After dressing up as the opposite gender and over two decades younger in order to fulfill his single character-based spin-off series Ja’mie: Private School Girl, 39-year-old Australian comedian Chris Lilley won’t be going in drag to revive another of his most popular creations from sketch show Summer Heights High – but will increase the age gap in a series more groundbreaking than most other clues would suggest.
While popular characters or concepts of TV shows are often brought back into something of their own, Lilley’s new single-season comedy series Jonah From Tonga is doing the same, but with a twist that could help pave the way for other shows to gain momentum in online broadcasting.
The series, formally announced at the end of Ja’mie’s run, will continue Lilley’s collaboration with partner networks ABC, BBC, and HBO, though the former two will most notably not be screening first on their traditional channels (ABC1 in Australia and BBC3 in the UK), but instead through the networks’ respective online catch-up platforms.
The ABC iView and BBC iPlayer will both participate in a trial of the 6-episode series (in which lead character ‘Jonah Takalua’, having been expelled from Summer Heights High, is sent to a new school in order to ‘get his life back on track’), where all episodes are introduced at the same time in a similar manner to Netflix’s original programming.
However, even more uniquely than Netflix, the opportunity to ‘binge view’ will be in a specific window of time only, closing after 48 hours of its launch on Friday 2 May. For those that don’t have 3 of those hours free to go through the whole series, the TV debut of Jonah in its more traditional ‘linear’ weekly schedule will occur on 7 & 8 May for Australia and the UK (with details on HBO’s American premiere unconfirmed), where iView and iPlayer will start providing more normalised catch-up options from that point.
Laura Waters, a representative of production company Princess Pictures, noted: “Jonah from Tonga is a thrilling series, coming out in the most thrilling era of television. Chris and I will always put the fan’s experience first. We’re so excited that people can choose their own way of getting involved with Jonah.”
BBC iPlayer’s head of TV content Victoria Jaye added: “This is BBC iPlayer’s first collaboration with an international broadcaster to create an online TV event. For 48 hours only, iPlayer audiences will be given access to all episodes of Chris Lilley’s new comedy series Jonah from Tonga. We’re excited to see how this digital event sets light to social media activity from fans both here and on the other side of the world.”
Arul Baskaran, ABC’s head of online and multiplatform, summarised: “We’re firm believers in innovation and improving how technology can deliver outstanding Australian content to audiences no matter where they’re watching, and we’re thrilled to now offer binge viewing of a highly anticipated show from one of Australia’s most respected comedic talents.”
A teaser trailer for Jonah From Tonga can be seen below, as can another controversial occasion in which Chris Lilley portrayed a non-Australian.