These Angry Boys Are Loveable

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Chris Lilley, the Australian creator and star of We Can Be Heroes and Summer Heights High, has concocted and revived some wincingly well-observed characters for his new twelve-part documentary-style comedy, Angry Boys (10.40pm, Tuesdays from June 7 on BBC3). The HBO/ABC collaboration sees the return of WCBH's identical twin brothers, Daniel and Nathan, and the launch of Gran--the middle-aged boss of a correctional facility for adolescent boys. In the first episode, we hop between these two, though later on we'll meet more of his miscreant creations.

Angry Boys is a rather poignant study of young male behaviour, but Lilley's also driven by seeing how much ragingly offensive material he can ram into just under half an hour.

If you're a Lilley-phile then you're no doubt familiar with The Twins. Not much has changed: 17-year-old Daniel still bullies his deaf brother while their mum and three younger siblings float ineffectually in the background. Daniel is meaner this time around because their mum's wet boyfriend is moving in, seemingly taking the place of their dead father, who Daniel hero-worships. You'll want to cuddle and kill the boy all at once.

Gran, meanwhile, is the new show's cleverest creation. She's a racist bully who merrily divides her charges into light- and dark-skinned teams for football match. Later, she tricks a boy into believing that he's been given early release. But the inmates respect her. And Gran adores them, to the extent that she's made them all superhero pyjamas--some with capes. And at night, she pushes comforting Kleenex through their cell door flaps. With Gran, Lilley has succeeded in making a vile character intensely loveable (she also keeps guinea pigs). While similarly positioned British comedies like Little Britain heap repugnance on hatefulness with only a dribble of likeability, Lilley relishes the contradiction of people who are part sadist, part saint.

Not all his new inventions work so well. In the second episode, which goes out immediately after the first, we meet S.mouse, a spectacularly untalented rapper. It's Lilley in brown face paint trying to talk like Jay-Z. But it's not clear whether his accent is intentionally awful or whether he just hasn't mastered it in time for filming. Whatever the case, S.mouse doesn't quite work. He's not layered like Lilley's other creations and The Delusional Artiste is a tired joke, especially if it's not given a twist. But traditionally Lilley produces more hits than flops, so let's hope he's held a few back for later in the series.

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