Josh Lawson unreasonably shoulders the weight of this bio-drama -but looks nothing like the real thing.

Ryan Corr has a relatively easy job of it in Hoges.

As ‘Strop’ he sports a surf lifesaver’s cap, mugs in front of the camera like a vaudeville act and makes silly gestures that send TV audiences into fits of laughter.

Away from the camera he is John Cornell, astute businessman and entrepreneur, spotting a star in Paul Hogan, squeezing Kerry Packer for million dollar contracts, financing the biggest movie in Australian history and marrying a gorgeous weather presenter-turned-actress.

It’s all entirely believable.

No such luck for Josh Lawson, lumbered with one of the most recognisable faces in Australian comedy, who played himself both on and off screen.

There was little delineation between his relaxed, down to earth sketch character -“Evening viewers”- and his relaxed, down to earth husband and father. It doesn’t help that Lawson looks nothing like Hoges… sounds nothing like Hoges… and has been impeded by one of TV’s most distracting rugs.

Things start fairly promisingly for Seven’s latest bio drama. “Some events have been fictionalised for dramatic purposes,” notwithstanding, a young Hogan played amiably by a tanned Sean Keenan whips (too) quickly from schoolyard prankster to young husband, marrying teen sweetheart Noelene and fathering 4 kids.

But “Funny doesn’t pay the rent,” his mother reminds him and when we fast forward to the rigger atop the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the 1970s, Lawson takes centrestage with Justine Clarke as frazzled housewife.

It takes a nameless TV talent show (it was actually New Faces) for his natural comic flair to find showbiz and change his life forever. The money starts to roll in when producer John Cornell invites him onto A Current Affair to give an “everyman” comment on the week. There are commercial endorsements (Winfield is never named), his own comedy show with Benny Hill-like sketches and Logie wins.

Steering his career, Cornell promises “You could be bigger than Kennedy. We license everything to the network but we own everything.” It was a savvy business approach that would serve both men well as Hoges’ star skyrocketed.

But there were problems at home with Noelene holding fort with growing teens, appeased only by nicer abodes with swimming pools.

Lawson is in almost every scene as the adult Hoges, shouldering the weight of a script by Keith Thompson that chucks in the word “Anyhow” too often. It could have benefitted from more sub-plot around Cornell and Delvene Delaney (Nikki Osborne).

Comparisons will be harsh especially given Lawson’s light voice completely lacks the bass notes of the working-class Hogan. All attempts to present a rugged sun-kissed, construction worker are faked through make-up and costume and it shows, sometimes leaving Lawson to look like a sketch parody of a man making his living from sketch parodies. In a bio seeking to get to the heart of its title character, that’s a big problem.

Some scenes directed by Kevin Carlin feel contrived, especially a shouting match between Hogan and Noelene. Justine Clarke tries hard with little to work with other than “overlooked wife” before Linda Kozlowski (Laura Gordon) arrives on the scene.

You may have fun playing spot-the-impersonation: Kerry Packer, Bert Newton, Mike Willesee, Michael Parkinson, Senator John Brown and a terrible Dustin Hoffman, or spot the actor: Ian McFadyen, Ed Kavalee, Bernard Curry in cameos. I’m sure I even spotted Jamie Dunn aka Agro amongst this Queensland ensemble.

TV networks, having recently put Matt Le Nevez in a bad wig for Brock, may need to hit the pause button on these bio-pics (Olivia is on the way) and re-think trying to recreate that which is so familiar to us, and that which is so cherished by us. Mess with our icons at your peril.

I might have believed this more had it stuck with a young Hoges by Sean Keenan and ended with him reaching stardom. But that probably denies you the marriage split to use as conflict, the international success of Crocodile Dundee and much of the partnering with Cornell. All up this is too corny to match more recent outings that had social comment.

Whoever the wig maker is for Warnie, you are on notice.

Hoges airs 8:30pm Sunday on Seven.

22 Responses

  1. These biopics are becoming a massive industry fail. Just get on with creating original content. It might have worked once – but when every kid in the class starts aping the first successful gig, the rest lose impetus and the concept has nowhere left to go.
    Original ideas don’t have to look and sound like anyone we know, rather than – in this case – just ending up looking like a cheap sketch impersonation. The physical comparisons with the real thing in the end are too much to overcome.

  2. Not that it really matters but ‘Brock’ was an Endemol Shine production, not FremantleMedia. They were busy bringing the unforgettable ‘Princess Mary’ mini-series to the small screen at that time.
    The industry is literally turning into “5 bald guys fighting over a comb” with all these wig issues.

  3. I have just watched about 15 minutes of it. Not a second more for me. It was so dreadful that I felt offended that some TV execs thought it worthy of screening to an audience that fondly remembers the real ‘Hoges’. It is a travesty that an era that aspired to excellence in film making is now being portrayed by an industry that aspires to nothing more than mediocrity.

  4. From the moment that wig appeared on screen I burst out laughing. It’s bad enough from the front but appalling from the back, which of course, is how it’s first seen in the show. It just looked plain weird. Kind of like it wasn’t attached to his head properly and sticking out at the back. Why they didn’t just dye Josh Lawson’s real hair is beyond me.
    It wasn’t just the wig that was off. Josh Lawson sounded like he was doing an impersonation of Kermit the Frog with an Australian accent. The voice coupled with the wig completely ruined this production.
    Normally I really enjoy these bio mini series but Hoges has failed miserably.

  5. I’ve had enough of these feel good bios. If they want to make more bios about aussie legends I’d like to see tales from the darker side of life. The rise and fall of Rolf Harris. The mysterious death of Harold Holt. Things like that .

  6. When I first heard Josh Lawson was playing Hoges I already had doubts. He’s far too ‘pretty’ to play Hoges. I doubted Lawson would have the acting chops to pull this off in the same way Samuel Johnson so masterfully did on Molly.
    They would have been better to cast an ‘unknown’ who looked more like Hoges. Joel Jackson was very believable in Peter Allen: Not The Boy Next Door for example.
    For an audience, suspension of disbelief is everything. If the audience is going to spend the whole time noticing the actor is pouncing around in a bad wig and giving a wooden performance, it will turn fact into farce.
    Such a shame. This had the potential to be really quite good.

  7. So it’s more Almost an Angel than Croc Dundee? I was already pretty dubious about this so your review has saved me the bother of possibly having a look.

    I didn’t like Brock either but wasted 20 minutes or so of my life discovering that. Had already decided that I won’t be watching Warnie.

  8. I hadn’t planned to watch this, I don’t have an interest in his life. Also the scenes from the commercials make this look like a cross between a Sunrise ‘bad wig’ sketch and a sketch from Fast Forward with their shoestring budget.

    1. The wig I can understand – it is, after all, traditional for Australian mini-series to cast the lead role with a comic in a bad wig.

      I’m more curious to know why they made Laura Gordon wear a black shaved monobrow to play Linda Kozlowski…

  9. Thanks for the review David. I already was on the fence as Hogan’s show, and for that matter stardom, were before my time, but this has helped sway my opinion, so I thank you for saving me 3 hours of investment.

  10. Loved Paul Hogan but the promos for this just give me the creeps….love Josh Lawson too but not looking like this…had already made my mind up not to watch, your review has reinforced that. Thank you David.

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