Jonah from Tonga
GenreSitcom
Mockumentary
Created byChris Lilley
Written byChris Lilley
Directed byChris Lilley
Stuart McDonald
StarringChris Lilley
Theme music composerChris Lilley
ComposerJohn Foreman
Country of originAustralia
United States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes6 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producersLaura Waters
Chris Lilley
ProducersLaura Waters
Chris Lilley
Production locationsThe Grange P-12 College, Hoppers Crossing, Melbourne, Australia
CinematographyNick Gregoric
EditorIan Carmichael
Running time26–27 minutes
Production companiesPrincess Pictures
ABC
HBO
Release
Original networkABC iview (online)
ABC1 (television)
Picture format576i (SDTV)
Audio formatStereo
Original release2 –
4 May 2014 (iview)
7 May – 11 June 2014 (ABC)
Chronology
Preceded byJa'mie: Private School Girl
Followed byLunatics
Related showsSummer Heights High

Jonah from Tonga is an Australian television sitcom that is written by and starring comedian Chris Lilley. The mockumentary series follows Jonah Takalua, a rebellious 14-year-old Australian boy of Tongan descent who had been introduced in Lilley's 2007 series Summer Heights High. At the conclusion of that series, Jonah was expelled from Summer Heights High School.[1] In this series, his father, Rocky Takalua, has sent him back to his homeland of Tonga to live with his uncle and their family in order to get Jonah's life back on track. The six-part series was produced by Princess Pictures and Chris Lilley in conjunction with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and screened on ABC1 in Australia, HBO in America, and BBC Three in the UK.[1] In New Zealand Māori Television screened the first episode on 29 July 2017, but then withdrew later episodes.[2]

The entire series was available for streaming online for one weekend from 2 May to 4 May on BBC iPlayer and ABC iview, before starting a six-week run on ABC1 on 7 May 2014 and from 8 May on BBC Three. This was a first for a major Australian TV production.[3] The series itself was a "ratings disaster" for both the ABC and BBC.[4] It was later announced that the entire series would screen at select cinemas in several Australian cities followed by a Q and A with Chris Lilley.[5] These events were subsequently cancelled, with refunds given[6] and the website created to promote them removed.[7]

Production

On 27 November 2013, Lilley confirmed that he would be bringing back Jonah Takalua (Summer Heights High) for a new show titled Jonah from Tonga in 2014.[8][9][10]

Melbourne-based production company Princess Pictures and Chris Lilley produced the series with Australian Broadcasting Corporation and HBO. Parts of the show are filmed at The Grange P-12 College, a western suburbs school in Melbourne.

Characters

Jonah's family
Holy Cross High School staff
Other school students
Garingal Juvenile Justice Centre

Reception

The series received mixed reviews, attracting criticism both for its portrayal of Tongans and for Lilley's use of brownface make-up. The series was poorly received by Tongans in Australia,[11] and several organisations in the United States criticised HBO's decision to air it.[12] Morgan Godfery, writing in The Guardian, described Takalua as Lilley's "most endearing character", but said that he had made Polynesians "collateral damage on [his] quest to critique racism". Godfery also suggested that because not all viewers could "identify Lilley's purpose", he was "in essence, acting out a modern minstrel show".[13] Giles Hardie, writing for The New Daily, described the show as "quite blatantly racist – playing on the cultural traits and responses to an ethnic community", but "hitting a variety of ethnicities and in doing so lumping us all in together". However, Hardie also noted that Lilley was "one of a handful of comedians in the world" who "force society to laugh in recognition at an unacknowledged reality and, while it laughs, to engage in some healthy introspection", and concluded that the series was not "creating the stereotype", but "challenging an existing one that is found in society".[14]

In 2017, the series was scheduled to air on Māori Television in New Zealand, however the board of the station cancelled the broadcast, saying the show perpetuated negative stereotypes of Pacific people.[15] The creators of the 2004 ABC TV documentary series Our Boys stated that Lilley drew inspiration for the Jonah character from their work.[16] The subject of Our Boys recalled being "absolutely embarrassed, full of hate, angry and exploited" by the "racist" Jonah character that was based on him.[16] The series' director, as well as a teacher at Canterbury Boys High School also felt that the character "exploited" the Tongan students who Lilley had met while visiting the school after seeing Our Boys on television in 2004.[16]

Episodes

No. Title Directed by Written by Original air date (ABC1) Australian
viewers
1"Episode 1"Chris Lilley and Stuart McDonaldChris Lilley7 May 2014 (2014-05-07)414,000[17]
Jonah was expelled from school during Year 8 and is sent back to Tonga to live with his uncle. No-one likes him there because he is violent, swears, tells lies and graffitis. Months later, his father Rocky and Aunty Grace visit and take 14-year-old Jonah back to Australia to live with his family in Sydney. He is pleased, because he was bored in Tonga. Jonah becomes a Year 9 student at a Catholic high school in suburban Sydney. He quickly forms a new Pacific Islander school gang, Fobba-liscious, and causes trouble for many students and teachers. He has a particular disliking for ginger kids, whom he calls rangas. He has to attend classes at Lazarus House, a unit at the school for students who have behavioural problems.
2"Episode 2"Chris Lilley and Stuart McDonaldChris Lilley14 May 2014 (2014-05-14)287,000[18]
Jonah and the Fobba-liscious boys are forced to meet with youth worker Kool Kris after the gang made videos of themselves bullying younger kids and uploaded them to YouTube. Several of the male students, including Jonah, dance individually in front of the rest of the students - and he trades insults with a ginger student, Graydon. Fobba-liscious weld Graydon's locker shut, then he grabs Jonah's younger brother, Moses. Fobba-liscious gather Year 7 ginger kids from different classrooms under false pretences. They enclose them within two goals and film them while trying to make one of them eat dog feces. A teacher sees what they are doing and stops them.
3"Episode 3"Chris Lilley and Stuart McDonaldChris Lilley21 May 2014 (2014-05-21)348,000[19]
Rocky grounds Jonah for bullying the ginger kids. However, Jonah and the 'Fobba-liscious' boys escape and go to the ten-pin bowling alley. Jonah papier-machés his cousin Melody. Fobba-liscious' counselling session with Kool Kris leads to the boys taking part in the 'Feel Da Beat' song competition. An older gang called the Soldierz lend Jonah and Moses a machete.
4"Episode 4"Chris Lilley and Stuart McDonaldChris Lilley28 May 2014 (2014-05-28)240,000[20]
Jonah humiliates Mr Joseph in front of the school inspectors. Moses gets the machete out of his locker and shows it to the rest of Fobba-liscious. Fobba-liscious go to the bowling alley. They try to steal the alley's golden bowling ball (which they believe is worth $10,000) by threatening the receptionist with the machete. Security guards seize Jonah and Moses. All five are arrested and taken to a youth detention center. Jonah is kept in, while the others are bailed.
5"Episode 5"Chris Lilley and Stuart McDonaldChris Lilley4 June 2014 (2014-06-04)289,000[21]
Jonah's imprisonment bring new opponents, including Aboriginal inmates - as well as some unexpected allies, including correctional officer Therese. He forms a prison gang called Juve-liscious. Rocky, Kool Kris and Mr Joseph visit Jonah.
6"Episode 6"Chris Lilley and Stuart McDonaldChris Lilley11 June 2014 (2014-06-11)246,000[22]
Jonah entertains his mates with all his stories of prison life but will Jonah still find himself behind bars with other bad boys or will he prove he can be a real man?

Home video releases

Series Set details DVD release dates Special features
Region 2 Region 4
Jonah from Tonga
  • 2 discs
  • 6 episodes
16 June 2014[23] 28 May 2014[24]
  • Deleted scenes
  • Bloopers
  • Behind-the scenes featurettes

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Recipients and nominees Result
2015 Logie Awards[25] Most Popular Actor Chris Lilley Nominated

References

  1. ^ a b "Jonah's back and read to puck with viewers". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 27 November 2013. Retrieved 3 May 2014.
  2. ^ "Jonah from Tonga taken off Māori Television". Stuff (Fairfax Media). 1 July 2017.
  3. ^ Kalina, Paul (17 April 2014). "Chris Lilley's Jonah breaks rules with an online first for ABC". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 3 May 2014.
  4. ^ Meade, Amanda (14 May 2014). "Chris Lilley tastes ratings disaster as just 287,000 viewers tune in" – via The Guardian.
  5. ^ ${FirstName}. "Now Showing". Eventcinemas.com.au. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  6. ^ "Twitter / eVent_cinemas: @3ChordsAndMe Hi. it has been". Twitter.com. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  7. ^ http://www.jonahfromtonga.com.au[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ Lilley, Chris (27 November 2013). "ChrisLilley: YES it's true. Jonah is back ..." Twitter. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  9. ^ BBC Media Centre (26 November 2013). "Chris Lilley's Jonah Takalua coming to BBC Three in 2014". British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  10. ^ Raeburn, Steven (27 November 2013). "Chris Lilley confirms the return of Jonah as BBC leaks details first". The Drum. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  11. ^ "Chris Lilley comedy Jonah From Tonga slammed as 'deeply offensive' – Australia Network News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)". Abc.net.au. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  12. ^ (9 August 2014). "Major US Civil Rights Organizations Slam ABC/HBO’s Jonah From Tonga" Archived 2 November 2014 at the Wayback MachineThe Tonga Herald. Retrieved 27 August 2014.
  13. ^ "Jonah From Tonga: the modern minstrel show?"The Guardian. Retrieved 27 August 2014.
  14. ^ Giles Hardie (9 May 2014). "Jonah from Tonga: genius or racist?"The New Daily. Retrieved 27 August 2014.
  15. ^ "Another NZ Pacific MP upset at airing of Jonah from Tonga". Radio New Zealand. 30 June 2017. Retrieved 3 July 2017.
  16. ^ a b c Maddox, Garry (28 June 2020). "'I knew that Jonah was me': former Tongan schoolboy reveals anger and pain about Chris Lilley character". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 7 July 2020.
  17. ^ Groves, Don (8 May 2014). "Jonah from Tonga ratings". if.com.au. Retrieved 8 May 2014.
  18. ^ Knox, David (15 May 2014). "Wednesday 14 May 2014". tvtonight.com.au. Retrieved 15 May 2014.
  19. ^ Knox, David (22 May 2014). "MasterChef, Offspring bear the good news". tvtonight.com.au. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
  20. ^ Knox, David (29 May 2014). "Origin scores 2.6m viewers for Nine network". tvtonight.com.au. Retrieved 29 May 2014.
  21. ^ "The ABC wishes to apologise for Wednesday". TV Tonight. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  22. ^ "Big Bang repeats leave a hole in Nine's schedule". 12 June 2014.
  23. ^ "Jonah From Tonga [DVD]: Amazon.co.uk: Chris Lilley: DVD & Blu-ray". Amazon.co.uk. 9 September 2009. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  24. ^ "Jonah From Tonga". ABC Shop. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 2 July 2014. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  25. ^ Willis, Charlotte (22 March 2015). "Here's the full List of 2015 Logies nominations". news.com.au. Retrieved 23 March 2015.