When someone invites you over to dinner to watch a couple of episodes of the new Netflix series Boy Swallows Universe you know a social phenomenon is in the making.

We had already seen the first two episodes at the “global premiere” at New Farm Cinemas. The next two we watched at our friend’s place – one before dinner with aperitifs and the other after pork chops and an Asian salad. Frankly,two at a time is all I can manage. It’s such an emotional roller coaster.

I have other friends who have binge watched the series and they are completely wrung out. It’s intense. So, we have been drip feeding ourselves. It’s all the more intriguing for me since I know author Trent Dalton. We worked closely together when he was just starting out as a journalist and I can report he has not changed a bit. Except for the success, that is.

And that success shows no sign of slowing down with the Netflix series going gangbusters all over the world. When we arrived at the premiere last week to see it touted as “the global premiere” I thought this seemed a tad ambitious, but it turns out it was right on the money.

That’s because this new Netflix Aussie TV drama, produced by Brouhaha Entertainment, Chapter One Pictures and Anonymous Content, has taken 1980s Brisbane to the global charts. Since its release on  January 11, the limited series has gained 3.6million views and is currently number 5 in the global Top 10 TV shows and number two in Australia’s Top 10.

This unique Australian period piece has hit the Weekly Top 10 in 47 countries including at number 8 in the UK and number 10 in the US.

The performances are extraordinary. While it’s full of star power, it’s a young newcomer who steals the show. As young Eli Bell, Felix Cameron is mind bogglingly good. Still, everyone is terrific.

Casting Bryan Brown as former jailbird and Zen master Slim Halliday was a touch of genius. He is so good. Every moment he is on the screen is to be savoured. Amazing to have him at the premiere. He’s everyone’s favourite and is not unlike Dalton in many ways. That is, with Bryan Brown, what you see is what you get. He’s just so genuine.

I interviewed Brown many years ago and when we met, I introduced myself like this: “Hi Bryan, Phil Brown, no relation.”

“How do you know?” he shot back immediately with a wry smile.

Good point. I mean I’d like it if we were related. As a joke I started referring to him as “my big brother” at the premiere.(He was unaware of this!)

The global success of Boy Swallows Universe  (“Darra Goes Global” is the headline on the Netflix release about the show’s success) is going to build and build in the coming weeks. Everyone I know is talking about it, social media is awash with it and, I wonder, are people abroad now thinking: “Gee, I must visit Brisbane.”

I mean, while it’s putting the city on the map internationally, it’s not the Brisbane of the tourist brochures exactly. But it is putting the Queensland capital into the consciousness of millions.

I have heard some talk about Boy Swallows Universe tours and we have already made a pilgrimage to Darra for lunch based purely on the fact that it is a major setting for the book and series. We had never been before, so I guess that’s cultural tourism.

Keep an eye out for buses with Boy Swallows Universe Tours on the side.

In the meantime, you can watch a terrific little Netflix featurette on YouTube: Bringing a beloved Aussie book to the screen – Boy Swallows Universe, Netflix.  And you can watch the series again and again. I’m sure you will.


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