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Naum Aksenov
Naum Aksenov

[S1E5] Belly

The lead-up to Underbelly involved a heavy marketing campaign which covered radio, print, billboards and an increased online presence, including the use of social networking tools.[4] At a reported cost of $500,000,[5] both this marketing investment and potentially millions of dollars in advertising revenue were claimed to be put at risk by the Victorian Supreme Court's injunction,[5] as the series was expected to attract 800,000 to 1 million viewers in Victoria alone.[6] The injunction was put in place to ensure that upcoming criminal trials were not unfair to the accused, because the series contained fictionalised re-enactments of several disputed events. Underbelly began screening on 13 February 2008 on the Nine Network in all states and territories except Victoria and some regional parts of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory.[7] An edited version of the series premiered in Victoria on 14 September 2008 after the injunction was partially lifted, although only the first five episodes were shown.[8] In 2011, the injunction was partially lifted and the series was screened as "Underbelly: Uncut". This rebroadcast included scenes from the original DVD release, as well as several significant changes that were made to keep the show current, including a newly recorded final voiceover and the crediting of several characters that were previously uncredited (allowable due to the ending of related trials). Some previously named characters in the final episode however are now unable to be named, resulting in a continued banning of the sale of the video release in Victoria.

[S1E5] Belly

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Underbelly was a critical and ratings success,[1] being described as "Australia's best ever crime drama".[9] Despite this critical success, the series has been the target of controversy due to its glamourised depiction of crime and violence.[10] The opening double episodes, which aired on 13 February, attracted an average of 1,320,000 viewers nationally, minus Victoria.[11] Every episode of the 13-part series was soon made available for download on a range of sites, with the Nine Network saying it was considering legal action.[12] The legal DVD of Underbelly was released on 8 May 2008, a day after the final episode was aired on television. Due to the legal suppression, the release was not able to be distributed through any retail or rental outlets in Victoria or on the internet. The ban remains in place in 2013, due to legal issues involving the final episode of the show.[13] It was the first in a continuing series, and was later followed by Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities, Underbelly: The Golden Mile, Underbelly: Razor, Underbelly: Badness, Underbelly: Squizzy and the sequel to the first series Fat Tony & Co., as well as multiple spin-offs and four television films released as Underbelly Files.

Underbelly is a fictionalised account of the events behind the Melbourne gangland war that lasted from 1995 until 2004. In the first episode, the Carlton Crew crime syndicate is introduced, comprising stand-over man Alphonse Gangitano (Vince Colosimo), Domenic "Mick" Gatto (Simon Westaway), loanshark Mario Condello (Martin Sacks), retired bank robber Graham Kinniburgh (Gerard Kennedy) and drug-dealing siblings Jason and Mark Moran (Les Hill and Callan Mulvey) and their father Lewis (Kevin Harrington). Jason Moran's seemingly harmless and half-witted driver Carl Williams (Gyton Grantley) is also introduced, along with two police characters; Steve Owen (Rodger Corser) and Jacqui James (Caroline Craig), the most prominent members of Task Force Purana.

When Graham Kinniburgh is murdered, Carl agrees to end the violence and asks Benji to murder Gatto. Gatto instead kills Benji and is arrested, although he is later acquitted. A new thug, Keith Faure (Kym Gyngell) (only named in the 2011 "Uncut" broadcast), offers to team up with Carl, while his real motive is to take over for himself. Several days later, Faure kills Lewis Moran in a crowded bar. Consumed by revenge for Benji's death, his friend, convicted killer Lewis Caine (Marcus Graham), decides to kill Condello, the only surviving member of the Carlton Crew. However, Caine is double-crossed by his accomplices and is murdered beforehand. Detective Owen has Condello's bodyguard "Tibor" arrested. They agree to have Tibor act as an undercover agent to record Condello ordering a hit on Carl. Meanwhile, Carl's jailed associates testify against him. In the series final episode, Task Force Purana and Owen arrest Carl at a family barbecue. A voice-over, performed by police officer Jacqui James, reveals that Mick Gatto is eventually acquitted for the killing of Andrew Veniamin and that Mario Condello is killed while awaiting trial on attempted murder charges. The final voice-over was rerecorded during the production of Underbelly: Razor in preparation for the 2011 airing of the show in Victoria to also include information on Carl Williams' murder, and Tony Mokbel's arrest in a "cheap wig" in Greece.

Underbelly is based on the book Leadbelly: Inside Australia's Underworld, by Age journalists John Silvester and Andrew Rule.[1] As the Nine Network was interested in creating local and world-class television, they decided to invest in a drama series that told the story of the Melbourne gangland killings. Jo Horsburgh, Nine Network Head of Drama, stated that the network was "100 percent committed to bringing Underbelly to the small screen".[16] Des Monaghan, executive producer for Screentime, called the series "one of the most exciting and challenging drama projects ever shot in [Australia]".[16] The script took 12 months to write, beginning in June 2006, with the main writers, Greg Haddrick, Peter Gawler and Felicity Packard putting together an entire episode themselves before their scripts were edited.[17] Haddrick, Screentime's Head of Drama, felt that the challenge for the writing team was to "capture the essential truth of these extraordinary events in a compelling and coherent manner".[16]

Underbelly was filmed in Melbourne, at locations around the city where the real-life events occurred.[18] Filming took over 82 days, from 2 July to 19 October 2007,[14] with 150 inner urban locations utilised and 450 locations surveyed making the series as close to life as possible.[19] Parts of the series were filmed in the Essendon area, near many of the houses and schools associated with the "Underworld".[20] Many of the Carlton scenes were filmed in North Melbourne, primarily around Errol Street. All La Porcella filming was done at Rubicon Restaurant Errol Street, and jail visit sequences were filmed in the dressing rooms at the Telstra Dome.[21]

The Nine Network spent more than fifteen million dollars producing and promoting Underbelly.[22] The lead-up resulted in a heavy marketing campaign which covered radio, print, billboards and an increased online presence, including the use of social networking tools.[4] 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,[23] 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.[24] 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,[25] but this option was made unavailable due to the Supreme court suppression case.[26] This intention follows a similar strategy used for the launch of Sea Patrol in 2007.[25] 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.[4] Due to the court injunction, the Nine Network was ordered to remove character profiles from its official website in Victoria.[27]

The series' first prequel, Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities, revolves around the organised crime groups that stemmed from the Griffith-based dope trade.[28] The series follows the lives of two late infamous drug lords, "Aussie Bob" Trimbole and Terry "Mr Asia" Clark, portrayed by Roy Billing and Matthew Newton respectively.[29] Filming took place in both Sydney and Melbourne until March 2009.[29] Sydney locations Richmond, Bondi Beach and Warwick Farm were used to portray Griffith in the 1970s. Writers Peter Gawler and Greg Haddrick admitted that there was more nudity and sex than the original.[30] The prequel premiered on 9 February 2009 to 2.5 million viewers, making it the highest rated non-sporting program in the history of Australian television ratings.[31] The second prequel, titled Underbelly: The Golden Mile, began airing on 11 April 2010.[32] A telemovie trilogy known as The Underbelly Files was made and then aired in early 2011. The three telemovies Infiltration, The Man Who Got Away, and Tell Them Lucifer Was Here.[33] The fourth series, Underbelly: Razor, began airing on 21 August 2011 and was mostly concerned with telling the story of 1920s criminal matriarchs Tilly Devine and Kate Leigh. It was also therefore a prequel to the original series. A New Zealand version titled Underbelly NZ: Land of the Long Green Cloud aired in 2011. The fifth series, Underbelly: Badness which tells the story of modern Sydney underworld figure Anthony Perish first aired on 13 August 2012. The current production, Underbelly: Squizzy, is set to air in late 2013 and is a biography of Squizzy Taylor.

On 11 February 2008 the Australian Family Association (AFA), was publicly outraged that Underbelly would be screening at 8:30 pm, 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. 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.[37] 041b061a72


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