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Offbeat humor rules Lilley's 'Angry Boys'

Daniel is a foul-mouthed Australian teenager who giggles when told his twin brother Nathan is going deaf.

"Course I'm going to laugh when you say that," he says, mistaking the word "cochlea" for something dirty.

Ruth, his grandmother and a matron at a juvenile detention facility in Sydney, fosters good cheer by yelling "Gotcha!" after falsely announcing one young inmate's early release.

Offbeat humor runs in the family on "Angry Boys," HBO's winning comedy series from Australia's one-man acting troupe Chris Lilley (Sunday at 10 p.m.).

Lilley, known to American audiences for 2008's "Summer Heights High" on HBO, portrays six characters: In addition to Ruth, Daniel and Nathan (who expresses himself mostly with middle fingers), the roster includes a Japanese tiger mom, a black American rapper and an aging Australian surf bum.

Through a dozen half-hour, mockumentary-style episodes, "Angry Boys" spins five interconnected, continent-hopping story lines.

In the fictional no-there-there town of Dunt, Australia, 17-year-old Daniel plans a going-away party for Nathan, who's being sent off to a special school.

"He's deaf, and maybe a little bit retarded," says Daniel, his endless taunting masking deeper feelings.

The brothers naively invite a roster of their idols to the party, and "Angry Boys" tells all of their stories: S.mouse, a talentless 24-year-old hip-hop star whose streetwise persona covers up a privileged upbringing and teenage obsession with the musical "Wicked"; Blake, a 38-year-old ex-surfing champ who retired to oblivion after a rare dolphin attack; and Tim, a 13- year-old Japanese skateboard wiz falsely marketed by his publicity-seeking mother as the sport's first gay superstar.

All but Tim are portrayed by Lilley (who plays the skateboarder's psychotically pushy mom), and all accrue a startling depth as their tales unfold.

Much more than he did with "Summer Heights High," Lilley takes a risky approach to these stories, and viewers would be well-advised to hang tough through the homophobic slurs, racist epithets and crude jokes.

"Angry Boys" certainly isn't above the shock value of political incorrectness, but its finely etched characters insinuate themselves into our affections.

While American sitcoms like "The Office" and "Modern Family" shoehorn feel-good sentimentality into their weekly formulas, Lilley does something more extraordinary. His angry boys and demanding girls grow, week by week and joke by joke, into people you'll miss when it's all over.