Jonah from Tonga

Last updated

Jonah from Tonga
Jonah from Tonga intertitle.png
Genre Sitcom
Created by Chris 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)
Executive producersLaura Waters
Chris Lilley
ProducersLaura Waters
Chris Lilley
Production locations The Grange P-12 College, Hoppers Crossing, Melbourne, Australia
CinematographyNick Gregoric
EditorIan Carmichael
Running time26–27 minutes
Production companiesPrincess Pictures
Original network ABC iview (online)
ABC1 (television)
Picture format 576i (SDTV)
Audio formatStereo
Original release2 
4 May 2014 (iview)
7 May – 11 June 2014 (ABC)
Preceded by Ja'mie: Private School Girl
Followed by Lunatics
Related shows Summer 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]


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.


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


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]


No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date (ABC1)Australian
1"Episode 1" Chris Lilley and Stuart McDonaldChris Lilley7 May 2014 (2014-05-07)414,000 [17]
Jonah was expelled from Summer Heights High 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 the Catholic Holy Cross 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

SeriesSet detailsDVD release datesSpecial 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

YearAwardCategoryRecipients and nomineesResult
2015 Logie Awards [25] Most Popular Actor Chris LilleyNominated

Related Research Articles

Chris Lilley (comedian) Australian comedian

Christopher Daniel Lilley is an Australian comedian, actor, writer, director, producer, and musician. He is known for his creation and portrayal of several fictional characters in the mockumentary television series We Can Be Heroes: Finding The Australian of the Year (2005), Summer Heights High (2007), Angry Boys (2011), Ja'mie: Private School Girl (2013), Jonah from Tonga (2014), and Lunatics (2019). Lilley is a two-time winner of the Logie Award for Most Popular Actor.

John Foreman (musician) Musical artist

John Gregory Foreman OAM is an Australian musician and television personality. Ex-boyfriend of Brigitte Williames (Gray), in 1992, he joined the Network Ten team for Good Morning Australia with Bert Newton, serving as Music Director until retiring in 2004. During 2003–2008 he was Musical Director of Australian Idol.

<i>Summer Heights High</i> Australian comedy series

Summer Heights High is an Australian mockumentary television sitcom written by and starring Chris Lilley. Set in the fictional Summer Heights High School in an outer suburb of Sydney, it is a documentary-like series of high-school life experience from the viewpoints of three individuals: "Director of Performing Arts" Mr G; private-school exchange student Ja'mie King; and disobedient, vulgar Tongan student Jonah Takalua. The series lampoons Australian high-school life and many aspects of the human condition and is filmed as a documentary with non-actors playing supporting characters.

Jonah Takalua

Jonah Takalua is a fictional character in the Australian mockumentary series Summer Heights High, and the titular character in the six-part Jonah from Tonga. He is portrayed in brownface by Chris Lilley, who also created the two shows. In 2007, referring to the character's appearances in Summer Heights High, Sydney Morning Herald television critic Michael Idato wrote that "Jonah Takalua is well on the way to becoming the voice of his generation."

Jamie Louise "Ja'mie" King is a fictional character from Australian comedy series We Can Be Heroes: Finding The Australian of the Year, Summer Heights High and Ja'mie: Private School Girl, portrayed by actor Chris Lilley. Ja'mie is aged 17 and lives in Kirribilli in the upper class North Shore region of Sydney, New South Wales, but was born in South Africa.

<i>Lawrence Leungs Choose Your Own Adventure</i>

Lawrence Leung's Choose Your Own Adventure is a six-part Australian television comedy series, starring and primarily written by Melbourne comedian Lawrence Leung and produced by Chaser Broadcasting. The series was filmed over nine weeks from May 2008 in Sydney, Melbourne and Los Angeles, it depicts Leung setting out to achieve the dreams he had as a ten-year-old boy living in the 1980s. It premiered at 9:30 pm on 25 March 2009 on ABC1. The series aired in syndication in the United States under the title The Lost Adventures of Lawrence Leung on Vibrant TV Network.

Esikeli Tonga Tonga international rugby league footballer

Esikeli Tonga is a former Tonga international rugby league footballer who last previously played for the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles in the National Rugby League. A Tongan international representative three-quarter or second-rower, he is the younger brother of Parramatta Eels centre Willie Tonga.

This is a list of Australian television events and premieres which occurred in 2009. The year 2009 is the 54th year of continuous operation of television in Australia. It also marks the introduction of digital multichannels for the three commercial television networks, which were each able to launch an alternate standard-definition digital channel, separate from their primary channels, from 1 January. Network Ten launched their channel, One, on 26 March, whilst the Nine Network launched kids and movies channel GO! on 9 August, and the Seven Network launched catch-up channel 7Two on 1 November.

<i>Angry Boys</i>

Angry Boys is an Australian television mockumentary miniseries written by and starring Chris Lilley, continuing the mockumentary style of his previous series. In Angry Boys, Lilley plays multiple characters: S.mouse, an American rapper; Jen, a manipulative Japanese mother; Blake Oakfield, a champion surfer; Ruth "Gran" Sims, a guard at a juvenile detention facility; and her teenage grandsons, South Australian twins Daniel and Nathan Sims.

Penguin Island is an Australian natural history television documentary series about the little penguin.

Shwayne Booth Jr., known as S.mouse, is a fictional character from the Australian mockumentary television series, Angry Boys. He was frequently spotted at 8 Park Lane. The character is portrayed by Chris Lilley, who wears a curly wig and Blackface. He has appeared in Angry Boys since the second episode. He is an African American rapper who lives in Calabasas, California. In the second episode, S.mouse is introduced as the rapper who just released the biggest selling hip-hop single of all time, "Slap My Elbow". Later in the show, S.mouse is put under house arrest at his parent's home for two months, after defecating on a police car in the music video for his single "Poo on You". He also gets dropped from his record label after another one of his videos, Grandmother Fucker, receives many complaints.

The AACTA Award for Best Performance in a Television Comedy is an accolade given by the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA), a non-profit organisation whose aim is to "identify, award, promote and celebrate Australia's greatest achievements in film and television." The award is handed out at the annual AACTA Awards, which rewards achievements in Australian feature film, television, documentaries and short films. From 1986 to 2010, the category was presented by the Australian Film Institute (AFI), the Academy's parent organisation, at the annual Australian Film Institute Awards. When the AFI launched the Academy in 2011, it changed the annual ceremony to the AACTA Awards, with the current prize being a continuum of the AFI Award for Best Performance in a Television Comedy.

<i>Shaun Micallefs Mad as Hell</i>

Shaun Micallef's Mad as Hell is an Australian comedy news television program hosted by Shaun Micallef. The show first aired on ABC at 8:00 pm on Friday, 25 May 2012. The show was named as Most Outstanding Comedy Program at the Logie Awards of 2016. Its title is a reference to the 1976 American satirical black comedy-drama film Network.

<i>Jamie: Private School Girl</i>

Ja'mie: Private School Girl is an Australian television sitcom miniseries. It is set at an exclusive private girls' grammar school in Sydney's very wealthy North Shore district. It is written by and stars male comedian Chris Lilley. Continuing the mockumentary style of Lilley's previous series, Ja'mie: Private School Girl follows Ja'mie King, a character who previously appeared in Lilley's series We Can Be Heroes and Summer Heights High, during her final weeks of high school.

<i>The Code</i> (Australian TV series)

The Code is an Australian drama television program created and produced by Shelley Birse. Developed from a partnership between Playmaker Media and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, it premiered on ABC1 in Australia on 21 September 2014, and the first season aired through 26 October 2014. Season 2 of The Code premiered on 1 September 2016, and aired through 6 October 2016.

<i>Bogan Hunters</i> Television series

Bogan Hunters is an Australian comedy reality television series created by Paul Fenech for Seven Network's 7mate. The series provides an in-depth look into Australia's bogan subculture, as the Bogan Hunters traverse the nation looking for Australia's greatest bogan. The show first aired on Australia's 7mate on 13 May 2014 and on New Zealand's TV2 on 14 October 2014. The finale of season 1 aired on 15 July 2014 in Australia and on 9 December 2014 in New Zealand.

Sue Masters is an Australian television producer who is currently the executive producer of drama for Special Broadcasting Service (SBS).

The Chaser's Media Circus was an Australian television comedy quiz show broadcast on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) television station ABC. The series was produced by the Australian satirical group, The Chaser, consisting of Chris Taylor, Julian Morrow, Craig Reucassel, Andrew Hansen and Chas Licciardello.

Talia'uli Latukefu is an Australian actor and singer, best known for his role as Dwayne Johnson in the NBC comedy Young Rock, Byamba in the American Netflix series Marco Polo. He also played Darren Ngata in the popular Australian dramatic series Doctor Doctor in Series 2-4 from 2017 to 2020. He played Cole in the short film Alien: Covenant - Prologue: Last Supper and the feature film Alien: Covenant, both directed by Ridley Scott; Last Supper was released on February 22, 2017 and Covenant on May 19, 2017. He is also known for his role as Father Matteo in the psychological thriller miniseries Devil's Playground and as "Kool Kris" in the Chris Lilley mockumentary series Jonah from Tonga. In 2004, he was a contestant in the reality singing competition series Australian Idol. He will have a role in the upcoming superhero film Black Adam.


  1. 1 2 "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". Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  6. "Twitter / eVent_cinemas: @3ChordsAndMe Hi. it has been". Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  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)". 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 Machine The 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. 1 2 3 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". Retrieved 8 May 2014.
  18. Knox, David (15 May 2014). "Wednesday 14 May 2014". Retrieved 15 May 2014.
  19. Knox, David (22 May 2014). "MasterChef, Offspring bear the good news". Retrieved 26 May 2014.
  20. Knox, David (29 May 2014). "Origin scores 2.6m viewers for Nine network". 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]: Chris Lilley: DVD & Blu-ray". 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". . Retrieved 23 March 2015.