What Canadians could learn at Summer Heights High
I watched all 8 episodes of Summer Heights High over the past week.
The series is from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), which made for a difficult user journey in finding it.
I first saw Summer Heights High on Air Canada flights during the month of September. They showed the first 2 episodes. I loved it.
So, I looked it up on iTunes. Couldn’t find it. Then I looked it up on the interwebs and tried to find a nice way of watching it online. Couldn’t find a good enough source. Then I did more digging and found that HBO had bought the North American rights. (I didn’t know that this paradigm still existed, it’s kind of quaint).
So then I looked it up on Amazon and HMV – and opted to go grab it in person.
When you consider the amount of friction: from discovery to consumption – it’s little wonder that most people would have just opted to use Bit Torrent. I’m not quite certain what motivated me to actually walk to the flagship store. And reflecting back on the experience – I suppose HBO is getting what it really deserves. (that is: a 99.999% conversion drop off rate).
In sum, there were multi-channel wins and channel fails.
Alright – about the show
Chris Lilley is the kind of writer that Canada wish it had and wished that it could keep him from leaving for Los Angeles to make 10 times more money to write scripts that never come to life.
The whole series is 8 episodes. It’s wonderfully plotted. Brilliant.
Lilley forces his audience to empathize with three unsympathetic archetypes in a junior/high school: the bully, the wealthy private school valley, and the delusional educator. All three characters exaggerate specific features of those archetypes.
What all three share is this type of incredible manipulation, which, especially by the eighth episode becomes truly epic and tragic.
There are several lines which are meme-worthy.
What can Canadian Producers and Broadcasters could learn?
1. Distribution channels
Selling to a closed distributor might not be the best way to go to maximize revenues. The viral quality of Summer Heights High could have made the iTunes channel very lucrative, especially internationally. This could have been a great series for the CBC and the Beeb. HBO doesn’t appear to be a good channel if they’re making it so hard for people to actually see the show.
2. Creative Freedom
It doesn’t appear as though there was much interference with Chris Lilley’s concept. So, we have a brilliant writer and actor who has more freedom than what he’d get in Hollywood, but at the cost of money. I wonder whether or not such a model might be key in retaining good writers and actors in Canada. What we lack in money we can make up in relative freedom. Clearly a much better product emerged here and Chris could have been well rewarded with a large cut of the International sales.
In all, it’s a really good series. You should watch it if you can find it!