February 2, 2010

WORTH GETTING DIRECTTV:

Television Review | Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities (MIKE HALE, 2/02/10, NY Times)


Given that much of the show’s action revolves around brutal skirmishes among rival drug gangs, “The Underbelly” has been called Australia’s answer to “The Sopranos” (and has won the country’s major television awards for best drama). It’s not at all the same sort of show, though — it’s pulpier and more lurid, and its narrative meanders as it follows the wandering course of more or less actual events. It’s closer, in both form and quality, to a high-end cable docudrama that can afford reasonably good actors for the re-creations.

And that’s not a bad thing, especially when the place being documented is as entertaining as Australia in the late 1970s and early ’80s, which, on the evidence of “The Underbelly,” was the Wild West with big hair and white suits. Or maybe it was just Miami. DirecTV is showing the series’s second season, which depicts events that took place before those in Season 1; it opens in Australia in 1976 with the arrival of a small-time New Zealand dealer named Terry Clark (Matthew Newton), who will not only revolutionize the narcotics business and cut the heads off several of his friends and rivals but also have lots of acrobatic sex. (Season 1 will follow Season 2 on DirecTV; a third season is about to begin in Australia.)

“Australia was invaded twice in the 1970s,” says the narrator (Caroline Craig), the daughter of a fictional Melbourne policewoman. “First by heroin. Then by New Zealanders.” It’s a funny line, but it can be hard for the non-Australian to tell whether something is a joke or just a touch of realism, as when a frustrated crime boss snaps at his wife, “Put the ferret outside where he belongs, will you.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 2, 2010 7:29 PM
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