Rebel Wilson is easily recognisable from her work in everything from early parody commercials for Australian Idol, to boisterous performances in Pizza, The Wedge and Monster House. So far her persona has been fairly synonymous with loud, cynical, mostly simple, working class characters. It remains to be seen whether there’s more depth behind her cheesy grin.
Now, thanks to her own self-devised series, Wilson has the time and freedom to prove herself.
On the surface, her character in Bogan Pride is another western suburbs underdog. Jennifer Cragg is an overweight teenager, the target of jokes by venomous, skanky blondes at Boonelg High. She’s gathered a small team of alike losers (newcomers Alice Ansara and Fanny Hanusin) into an island of peer protection.
Beyond the school fence, Jenny’s home life is tragically sad. Her mother (Sally Anne Upton) is so obese that she can’t be moved from her television chair. Her aunt, the fulsome Aunty Cassandra (Lulu McClatchy) clings to the family for validation, dropping stinging barbs after being abandoned by her husband on a gay cruise.
Other colourful characters include members of a guitar-strumming, lesbian-loving, Bible-bashing sect; three disabled workshop youths; and the hunky Nick (Ryan Jones) – the guy Jenny will never get.
The tone of Wilson’s writing is comedy of the offence, sometimes black and full of self-derision. She cuts no corners in proffering her own physicality as a source of humour. Slowly this peels away to reveal an underlying message of a hurt but beautiful duckling. It may take a while to get there – there are way too many weight gags in the pilot. And not unlike Chris Lilley’s Summer Heights High, there are also several controversial gags that will attract criticism and upstage the storytelling.
But there is an abundance of youthful ideas here. Wilson, bless her, has thrown in camp musical numbers (don’t miss the synchronised swimming sequence in the opener) brilliantly directed by Peter Templeman. This show is full of screeching Aussie characters, potential TV neighbours of Kath and Kim. Lulu McClatchy (aka cabaret performer ‘Supergirly’) upstages them all, a powder keg of energy and expression.
From one as young as Wilson, Bogan Pride is a broad canvas of ideas that shows there’s far more to her than meets the eye, and a promise of much more to come in her career.
Bogan Pride premieres 9pm Monday on SBS.