Vans, surfboards, beer, beaches and hangover bruises… Baron is one of those local dramas so provocatively Australian that 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 bodies as it dramatizes the origins of surfwear. Don’t mention the Quicksilver, Ripcurl or Billabong brands please, here are the fictitious companies Lightwave and Bare Feet. It doesn’t matter, they’re easily familiar even if you’ve never heard of them.
And did we mention the mushroom music soundtrack? Exceptional.
It’s 1971 in Woogonga when surfer Trotter Dwyer (Sean Keenan) and best friend Snapper Webster (Ben O’Toole) sell wetsuits out of a van, but Trotter hatches a plan to turn into a local barn where they can branch out and hang out with their companions.
They include Trotter’s girlfriend Tracy (Jillian Nguyen), pro surfer Dani (Sophia Forrest), and Reg (Hunter Page-Lochard) who is dodging Vietnam’s conscription lottery.
Arriving at their door 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 an idea for board shorts through rag-trade friend Jules (Karina Banno). But he will spark a rift with his wetsuit mate Snapper, which is the basis of the series created by Michael Lawrence, John Molloy and Liz Doran. For one the waves are more important, but the other makes business sense.
“We’re on the cusp of becoming a full-fledged business,” says Trotter. “We’d be selling an idea of Bali, paradise, never-ending summers.”
Throughout it all are lazy days and carefree arvos, interspersed with sun-kissed rolling tubes filmed by surf director Taylor Steele.
The young ensemble bursts with energy in this tale. The savvy Sean Keenan shines as the ambitious Trotter while a ripped Ben O’Toole is as 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 crew. ABC has also chosen differently here with First Australian, Asian-Australian and LGBT characters seamlessly.
I preferred episode one, which is heavily focused on the conflict of the series, to episode two which expands on the US characters… it seems a bit imposed as if you were trying to sell the series to Hulu or Sundance.
But it’s a small problem in a fun and true blue story produced by 2 Jons, Micanical Media and Fremantle.
It’s also the late Michael Gudinski’s final cinematic credit as executive producer and fits perfectly with his rock’n’roll legacy.
Open the Big M, grab a Chiko Roll and turn on the AM radio. Baron it’s a wild ride.
Barons airs Sundays at 8:30 pm on ABC (all episodes on iview).