed the beauty of an otherwise creative project.
Each time the show threatened to showcase some heart, Lilley’s unnecessary toilet gags would creep in like an uninvited guest. An uninvited guest that swears profusely, speaks with their mouth full, and is oblivious to their vulgarity.
Given what we have come to expect from the multi-talented Lilley, Angry Boys was a shattering anti-climax. In We Can Be Heroes, the Sydney actor-cum-writer made us fall in love with six ordinary Australians. His follow-up Summer Heights High was nothing short of remarkable; as a secondary student at the time, I remember being over-awed by the accuracy of Lilley’s portrayal.
While both series’ could undoubtedly be classed as comedies, Lilley’s radiance shone during the moments of drama. We trembled with Jonah in the Principal’s office; we cried with Terry when Pat got cancer; we wanted to scream at the obnoxious Ja’mie.
In both programs, Lilley gave us a mirror to snicker at our imperfections. In Angry Boys, he gave us a circus of hackneyed extremes.
Two of Lilley’s latest creations were uninspiring one-dimensional figures. The audience was never able to feel empathy for Japanese tiger-mother Jen Okazaki; her son Tim was far from the only victim of her unrelenting nagging. Likewise foul-mouthed rapper S.mouse was too much of a moron for us to pity. By depicting the 24 year old American as mindless and immature, Lilley gave his audience little choice but to despise him.
One may argue that both Jen and S.mouse achieved an ironic form of redemption in the final episode, but by this stage the audience had ceased to care.
Perhaps the weakest element of Angry Boys was the underdeveloped support cast.
You could say that Jordan Dang – as Tim Okazaki – was convincing in his frustration. But where were the tears, the anguish, or the genuine anger? As an audience, we were far less interested in Jen’s yawn-worthy one-liners, and more concerned with Tim’s depression.
Steve (Greg Fairall) was another we wanted more from. His tale –of a kind-hearted man desperate to win the approval of his adolescent step children – was worthy of its own film script. Yet Lilley reduced that premise to a subplot, preferring to focus on Nathan’s knack for sticking his arms up pipes and stuffing his naked body into bean-bags.
Of the others, Penny (Alison Roy) was too often out of frame, Danthony (Clyde Boraine) was underappreciated, and Hunter (Paul Pearson) was just another of the show’s unredeemable idiots. This trio had nothing on the support cast of Lilley’s earlier shows, which brought us cult figures such as Rodney (Stan Roach), Doug (David Lennie) and Terry (Mick Graham).
Angry Boys still had its moments, yet they were too few and far between. We admired Gran’s dedication to her inmates; we celebrated Daniel’s closet affection for his brother; and we chuckled at Blake’s naive, but unwavering, sincerity.
Yet time and time again, these promising developments would go to waste, with Lilley desperate to squeeze in another recycled punch-line. Fads – such as “piss funny”, “gay style” and Swayne Jnr’s potty mouth – were mildly amusing the first time. By their umpteenth repetition, the audience was searching for the remote.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of Angry Boys was that it could have been incredible.
Take Blake for example. Here, we had a castrated man’s man, an archetype Aussie hero missing his dual icons of masculinity. So why didn’t Lilley use this opportunity to challenge the national conceptions of gender? Why did he let Blake be a deadbeat, a perennial slacker plagued by his skin-deep deficiencies?
Admittedly, Blake concluded the season as an optimistic family man. But note that this only happened once he got his balls back.
You could just as easily plonk Jen, S.mouse, or Daniel under the same frame of interrogation. Over the twelve week season, we got to know them each too well, yet at the same time not well enough.
One could sense that some impressive caricatures were hiding between their vacant façades. Yet Lilley never gave us what we quite wanted. He was too busy being “funny”.
It’s a real shame when a couple of urine jokes get in the way of some quality television.