Jonah from Tonga

Jonah from Tonga
Genre Comedy
Created by Chris Lilley
Written by Chris Lilley
Directed by Chris Lilley
Stuart McDonald
Starring Chris Lilley
Theme music composer Chris Lilley
Composer(s) John Foreman
Country of origin Australia
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 6 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Laura Waters
Chris Lilley
Producer(s) Laura Waters
Chris Lilley
Location(s) The Grange P-12 College, Hoppers Crossing, Melbourne, Australia
Cinematography Nick Gregoric
Editor(s) Ian Carmichael
Running time 26–27 minutes
Production company(s) Princess Pictures
Original network ABC iview (online)
ABC1 (television)
Picture format 576i (SDTV)
Audio format Stereo
Original release 2 – 4 May 2014 (iview)
7 May – 11 June 2014 (ABC)
Preceded by Ja'mie: Private School Girl
Related shows Summer Heights High

Jonah from Tonga is an Australian television series 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.[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]

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.[2] The series itself was a "ratings disaster" for both the ABC and BBC.[3][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 make-up. The series was poorly received by Tongans in Australia,[11][12] and several organisations in the United States criticised HBO's decision to air it.[13] 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".[14] 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".[15]


No. Title Directed by Written by Original air date (ABC1) Australian
1"Episode 1"Chris Lilley and Stuart McDonaldChris Lilley7 May 2014 (2014-05-07)414,000[16]
Banished to Tonga to live with his uncle, 14-year-old Jonah is causing more trouble than ever. His dad takes him back to Australia to start a new life but he quickly forms a new school gang and it's not long till trouble starts.
2"Episode 2"Chris Lilley and Stuart McDonaldChris Lilley14 May 2014 (2014-05-14)287,000[17]
Jonah and the Fobba-liscious boys are forced to meet with youth worker Kool Kris after making bully videos. But when Jonah's brother is picked on he gathers Year 7 rangas and attempts to make the ultimate bully video.
3"Episode 3"Chris Lilley and Stuart McDonaldChris Lilley21 May 2014 (2014-05-21)348,000[18]
While grounded Jonah and the 'Fobba-liscious' boys escape and go bowling. Their counselling session with Kool Kris leads to the boys taking part in the 'Feel Da Beat' song competition.
4"Episode 4"Chris Lilley and Stuart McDonaldChris Lilley28 May 2014 (2014-05-28)240,000[19]
After a crazy day at school, Jonah and the boys embark on their biggest, most dangerous mission yet but their plans backfire in a massive way.
5"Episode 5"Chris Lilley and Stuart McDonaldChris Lilley4 June 2014 (2014-06-04)289,000[20]
Jonah's harsh new surrounds bring new opponents and some unexpected allies. But the pressure is mounting on family, fame and friendship.
6"Episode 6"Chris Lilley and Stuart McDonaldChris Lilley11 June 2014 (2014-06-11)246,000[21]
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[22] 28 May 2014[23]
  • Deleted scenes
  • Bloopers
  • Behind-the scenes featurettes

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Recipients and nominees Result
2015 Logie Awards[24] Most Popular Actor Chris Lilley Nominated


  1. 1 2 "Jonah's back and read to puck with viewers". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 27 November 2013. Retrieved 3 May 2014.
  2. Kalina, Paul (17 April 2014). "Chris Lilley's Jonah breaks rules with an online first for ABC". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 3 May 2014.
  5. ${FirstName}. "Now Showing". Retrieved 2014-06-06.
  6. "Twitter / eVent_cinemas: @3ChordsAndMe Hi. it has been". Retrieved 2014-06-06.
  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 2014-06-06.
  12. Adam Duggan (15 May 2014). "Sorry Miss! Tongan community launches protest against comedian Chris Lilley's juvenile delinquent TV character Jonah, branding it 'racist' and 'creepy'"The Daily Mail. Retrieved 27 August 2014.
  13. (9 August 2014). "Major US Civil Rights Organizations Slam ABC/HBO’s Jonah From Tonga"The Tonga Herald. Retrieved 27 August 2014.
  14. "Jonah From Tonga: the modern minstrel show?"The Guardian. Retrieved 27 August 2014.
  15. Giles Hardie (9 May 2014). "Jonah from Tonga: genius or racist?"The New Daily. Retrieved 27 August 2014.
  16. Groves, Don (8 May 2014). "Jonah from Tonga ratings". Retrieved 8 May 2014.
  17. Knox, David (15 May 2014). "Wednesday 14 May 2014". Retrieved 15 May 2014.
  18. Knox, David (22 May 2014). "MasterChef, Offspring bear the good news.". Retrieved 26 May 2014.
  19. Knox, David (29 May 2014). "Origin scores 2.6m viewers for Nine network". Retrieved 29 May 2014.
  20. "The ABC wishes to apologise for Wednesday". TV Tonight. Retrieved 2014-06-06.
  22. "Jonah From Tonga [DVD]: Chris Lilley: DVD & Blu-ray". 9 September 2009. Retrieved 2014-05-12.
  23. "Jonah From Tonga". ABC Shop. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  24. Willis, Charlotte (22 March 2015). "Here's the full List of 2015 Logies nominations". Retrieved 23 March 2015.
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