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).

4 Responses

  1. Nothing looked or sounded like Australia in the 1970s. It was just lot of bland stuff about Vietnam war and the looming presence of heroin cobbled together with no proper exposition. It’s clearly a 2022 drama made of the global English language streaming market. The Newsreader on the other hand was Australia in the 1980s from top to bottom. It drew 57k in Sydney and 65k in Sydney in the overnights, so I wasn’t the only one who left early. Starting it on the Sunday of Long Weekend indicated they didn’t intend people to watch it on the ABC.

  2. The gleaming Holden HR panel van is absurd for surfies in 1971-vehicles were expensive then-old jalopies only for young people, especially as surfer’s vehicles were out in the weather by the sea constantly and usually at the end of dirt tracks where the surfing was-this was made by folks with no idea of the time period!

    1. I think the problem is to find a beat up older car. It is like any program that is set in a different era, rarely do you see any worn out old cars, they all look like they have just come off the assembly line.

      Most of them would be loved items of the owners, or part of some film/TV car lot, so therefore would be well looked after. Can’t see any owner allowing the production team to put a few dents/scratches on them. 🙂

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