We've seen the story a thousand times before: The popular girl, in this case, 17-year-old Jamie (who prefers to go by Ja'mie), has it all: Looks, a wealthy family, the school (including the teachers) in the palm of her hands, and the world at her perfectly manicured finger-tips. But in HBO's newest half hour comedy slot, our queen bee in question is actually a 39-year-old man named Chris Lilley. And it's hilarious. Ja'mie: Private School Girl, premiering Nov. 24 on HBO, is comedic gold.
After viewing the premiere episode, I couldn't help but wonder if the cross-dressing gimmick would get old quickly. It would be good for an SNL short, a reoccurring character even, but an entire season of a man in a wig and school girl uniform? Debatable. But after two more episodes, I was completely hooked. Would Ja'mie succeed in wooing her twelfth year crush? Would she ace her dance performance? Would she get expelled for always having her "cleavage" exposed? These were all questions I genuinely had stock in answering.
Chris Lilley, the show's writer and and star, says of the mockumentary:
It’s her last three months of school, she’s the school captain, she’s on top of the world and bossier than ever. It’s sort of put together like a reality show, like she is Kim Kardashian or something. She’s got her own show this time, and it’s all about her school life and family life.
But Ja'mie isn't new to the television world. This school girl has been part of Lilley's long line of characters for quite some time, appearing in two of his previous shows, We Can Be Heroes and Summer Heights High. But this time, it's all Ja'mie, all the time.
While Lilley's performance makes the show, it's the ensemble cast that keeps us watching. Although rarely given any real dialogue (the show is almost entirely curated by Ja'mie's narration), their non-verbal reactions make us believe that Ja'mie is everything she claims to be. When she flirts with a boy at the neighboring all boys school, we almost forget that she is being played by a middle-aged man. We forget that when they kiss, it's two boys kissing, and when the crush asks Ja'mie to "flash her tits," there are no tits to be flashed. And that is the true brilliance of the show.
But Ja'mie is a completely despicable human being. She truly is. She "phases out" friends who gain weight, completely excludes the Asian girls at her school, says the Indian girls "smell," and is overall a terrible racist. But she's also completely likable. That is, we like to hate her. She's a weird mixture of the people we've all known: The popular girl, the foul-mouthed kid, the overachiever, the wanna be slut, and the girl who always gets what we wants. And as silly as it sounds, we, as women, actually relate to her ridiculous and petty problems. Concerned about the size of your boobs? Worried you might not ace that school exam you thought would be a piece o' cake? Yeah, we've been there.
As silly, and terrible, and hilarious, and racist as Ja'mie is, at the end of the day, she...he...he/she...is a whole lot of fun. And if you don't agree...
"Grow some tits, and shut your fat face."
Watch the trailer for Ja'mie: Private School Girl below: