TV Review – Les Norton: Season One

TL;DR – Was one of the more interesting shows I have seen on Australian TV by being both a throwback to the past and also something a little new 

Score – 4 out of 5 stars

Les Norton. Image Credit: ABC.


We took a look back at Les Norton’s first episode You Wouldn’t Be Dead For Quids, back when it first came out. Well, the first season has just finished so I wanted to take a moment to look back at the show and how well it did as a whole. A show about the 1980s, finding yourself in over your head, and also just about the most aggressively Australian TV show I have seen in a very long while.

So to set the scene, Les Norton (Alexander Bertrand) is a country boy from Dirranbandi in south-west Queensland. He’s had to skip town after an incident where a rival teammate was left fighting for his life with a head injury and he needed to disappear before there was a riot. He needed to find some work to get through his time in Sydney which is where he meets his guide and new friend Billy Dunne (Hunter Page-Lochard) working as a doorman at a local club in Kings Cross. The first 22 minutes of his shift is boring, but we come in at minute 23 and the fists start flying. The head of the club Price Galese (David Wenham) likes what he sees and brings him into the fold and Les discovers a world hidden out of sight, protected by the powerful, and who run on very different rules where discretion is key.

Les Norton. Image Credit: ABC.
Alexander Bertrand does a brilliant job of playing Les as being naïve but not stupid . Image Credit: ABC.

To make a show like this work you need to have a leading man that can carry the narrative because he is the audience surrogate for most of the proceedings. Well, we completely get that with Alexander Bertrand as the titular character Les Norton. As well as being a real physical presence in the show, which they amplify by framing him from underneath whenever they can. He has to play a very difficult role, where he has to be sincerely the fish-out-of-water character by being the boy from the bush that does not know how the city is run. However, he has to be naïve but not stupid and that is a really hard balance to pull off. I mean it helps that he finds himself an accessory to murder in the first episode so he kind of has to adapt out of sheer necessity but it still works.  

While Les is, of course, the leading character and much of the focus of the show, there is also a large supporting cast that is here for everything. You have Rebel Wilson playing both of the Bognor sisters with real gusto, no matter what is happening on screen it is also fun to watch. I think some of the best scenes of the first season is when she and David Wenham go head to head in verbal confrontations. We have Hunter Page-Lochard playing Billy who is kind of Les’ guide into this new world, Kate Box as Lozza an ad agency executive and Les’ housemate, both of who light up the screen whenever they are on with pure charm. The corrupt and not so corrupt cops of Sgt Ray ‘Thumper’ Burrell (Steve Le Marquand) and Const. Emily Gold (Syd Zygier) where some of the real tension of the season can be found. Frankly, it was so much fun to watch for the casting alone.     

Les Norton. Image Credit: ABC.
The banter between Price and Bognor is some of the shows best material. Image Credit: ABC.

I mentioned that this show was aggressively Australian and I was not mincing my words there. From Angus Sampson’s narration to the analogies they use throughout the show, it does not shy away from location. Indeed, it does a really good job of setting the show in that time and period. In between scenes, they use old footage of Sydney/Brisbane/Coffs Harbour etc to locate you in a place and time. The murky world of underground casinos in the 1980s is a fantastic setting for a series like this and they use it to the best.     

From a story perspective it was interesting to watch the show isolate in-between the issue-of-the-week stories and the overall arching narrative that stretches across the season. Indeed it is interesting to see just how many of the story beats that you think are standalone actually get incorporated into the season story. Now I have not read the source material, but from what I can tell they have made some changes to it and from the final result I think those changes have been successful. You do have to be prepared for the fact that a lot of the time Les is only saved through sheer happenstance rather than anything he does, like when he got Thai hitmen and the local drug goons to take each other out, while not realising that was what was happening. Though it is always interesting to watch a show and be championing on team over the other, even though they are both bad.

Les Norton. Image Credit: ABC.
The way it sets its place and time brings you into this world. Image Credit: ABC.

In the end, do we recommend Les Norton? Yes, yes we would. Now it is a little crass at times and has some very frank sex scenes, along with drugs, murder, and all that jazz. So, if they are not things you mind watching then this is not the show for you. However, I found it really charming in places and it did its job taking me back in time to a world not too dissimilar to the one of today. That being all said I think it is worth it just for the fact that in a life imitating art kind of way that Alexander Bertrand is currently starring in a beer ad on TV that they inadvertently (… maybe) send up in the show with Bowen Larger and that is just a delight.     

By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.

Have you seen Les Norton yet ?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day.    

Credits –
All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Les Norton
Directed by
– Jocelyn Moorhouse, David Caesar, Fadia Abboud & Morgan O’Neill    
Written by – Morgan O’Neill, Christopher Lee, Malcolm Knox, Shanti Gudgeon & Jessica Tuckwell     
Created by – Morgan O’Neill
Based onLes Norton by Robert G. Barrett
Production/Distribution Companies – Roadshow Rough Diamond, Screen Australia & ABC TV
Starring – Alexander Bertrand, David Wenham, Rebel Wilson, Hunter Page-Lochard, Steve Le Marquand, Syd Zygier, Pallavi Sharda, Justin Rosniak, Kate Box & Angus Sampson with Rebel Wilson, Benhur Helwend, Rhys Muldoon, Ian Roberts, Susan Prior, Milly Alcock, Jean Hinchliffe, George Harrison Xanthis & Stephen Peacocke and Matt Day, Meyne Wyatt, Trevor Ashley, Trevor Jamieson, Jobe Adams, Aidan Gillett, Mark Coles Smith, Nicholas Hope, Peter Phelps, John Harding, Jordan Le Goueff, Philip Partridge, Rowan Chapman & Luke Cussen                                      
Episodes CoveredYou Wouldn’t Be Dead For Quids, Wrongside, Bowen Lager, The Boys from Binjiwunyawunya, Lobster Mobster, Tight Arse, The Real Thing, Bush League, Misery at the Selebo & Day of the Gecko       


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