PU­BERTY BLOND

A flag- bearer of per­ilous teenage years, Lockie Leonard comes to television in a 26- part se­ries, writes

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv - Vic­to­ria Lau­rie

TIM Win­ton looks back fondly on his teen years, which is sur­pris­ing if you con­sider the per­ils he en­coun­tered when the fam­ily moved to the coastal coun­try town of Albany in West­ern Aus­tralia. Like any un­der­sized, smar­tarsed kid newly ar­rived at the high school, Win­ton was set upon by the bul­lies and threat­ened with rit­ual dous­ing down the toi­lets.

It can’t have helped that he was the son of the lo­cal po­lice­man.

But that was all grist for the mill when, in 1990, Win­ton be­gan writ­ing his Lockie Leonard tril­ogy about a 13- year- old boy whose par­ents have cru­elly named Lach­lan Robert Louis Steven­son Leonard. As Lockie Leonard: Hu­man Tor­pedo, Lockie Leonard: Scum Buster and Lockie Leonard: Leg­end hit the school li­brary shelves, they were de­voured by book- pho­bic surf rats with tou­sled hair and pim­ples.

The books con­tinue to res­onate with young­sters on the verge of pu­berty with em­bar­rass­ing par­ents and weird sib­lings. Lockie finds him­self dumped in the surf, bul­lied by Boof and the gang at school and ren­dered speech­less when he meets his dream girl Vicki Stree­ton. To make mat­ters worse, he sud­denly finds ‘‘ lawn’’ grow­ing on his hith­erto hair­less body and his face is in­vaded by gi­ant pim­ples.

Next week, Lockie Leonard hits the air­waves in a 26- part Chan­nel 9 se­ries to be broad­cast dur­ing the next nine weeks.

The nor­mally me­dia- shy Win­ton is so happy with what the se­ries’ pro­ducer, Es­sen­tial View­ing- RB Films, has done with Lockie that he of­fered him­self up for in­ter­view.

Win­ton says he watched all 26 half- hour episodes in two days ( ri­valling the teenage boy who was given preview copies and wrote, in the show’s first fan let­ter, ‘‘ I watched 13 episodes un­til Mum made me stop and have some­thing to eat.’’) Win­ton’s ver­dict? ‘‘ I laughed a lot, I got a lit­tle misty on a cou­ple of episodes, I looked and thought it’s awk­ward be­ing young but kind of nice as well,’’ he says. ‘‘ It felt like fam­ily television, the sort of show you could sit down with your grand­mother or your kid and a pizza, and ev­ery­one would get some­thing out of it. For par­ents it may be heart­en­ing that you can still make [ chil­dren’s TV] that isn’t com­pletely cyn­i­cal or prod­uct- based.’’

It’s easy to see why Win­ton is pleased. The se­ries skil­fully jux­ta­poses the in- your- face ob­ses­sions of young teenagers with fart­ing and first kisses along­side the sad­der mys­ter­ies of why Lockie’s up­tight mum keeps cry­ing all the time.

His rap­tur­ous love of the ocean is beau­ti­fully ex­plored in scenes shot around Mar­garet River and Den­mark by un­der­wa­ter cam­era­man Rick Ri­fici, who films for surf com­pa­nies such as Quick­sil­ver, Rusty and Bil­l­abong. One of the first chil­dren’s se­ries in Aus­tralia to be shot in high def­i­ni­tion, its more out­ra­geous fan­tasy mo­ments are cap­tured on hand- held Be­ta­cam. Its racy, eye- catch­ing look lends it­self to a gen­er­a­tion reared on mu­sic video clips and coarse images shot on mo­bile phone cam­eras.

But most cru­cial in the cred­i­bil­ity stakes was to cast a be­liev­able Lockie and 14- year- old Sean Keenan is a per­fect fit. This fresh- faced new­comer from Bus­sel­ton, a south­west town a half- day’s drive from Albany, was plucked from his class­room to au­di­tion for the se­ries. Keenan has the gen­tle vul­ner­a­bil­ity of a boy who, de­spite mis­giv­ings, loves his po­etry- ob­sessed dad Sarge ( played by Rhys Mul­doon) and his over- anx­ious mother Joy ( Bri­ony Wil­liams).

‘‘ It’s that hu­man­ity I like,’’ says Win­ton, who also loves the per­for­mances, ‘‘ not whether the de­tails are like the book.’’

Teen spir­its: Au­thor Tim Win­ton, right, has a few point­ers for young Lockie Leonard star Sean Keenan

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