Les Norton

Alexander Bertrand makes his debut as a larrakin boy from the bush, slammed into King's Cross in the '80s.

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.

19 Responses

  1. Rather silly of ABC to spoil the indications that the Rebel Wilson character was bumped off in the 1st ep when the many, many promos screened for this had her in scenes not shown in it so far…

  2. I watched the first episode and decided it had some potential given time but that’s probably the issue for Les Norton it may not have the time, first episodes either grab the audience or become a second choice if better shows are on. Alexandra Bertrand certainly fills the screen and as a new comer and potential star is quite noticeable when he takes off his shirt, but well muscled actors don’t get a diversity of roles except in the action / criminal genre, which probably suits Alexandra fine. I would like to have seen the ABC have a bigger budget and not use grainy stock newsreel for airport shots and Kings Cross etc, it looks cheap and nasty. but I guess that’s probably asking too much.

      1. Yes thanks I did AGT, and Les Norton was great. Rebel Wilson us hilarious. Alexander Bertrand is great as Les, and what a massive unit he is ! I’ll be tuning in for more of this crazy and warped show.

  3. Great piece David Knox….I will watch….I don’t care it they changed the books…I will watch this for what it is….a separate work….It is the Cross I know and remember, well.

  4. i have read all the books (and starting to reread again) and there is a few changes already according to the books les came to sydney in 1970 not 1985, wozza (warren) was living with les (who owned the house in bondi) there was never any brothel owner in the book so i dont know if I will watch or not doesnt sound as good as the books

    1. It looks a bit like satire to me, the ABC promos give that impression and Alexander Bertrand could find himself a job in America fairly soon though the ‘and introducing’ credit does sound cheesy and old fashioned, I don’t think that that up and coming star banner has been used for ages and was usually reserved for female Hollywood child stars. I will be checking this show out, it looks promising and Rebel Wilson should have plenty to work with, though I’m not her biggest fan.

        1. It really is very ordinary, bad scripts, bad acting, and the ‘shirt off’ scenes nauseating. He doesn’t even have a tan! I probably will continue to watch, and there’s precious little on Sunday nights at the moment.

          But Saturday nights are looking up, a 3-part Agatha Christie with a great cast, including the gorgeous Sam Neill and top baddie Noah Taylor, and this week a new series of Poldark with Aidan Turner, who’s also in the Agatha Christie mini series. Saturday nights haven’t looked so good for years.

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