Grab a Chiko Roll and settle in for a wild '70s ride of Aussie mates locked in a tug of war over a fledgling surfwear empire.
Panel vans, surf boards, beer, beaches and bruising hangovers… Barons is one of those local dramas that is so defiantly Australian it’s hard not to fall under its spell.
ABC’s new 8 part drama set in 1971 ripples with anarchy, scruffy hippy hair, and gleaming bods as it dramatises the origins of surfwear. Don’t mention Quicksilver, Ripcurl or Billabong brands please, here it’s the fictional Lightwave and Bare Feet enterprises. No matter, they are readily familiar even if you’ve never heard of them.
And did we mention the ragin’ Mushroom music soundtrack? Awesome.
It’s 1971 in Woogonga when surfer Trotter Dwyer (Sean Keenan), and best mate Snapper Webster (Ben O’Toole) are selling wetsuits from a panel van -but Trotter hatches a plan to upscale to a local barn where they can expand and hang out with their pals.
They include Trotter’s girlfriend Tracy (Jillian Nguyen), pro surfer Dani (Sophia Forrest) and Reg (Hunter Page-Lochard) who is dodging the Vietnam conscription lottery.
Arriving on their doorstep are visiting Americans Buddy (Lincoln Younes) and Bernie (George Pullar) who have been surfing and filming in Bali, courtesy of Bernie’s wealthy parents.
After Trotter proposes to Tracy he also gets a brainwave for board shorts via rag-trade friend Jules (Karina Banno). But it will ignite a rift with his wetsuit buddy Snapper, which underpins the series created by Michael Lawrence, John Molloy and Liz Doran. For one the waves are more important, but the other has business acumen.
“We’re on the edge of being a proper business,” says Trotter. “We’d be selling an idea of Bali, paradise, summers that never end,.”
Throughout it all are lazy days and carefree arvos, interspersed by rolling, sun-kissed tubes filmed by surf director Taylor Steele.
The young ensemble are bursting with energy in this tale. The seasoned Sean Keenan shines as the ambitious Trotter whilst a ripped Ben O’Toole is gritty and dynamic as Snapper -television has a new hunk. Hunter Page-Lochard is suitably deadly as Reg, while Jillian Nguyen adds tenderness to a male-dominated troupe. ABC has also cast diversely here with First Australian, Asian-Australian and LGBT characters seamlessly throughout.
I preferred episode one, which was sharply focussed on the series’ conflict, to episode two which expands to the US characters …it feels somewhat imposed as if to sell the series to a Hulu or Sundance.
But it’s a minor beef in an entertaining, true blue tale produced by 2 Jons, Micanical Media and Fremantle.
It’s also the final screen credit for the late Michael Gudinski as executive producer and fits beautifully with his rock’n’roll legacy.
Break out the Big M, grab a Chiko Roll and turn up the AM radio. Barons is a wild ride.
Barons premieres 8:30pm Sunday on ABC (all episodes on iview).