The four-part miniseries was also the most ethnically diverse show of 2015, offering viewers an alternative to the predominantly Anglo Saxon representation of modern Australia featured in the likes of Offspring, House Husbands and Wonderland. Ratings for the murder mystery set in the racial battleground of Sydney’s south-west were modest, but critical acclaim was high – and it feels like there’s still a lot more story to tell at Boxdale Boys High.
Here are five reasons why we need The Principal to return for a second season…
It’s really only scratched the surface so far
In four episodes, we saw new principal and former student Matt Bashir (Alex Dimitriades) struggle to pull Boxdale Boys back from the brink by engaging with students, getting the local community onside and turning the constant police presence on campus into a positive. The fact that a Boxdale student was murdered in his first week on the job didn’t help his efforts, but he started to make headway.
Similarly, The Principal has a long way to go before it exhausts the potential for drama. The friction between students of different ethnic backgrounds, the plight of at-risk youth, and the lure of drugs, terrorist groups and other illegal activities were all incorporated into the four episodes, but time constraints meant some of these issues were only dealt with in a very cursory fashion.
Matt is a compelling lead character
He’s part of the community, but he now lives on the other side of Sydney; he can relate to the students like a friend, but he’s ultimately an authority figure; he takes a no-nonsense approach to running the school, but his personal life is complicated.
Matt Bashir is full of contradictions. We’ve already learnt two of the skeletons he’s been hiding in his closet – his betrayal of his schoolmate and the fact that he’s gay. For someone as tightly wound as Matt, there’s got to be more where those came from.
And now his sexuality has become less of a secret, it will be interesting to see how that goes down among the student body. Given the frequency with which homophobic slurs were levelled at food tech teacher George Karidis (George H Xanthis), Matt is likely to cop it from the mouthy students – and just as likely to deal with it in a surprising manner.
The supporting characters could do with some fleshing out
With so much going on, many of The Principal’s minor characters weren’t given much scope to do anything besides their one main designated role. Admin assistant Hafa Habeb (Andrea Demetriades) was kindly, Detective Bilic (Aden Young) was surly, teacher Trevor Pieterson (Oscar Redding) was angry and Deputy Principal Ursula Bright (Di Adams) was the thorn in Matt’s side.
Then, there was poor Deborah Kennedy, who pretty much just answered phones as Val. With more episodes, we could get to know these characters better – the actors are certainly all capable enough of delivering more.
It’s hard to top a murder mystery, but I’d like to see it try
The central storyline of The Principal was a biggie. So how do you follow-up a drug-dealing student being killed on school grounds without it seeming like an anti-climax? I wouldn’t have a problem with a second season revisiting some of the minor storylines from season one in a more meaningful way.
The attraction of ISIS to malcontent teenagers is something The Principal only touched on but could explore more thoroughly given a chance. Also, more scope could be given to the series’ South Pacific Islander characters, particularly Sisi (Aliki Matangi), whose story played second fiddle to the main arc of the Ahmad brothers.
It could become an alternative training ground for young actors
For decades, Home and Away and Neighbours have acted as a revolving door for beautiful, young, mostly Anglo Saxon actors – taking them from stage schools and, two or three years later, sending them on their way to Hollywood.
The Principal provided a very different snapshot of what teenage Australians look and sound like – and it would be fantastic to see a more diverse array of young talent given the type of welcome into the acting profession that they’d never get in Erinsborough or Summer Bay.
The Principal is now streaming at SBS On Demand:
For all things The Principal, go to http://www.sbs.com.au/programs/the-principal.
Gavin Scott is a writer and editor living in Sydney. You can follow him on Twitter at @gavinscott99.