Performer: Chris Lilley
BY IZZY VOTSIS
Controversy is often synonymous with the work of Chris Lilley and his latest series Lunatics is no exception.
In classic Lilley fashion, the show is shot through a documentary-like lens to weave the stories of six starkly different characters together.
The main characters, all portrayed by Lilley himself, lack originality, which could have been achieved if different actors had played the roles.
The most disappointing element of Lunatics is the series’ lack of imagination.
The show isn’t outrageous in any new ways and remains reminiscent of Lilley’s boyish humour, which doesn’t seem to have evolved since his debut.
There’s also the issue of the characters themselves, who all seem to be poorly reworked versions of former Lilley characters.
The parallels between Keith and Mr G are blatantly obvious as with the connections between Becky and Ja'mie, and Jonah and Gavin.
Despite the pre-release controversy surrounding whether the character Jana was in blackface – she was revealed to be a heavily tanned white South African woman – the series doesn’t include black or yellowface, both of which have been associated with Lilley’s work from the very beginning of his comedy career.
Lunacy seems to be the only common thread in between the six characters and takes away from what otherwise could have been appealing. From Jana’s OCD, to Joyce’s hoarding and even Becky’s feelings emulative of depression, it was almost like the show made mental illness synonymous with lunacy. By doing this, Lilley alienated the very people he was making the show for.
Unlike Mr Lilley’s other series, where characters share a country, school or ambition, Lunatics feels disjointed as it shifts from the United States to South Africa, and then to Australia.
Adding to this was the decision to focus on so many characters over the space of only 10 episodes.
Episodes are longer than Lilley’s former shows averaging around 35 minutes each, and yet fail to do justice to the vastly different characters. Where his former series would leave the audience feeling refreshed after a 20-minute hit, these longer episodes drag on for little or no comedic impact.
His later series Angry Boys received a poor rating and suggested the audience was not particularly interested in seeing more than three protagonists.
Genuine comedic moments are so few and far between that you would be lucky to have a laugh more than twice over the course of an episode.
The best part of the show was in its final episode where it loosely tied up the trainwreck of the former episodes with a feel-good message from Lilley’s character Keith.
“It doesn’t matter what people think of you, who gives a rats? Just be yourself,” Keith said.