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Australian Underbelly: TV And Real Life, by Greg Tingle - 14th March 2011

G'day punters, entertainment news junkies, politicians...one and all. 'Underbelly', the Australian crime drama continues to keep Australian (and international internet) audiences captivated. Then of course there's the real life Underbelly happenings across Australia with 'Sin City' Sydney being home to most of the action lately. Media Man takes you on another wild ride via the Underbelly Express...

 

Real Life Underbelly: Kim Hollingsworth Fact Often Stranger Than Fiction...

She is, or perhaps, was, best known as the pro in TV's Underbelly, but these days its her love of nature and horses the generate much of the headlines. Kim Hollingsworth, whose former life as a call girl, hooker... call it what you will, will continue to feature in Sunday’s Underbelly 3 finale. Today Kim's horses help her get through her rough lot in life, but things continue to look up. Hollingsworth, 44, of Wilton, described her Wodonga childhood as Pollyanna-like. She lived with an abusive boyfriend in Sydney, but was able to get an out. "What do you do, stay and get killed? Or do something like that, get the money then go ... it may have saved my life". One thing led to another, getting into stripping and hooking, and eventually breaking free to become a police officer like her father. The cop dream turned to nightmare when she informed on corrupt cops to the Wood Royal Commission. "They knew. It was ok I was a prostitute...but the moment I put that court report in, it wasn’t ok any more," she said. "It was payback." Then came ejection from the Goulburn Police Academy, a "commission"-forced sojourn in an Adelaide brothel, and the bullying-forced withdrawal from a police training course in which she had won enrolment after a court battle. Her salvation, she said, was a mare of her father’s, which had been acting up at Warwick Farm racecourse, before coming to the Ellis Lane property she had moved to from Cronulla in 2000. "She was kicking her heels up and running around and that gave me a reason to get up ... whereas before I just laid in bed all day," she said. Hollingsworth said she was still dealing with her past, including the death of a cop who had become a dear friend. "You don’t realise at the time that you are getting stronger; you just try to survive," she said. We wish Kim well with her ongoing recovery.

Underbelly Gets Average TV Viewership In February...

It had to happen eventually. The TV Underbelly series numbers have done down. The third Underbelly telemovie 'The Man Who Got Away' came out in 9th for the night with just over a million viewers for Channel 9. It was beaten black and blue (pardon the pun) in its timeslot by a new episode of 'Bones' on Channel 7, which snatched 1.148 million. Seven's 'My Kitchen Rules' was champion of the night with an massive 1.457 million viewers.

Sydney: St Ives Gets Gunshots For Underbelly TV...

The residents were instructed not to be alarmed by machine guns before scenes from series of a couple of Underbelly takes were shot in an otherwise quite St Ives street. Filming took place at two homes in Waterhouse Ave. Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities is set in the years from 1976 to 1986. Series on-set manager Chris Wheeler said the street was a good reflection of houses from this period. "St Ives shows the 70s and 80s style for the series in the most beautiful way," he said. Residents were informed of filming via a letterbox drop. In the letter, location manager Carl Wood said: "The production of Underbelly in Sydney (rather than Melbourne) is considered to be something of a coup for Sydney, and the NSW Government is right behind the project." The prequel cast includes Peter O’Brien, Roy Billing, Asher Keddie and Matt Newton.

 

Underbelly Star Gambles On De Niro Flick, by Greg Tingle - 20th May 2010

Australian crime TV and movies continue to wow the Hollywood movers n shakers, most recently icon Robert Di Niro (Casino, Goodfellas et al). Yeah, we know we went with a headliner grabber and a bit of hype, but it reads better than 'Robert Di Niro Gambles On Up And Coming Aussie'! Media Man takes their eye in the sky to see what's cooking 'Underbelly' - Hollywood style...

He plays the toughest guy in Kings Cross.

But the star of Underbelly: The Golden Mile, Firass Dirani, says he's going to have to 'man up' for his next role opposite veteran US actor Robert De Niro, known of course as the Living Legend of movies, and who could forget his portrayal of Sam 'Ace' Rothstein (Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal) in Martin Scorsese classic 'Casino'.

Let's now cross to Dirani, Cleo Bachelor Of The Year...

"I'm going to have to take my middleweight gloves off and put my heavyweight gloves on," Dirani half jokes.

"I'm going to have to man up."

"It's been a childhood dream. I've imitated this guy since I was five, since I could speak - doing the whole crumpled-up face thing.

"I'm just pinching myself. Honestly, I'm just gobsmacked by the whole thing."

Dirani will also star alongside Hollywooders Jason Statham and Clive Owen in The Killer Elite, a flick about ex-SAS soldiers who are being hunted down by assassins.

Dirani, known for playing 'Sin City' Sydney colourful (aren't we all) identity John Ibrahim in the third series of the ratings hit Underbelly, was seated on the head table at a Network Nine function and pow wow celebrating the network's drama programs in Sydney this past Wednesday.

The man of the moment, the mans threat, the woman's regret, says he remains stunned to be included in the star line up at the network.

"It's weird isn't it? (I'm at) the creme de la creme table. Sitting with David Gyngell and Lisa McCune - the faces of Channel Nine," he says.

"I don't mind that - (being) the rookie of the year. I'm loving it."

Media Man wish Dirani well and look forward to seeing him rip up Hollywood, Las Vegas, Atlantic City and beyond.

Loyal readers will be aware that punters can now place bets on the success of upcoming films with a number of betting agencies and the like, so be sure to give a good look over the Gambling911 website for more on those great opportunities to make a killing.

Ace, take good care of our 'boy', soon to perhaps become 'The Man' in Hollywood, and Dirani, don't forget your Aussie mates and especially John Ibrahim and the boyz of 'The Golden Mile' King Cross. Dirani in line for an Oscar within 12 months? Yep, you wouldn't be dead for quids. Good hunting, and long live the AussieWood - Underbelly - Hollywood connection.

Go Aussie Go. Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi!

 

Media Man does not represent Firass Dirani

Media Man does not represent Underbelly

Media Man does not represent Channel Nine

HITMAN Slot game


UNDERBELLY is the compelling dramatisation of Melbourne's gangland killings.

Underbelly is an Australian television drama series, based on the real events of the 1995–2004 gang war in Melbourne. The series began screening on 13 February 2008 on the Nine Network (and affiliates) in all states and territories except Victoria, due to a court injunction. Underbelly is a 13-part mini-series, based on the book Leadbelly: Inside Australia's Underworld, by Age journalists John Silvester and Andrew Rule.

Synopsis

The key players in Melbourne's criminal underworld, including the Moran family and their rival, the maverick Carl Williams, are featured using their real names.

The major factions, as presented in the story, are the Morans, including Lewis, Mark, and Jason Moran, the "Carlton Crew", which included Alphonse Gangitano, Domenic "Mick" Gatto, his lawyer George Defteros and Mario Condello, "the Russians", led by Nik "The Russian" Radev, and the Williams family, which included Carl Williams, Tony Mokbel, Andrew "Benji" Veniamin and, at different times, Victor Brincat and Dino Dibra.

The police investigators, Steve Owen and Jacqui James, are fictional, but based on an amalgam of several officers who worked on the Purana Task Force, which was charged with investigating the gangland war and halting the killing.

According to its marketing, the series "uses the framework of the murderous war between the two gangs, and the bigger moral war between the gangs and the Purana Task Force, to explore a complex array of individual stories and relationships - some touching, some incredible, all breathtaking - it is a mini-series that examines the kaleidoscopic nature of loyalty, love, revenge and pride when the normal and identifiable emotions of human attachment are moved from the context of social decency to social indecency.

Production

Underbelly was filmed on location in Melbourne. Parts of the series have been filmed in the Essendon area, near many of the houses and schools associated with the 'Underworld'. Many of the Carlton scenes were actually filmed in North Melbourne, primarily around Errol Street. All La Porcella filming was done at Rubicon Restaurant Errol Street, the scenes involving Mario Condello loaning money was filmed at the Lithuanian Club North Melbourne, the location of Carl Williams first house is Duffy Street, Maribyrnong, jail visits were filmed in the players' change rooms at Telstra Dome, and a restaurant scene was also filmed outside the Medallion Club, Telstra Dome & scenes of when Mario Condello moves into a apartment is filmed at Victoria Point, Docklands. In some earlier scenes whereby witnesses were contained in witness protection caravans at Warrnambool, these were filmed in Werribee South.

Marketing

The lead-up to Underbelly resulted in a heavy marketing campaign which covered radio, print, billboards and an increased online presence, including the use of social networking tools.

When the CEO of the Nine network, David Gyngell noted the need to up its online presence, and embrace social networking as a valuable marketing tool, the official website was launched. The original website was launched on 15 January 2008, with only a 3 minute trailer; while the full site, with all its features, launched on 1 February 2008. It was announced that the full first episode would be available for download on the site on 10 February, three days before the show premieres on television, but this option was made unavailable due to the Supreme court suppression case. This intention follows a similar strategy used for the launch of Sea Patrol in 2007. The site was "poised to become" the biggest and most detailed website the Nine Network has hosted for a show so far, including features such as behind the scenes footage, profiles, visitor interactivity and the use of social networking tools.

Reception

Critical response

The first episode of the series was screened privately to media on 17 January 2008, prior the media had been treated with extracts and trailers promoting the series.

* On 3 January 2008, The Sydney Morning Herald's critic Michael Idato declared the series "The Blue Murder of its time", referring to the critically acclaimed 1995 ABC TV drama Blue Murder, considered by many to be the finest crime drama ever produced in Australia.

* In review on his blog on 17 January 2008, David Knox, stated that Underbelly "is our own Sopranos", and awarded it 4½; out of 5 stars. He also commented:

“ If there are any criticisms to be found with Underbelly, they are few. One or two shots give away that period Melbourne was actually shot in 2007. And while watching these gangsters thrive on power with ballsy disdain, it was hard not to think of the behaviour of some television executives in recent history. This aside, Underbelly looks set to be one of the highlights of the 2008 television year.”

* A review appeared in the Herald Sun on 18 January 2008, in which critic Paul Anderson quoted:

“ "Whether you followed the Melbourne gangland war or not, there's a fair chance you will be blown away by the coming TV series Underbelly. Underbelly is a slick, violent and sexually charged dramatisation backed by a ripping soundtrack."

* In an article appearing on 31 January 2008, The Daily Telegraph's TV editor, Marcus Casey, said of Underbelly after viewing the first four episodes:

“ "If the quality is maintained then, while not perfect, Underbelly should equal, if not better, Australia's best ever crime dramas - the Phoenix series and Blue Murder."

Family Groups reaction

On 11 February the Australian Family Association (AFA), was publicly outraged that Underbelly would be screening at 8:30pm, well within reach of children, after clips of the series were leaked onto the internet. The clips highlighted the use of extreme profanities, and scenes that show a violent bashing, a cold-blooded murder, and a sexual encounter.

The Nine Network defended the timeslot and the M classification, saying the clips, leaked from the Network's production department, were indeed from the series, but not all of them made the final cut.[12] The Network set its own classification, under the accepted rules of the Australian Commercial Television Code of Conduct.

The Australian Family Association threatened to take the matter to Communications Minister Stephen Conroy if the content of the show was anything near that of an unauthorised promotional clip leaked from Nine's production department.

Ratings

The opening double episodes, which aired on 13 February attracted 1,326,000 and 1,324,000 viewers nationally, minus Victoria, where a court ban prevented its screening. In Victoria alone, the series was expected to atrract 800,000 to 1 million viewers, which would have put Underbelly figures over the 2 million mark. The replacement movie for Underbelly in Victoria, The Shawshank Redemption, managed only 271,000 viewers.

The third episode, which aired on 20 February, managed to hold most of its viewers from its premiere, attracting 1,273,000 viewers nationally (except Victoria),[15] a decline of only 50,000 viewers. In Victoria, CSI: Miami was broadcast in Underbelly's place. The fourth episode, which aired on 27 February, managed to hold nearly all of its viewers from the previous episode, attracting 1,250,000 viewers nationally (except Victoria), a decline of only 23,000 viewers.

Though leaked copies of episodes one through to thirteen are available online, the show is continuing to attract huge television audiences, according to The West Australian.

Legal issues

Supreme Court writ threat

George Defteros, a high-profile lawyer cleared of charges relating to underworld war, disrupted the lead-up to the series' launch, when he threatened the Nine Network with a Supreme Court writ on 26 January 2008. Defteros, said to be portrayed by George Kapiniaris, engaged a top Melbourne defamation specialist, saying:
“ Any attempt to depict me as a lawyer of low impropriety and unethical behaviour will be met with legal proceedings instituted by my lawyers, I regard the depiction of the gangland wars, in particular my role as a lawyer acting for parties, as nothing more than farcical and pure pantomime. We'll be watching it very closely.”

Nine Network had subsequently said there would now be no direct reference to Mr Defteros, despite earlier publicity. A spokeswoman for the network said "There is no lawyer called Defteros in Underbelly" but Defteros said he could still be defamed by implication, noting "It's already been advertised as me".

The case was dropped by Director of Public Prosecutions Paul Coghlan, QC, due to a lack of evidence.

Supreme Court Suppression

The screening of Underbelly in Victoria was put into jeopardy, after last-minute legal proceedings took place due to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Jeremy Rapke, QC. Rapke secured an urgent viewing of the series, before he decided to seek an injunction stopping its broadcast in Victoria. A Supreme Court judge called prosecutors and defence lawyers together after serious concerns were raised about whether the show could prejudice a jury for the trial this year of a man who has pleaded not guilty to the 2004 gangland killing of Lewis Moran. Although the accused man is not named in the series, there are concerns the show could hurt his chance of a fair trial.

The Supreme court hearing took place on 11 February 2008 - only two days before the series' was due to premiere. The Nine Network was ordered by a DPP subpoena to hand over tapes of all 13 episodes, as well as outlines and story lines, to the Victorian Supreme Court by 10am on 11 February 2008.[22][23] The Nine Network, refused to voluntarily hand over the tapes, saying they were incomplete and that the network's lawyers were closely supervising production but the Network was willing to comply with any Court order and took this matter very seriously. The network is also adamant that the series makes no assertions about the guilt of the accused killer. The court subpoena stated that copies of two completed episodes, along with uncut versions of the other 11 episodes, plus episode outlines and story lines, must be handed to the court by 10am on 11 February. At the hearing, which took place at the Geelong Supreme Court, the judge, Justice Betty King, gave prosecution and defence lawyers 24 hours to view the series and return to court the following day to decide whether it had the potential to affect the forthcoming trial. Justice King issued a suppression order on 12 February banning the Nine Network from broadcasting the series in the state of Victoria and on the internet indefinitely, until after the murder trial is completed. It has also been ordered to remove character profiles from its official website. The Nine Network offered to air a heavily edited version in Victoria, but the offer was rejected by Justice King. It was initially planned that an alternative program, Underbelly: A Special Announcement, was going to air in Victoria instead of the series' premiere, which was to discuss what the series is about. This idea was scrapped, and the movie, The Shawshank Redemption, was aired in Victoria instead.

The Nine Network declared their intention to appeal against the decision, and Network lawyers stated that they would exercise all legal options.

The suppression also affects national audiences receiving transmissions from Imparja Television, a Nine Network affiliate. Imparja is unable to supply its interstate audiences with Underbelly, due to its single satellite signal broadcasts into its specific regions, but also transmits into some parts of Victoria, which is covered by the suppression order. Alternative programming will be shown until the restriction is lifted.

The appeal began on February 29, 2008 in the Victorian Court of Appeal,where Nine Network lawyers argued that the network should be allowed to broadcast the first three episodes of the series, saying Justice King had "erred" in her decision to suppress the series,as she had viewed the unedited versions of the series, and not the final edited cut that was to be shown to audiences.The network believed the first three episodes, which depicted events from the beginning of the underworld war in 1995, would have no potential to prejudice any part of the trial[29]. The trial in question is due to begin on March 31, 2008. The judges overseeing the appeal retired to decide their verdict on March 3, 2008.

The appeal's verdict was handed down on March 26, 2008, where the appeal's judges chose to continue a ruling by Justice King that the series is not to be broadcast or distributed in or out of Victoria. During the appeal the Nine Network had proposed to screen the first three episodes immediately after any successful appeal, and would give the court seven days written notice of its intention to show any further episodes that it believed would not prejudice the murder trial. The Court of Appeal had dismissed the network's application to appeal, and the network must now continue comply with the suppression order issued by Justice King until the offending trial is complete.

Illegal distribution

Despite the ban on broadcasting the series in Victoria, Victorians have still been able to access episodes via illegal online distribution. The first episode was made available on torrent sites within 20 minutes of it concluding in New South Wales. The Nine Network has reportedly obtained the "ISP address" of the first person to upload the show, and network lawyers were considering legal action. The Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) is currently investigating the matter, and is expected to make a list of recommendations to Victoria Police.

Copies of advanced episodes of the series which are yet to air on the Nine Network have become available on the internet. Every episode of the 13-part series is available for download on a range of sites. It was reported that on mininova.org more than 3,000 users were attempting to download episode seven late on the afternoon of 27 February 2008. The Nine Network said it was considering legal action. The broadcaster is also looking into how copies got into the hands of underworld figures in Victoria, including Roberta Williams, the former wife of gangland kingpin Carl Williams.

Pirated copies of the entire series were also made available to the public. People were being offered a 4-disc DVD set for AUD $10 - $80 in public places such as carparks and building sites. The episodes were commercial-free and came with introductory station countdowns, suggesting a major leak from inside the network's production department. Two network employees had been questioned by the network over the matter, but both denied distributing any copies of the series.. Similarly, versions of episodes 10 - 13 which are currently available on peer to peer sites are clearly production (ie pre-broadcast) versions of these episodes. They feature the production house's title screen, occasional sequences of rough editing, and sub-broadcast quality sound issues such as large variations in levels and absent atmos tracks.

Fears of inside leaks were again aroused, when advance screener versions of unaired episodes 4-8 were posted online on 26 February 2008. Screener episodes are generally shown to select audiences, such as sales staff and executives, well in advance to being televised.

International distribution

The series will also air in New Zealand on TV3, Scandinavia, Canada and France. (Credit: Wikipedia).

 

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