Hoges: The Paul Hogan Story review – the biopic reaches a low point

Occasionally, a biographical miniseries about a famous Australian manages to lift itself above the extraordinarily low standard our commercial broadcasters have set for this genre of TV. Hoges: The Paul Hogan Story is not one of those instances.

Channel Seven reached a high point with its Peter Allen telemovie, Not The Boy Next Doorand now, a little over a year later, it’s reached the low point.

There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with seeking to tell the stories of culturally significant Australians on TV, but our screens have been entirely oversaturated with these stories in recent years.

They act mostly as nostalgic escapes, packed full of the fashions, hairstyles and music of the eras which they represent, as they bluntly trace a changing Australia through the story of their central character.

And there are plenty more in the pipeline, with a miniseries about Olivia Newton-John currently filming, with Delta Goodrem in the leading role. Whether Goodrem, primarily a singer, is up to such a task, will be the biggest question hanging over that one.

Paul Hogan is potentially a strong subject for this kind of storytelling. It’s a rags to riches tale of the most extraordinary variety. The transformation he made — from the rising comic who told his viewers in the ’70s to put $10 in their tax return so they’ll get some money back as a nice surprise, to the man who eventually became embroiled in a multi-million dollar tax dispute with the Australian Taxation Office — is entirely unique.

Hogan started out as a rigger working on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, before making an appearance on the amateur talent show, New Faces, at 32. He initially signed up to the show as a bit of a laugh with his workmates, but his brand of ocker humour touched a nerve with Australian audiences. Soon enough he was invited back to the show, then given a regular comedic spot by Mike Willessee as A Current Affair‘s “Man on the Street”.

This led to Hogan’s hugely successful variety comedy show, which led to Hogan’s hugely successful Australian tourism campaign, which led to Hogan’s hugely successful film Crocodile Dundee.

But the miniseries tells that story with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, and never gives an insight into how successes or failures affected Hogan. When Hogan’s father dies, he exclaims: “He was 52!’, as if there were no less jarring way of communicating this fact to viewers. Later on, Hogan’s mother states that “Funny doesn’t pay the rent”, before we soon see that it certainly did for this larrikin.

None of the relationships matter much, there are no stakes in any of the performances, and Hogan comes across as a cipher. I don’t care much for Hogan’s style of performance, but he should never come across as this bland.

Josh Lawson, an actor who I’m yet to see in a performance any better than “passable”, is totally lost as Paul Hogan. He manages to find some of Hoges’s mannerisms and vocal tics, but seems constrained by them; locked into some bizarre, static, one-note caricature, rather than able to use those mannerisms to tap into the man’s emotional experience and evolution.

Instead, the performance is hemmed in by a truly appalling wig, and Hogan that never develops any depth. It doesn’t help that Lawson looks nothing at all like Hogan, and neither does Sean Keenan, who plays the young Hoges. The entire series is scattered with actors who look nothing like their apparent subjects, right down to small cameos, including Grant Piro’s brief and baffling turn as Dustin Hoffman.

Hoges had some pretty questionable material, and appealed quite deliberately to the lowest common denominator. But Hoges does nothing to celebrate his comedic skill, and ultimately feels like a throwback to a period of comedy that was wildly sexist and just not that funny. I don’t think that’s entirely true of Hogan’s work.

But the show has proven a big ratings success for Seven, drawing in 837,000 metro viewers. Not quite The Paul Hogan Show‘s 50% of the audience share, but still respectable.

Let’s see how many viewers return for next week’s conclusion.

23 responses to “Hoges: The Paul Hogan Story review – the biopic reaches a low point

  1. Sucked in Channel 7 for torturing us for the last 3 months by ensuring almost every ad break featured a promo for this stupid biopic of an unfaithful Aussie douchebag. The reviews speak for themselves!

  2. Just finished watching this terrible biopic. Australian commercial TV seriously does period biopic really bad, ABC is the only station that puts in a serious effort.

    For example: Showing Marsh, Chappell and DK Lillie like they just waltzed in from WSC? All 3 at that time did not look like that at all, DK was already 3/4 bald and Chappell lost his moe which became a beard in 1980-81 and then before the 82 ashes series he went clean shaven and has been ever since and Marsh did not have shaggy long hair like it was 1975.

    These tiny details are the reason why shows like MadMen et al are universally acclaimed as being on top of their game when it comes to recreating an era. Australians are just sloppy and lazy.

    And the guy who played strop, terrible.

    Ch 7 MUST be banned from making bio pics, yeah they lucked it out with the boy from OZ but all the rest have been cringe-worthy and sloppy.

    And it feels like Lawson is taking the piss playing Hoges.

    0 stars out of 5.

  3. Humour is always subjective and dates very quickly and he’s simply no longer funny now, Watching what passed for humour in that thankfully long past sexist and obvious era proves that irrefutably. Watching what was called funny back then has most of us wondering how on earth we ever laughed at it all, thankfully that grimly sexist and obvious time is now long past. He seemed like a personable enough man, but nothing really special. That was more or less why people liked him, he was just funny enough, just smart enough, could have been your mate next door – and Hoges was just lucky, plain and simple, he became famous in about the only time period where he could have. Josh Lawson’s normally quite good, he was passable in this role. It’s only interesting to those of us who remember him at his peak, as. I recall watching him when I was a young child. We don’t need to worry too much or get too indepth about it – it’s just a vaguely interesting story about a man who was interesting at the time.

  4. The Paul Hogan show features some timeless Australian comedy, (Perce the wino being a standout) his movie career was patchy and a permanent move to the USA wasn’t the wisest of decisions. It’s a different era of Australian TV and it’s not what it once was, it’s not cool to praise “Hoges” brand of comedy. There are a lot of Australians these days who are totally bereft of a sense of humour.

  5. I can hunk this review is a bit harsh.. You’re obviously not a Josh Lawson fan.. “I’m yet to see in a performance any better than passable” Really?? I actually thought Josh was great and did S commendable job. I think you have just tagged the back of the ‘bash Hogen’ bandwagon.

  6. I enjoyed the trip down memory lane, always loved Hoges brand of humour, everyone’s entitled to there opinion. If you hadn’t seen the original shows it probably leaves you a bit under whelmed.

  7. Enjoyed the larrikinism of Hoges and Strop, but this will cost me heaps coz ground my teeth watching it. Next show, lots of other choices. Anyhow….

  8. Re-enactment of a “true” story that is light years from the “real truth”. Bits and pieces that do not add up – e.g. the scene when Hogan comes across a guy wearing a suit and tie who jumps off the Sydney harbor bridge. This so called re-enactment came into existence when copied from a similar scene in “Lethal Weapon” starring Mel Gibson and “Crocodile Dundee II”. This scene is evidently the same sort of scam as “Chuck and Larry” and “Strange Bed Fellows”. The original material for these two films obviously came from the same creative source which excluded Hogan or Cornell. Another lie is the scene showing John Brown (Ex minister for tourism in the Hawke Government in the mid 1980’s) asking Hogan and Cornell to allegedly “create” Australia’s tourism campaign for the US market. Snippets (containing G’day) from the “Crocodile Dundee I” script (which was alleged to have been written AFTER the completion of this US tourism campaign) did in fact feature in the tourism campaign itself – i.e. BEFORE the original script for “Crocodile Dundee I” had allegedly been written – How come?

  9. Paul Hogan was a huge star, and also very personable. I don’t think this mini series ‘does him justice’ at all. Putting aside the very average acting, the script is way too shallow. Had this series been better cast and better written this would have been an enormous ratings winner for the Seven network.

    1. Totally agree. . If I didn’t remember the original skits this show would have me thinking what was all the fuss about. He’s not funny. It’s Hoges timing and facial features that make him funny. Sadly disappointed but first episode shows his marriage and how she pulled him through. That’s why Australia was so disgusted with the aftermath of Dundee. Rather have read the book than watch this show. Sad

  10. Why do all our tv shows and movies come accross as try hard over acted (or under acted) amatuer attempts? Or do the americans just do that good a job.

    I read all the bad reviews for this, then watched it out of boredom and I have to say, i didnt mind it (and I dont rate aust productions). Maybe though because its my childhood era and i found some of the stoy line interesting… ive never been a fan of lawson, but the other actors did an ok job. Id have to say the bit parts, like packer, hoffman and willisee were lost on me, if they hadnt used there character names so blatantly, id never have guessed who they were meant to be…. accept packer i suppose. The girl who played Delvene was easily the best casting decision (and not just for her looks, she really carried the role off i think), and Noelene’s character was ok too.

    Ill be keen to see the second installment….

  11. There are so many errors even smaller ones such as “That’s not a knife – that’s a knife!
    Should read: “That’s not a knife…THIS is a knife!! ..weird.

  12. Even worse are the “reality” shows with their highly confected and their highly scripted moments of “conflict” and “tension”. Genuine interactions? I don’t think so. I’m cyclical enough to realise that the directors of these shows tell the participants to “ramp it up”.

    Even better, is the frequent “encores” of the same show over the week. Gee, why bother to intersperse the “encores” with different programs. Run the “encore” continuously 24/7, forget the other programs. This way the shows would be truely “encores” rather than a repeat.

    Just as bad is the steady diet of 70s, 80s and 90s shows on the secondary channels. Some channel seem to rotate the same series three times a year.

    Goldern age of TV? “Tell ’em they’re dreamin.”

    1. “Some channel seem to rotate the same series three times a year.”

      I guess this is because the networks are as “cyclical” as you. :-)

  13. I was too young to remember Hogan prior to the Paul Hogan Show, but always got the impression that a big part of his early fame was due to being the face of Winfield lung darts, and that the theme of The Paul Hogan Show came from the tune used in those ads – is this arse about?

    What you say is dead-on about Hogan’s comedy – it was huge at the time but embarrassingly dated now.

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