You could be mistaken for thinking Les Norton is the ABC trying to have a slice of Underbelly pie.
In the first few minutes the punches and the F-bombs are flying around King’s bloody Cross quicker than a rat up a drain pipe.
Or you might presume Les Norton is some kind of smart-arse parody of the gangster world. Maybe it is. Or maybe it’s a parody of itself.
Les Norton is based on the novels of Robert G.Barrett (disclaimer: none of which I’ve read) and in the title role is newcomer Alexander Bertrand.
Les is a beefy larrikin ranga from the Queensland bush who comes to Steak and Kidney in 1985 to try his hand at rugby league. But before he has time to crack a stiffy he winds up knocking heads together, alongside boxer Billy Dunne (Page Lochard), for illegal casino boss Price Galese (David Wenham).
Galese lords from on high in the Cross with Sgt. Ray “Thumper” Burrell (Steve Le Marquand) in his back pocket. But new recruit Constable Emily Gold (Syd Zygier), who happens to catch Les’ eye, is onto him.
Meanwhile Price’s gun-for-hire Eddie (Justin Rosniak) wrangles Les into a job at the local brothel, which sends owner Doreen Bogner (Rebel Wilson) apeshit. Les’ new mate Lozza Johnson (Kate Box) offers him a room to stay ….when she isn’t off her head.
Narrator Angus Sampson, in his finest Aussie twang, helps ensure this is as vernacular as they come without resorting to stereotypes.
Director Jocelyn Moorhouse does draw upon hijinks, in what becomes a fish-out-of-water tale more blue than They’re a Weird Mob.
Alexander Bertrand, who will also star in Seven’s unaired drama Australian Gangster, has muscles bursting out of his shirt. He holds his own beside seasoned actors, while a leering Justin Rosniak brings the comedy. Rebel Wilson looks too young for her madam role, but Kate Box is a revelation as Les’ mate, in a role that was originally written as male.
The 10 part series is dotted with ’80s music (Divinyls, Psuedo Echo, Mental as Anything) and suped-up cars (I kept waiting for a Starion Turbo), but it is the capers and Les’ ability to think on his feet that keep this humming.
But is it all toot sweet fun or too late to the party? Give it a burl. Les Norton will either be a dud root for you or go off like a frog in a sock.
8:40pm Sunday on ABC.