In a return to my favourite “audience drawing” topic, the Nine Network is moving ahead with a new Underbelly series, to be shot imminently and aired early next year. Despite what early reports implied, instead of a half-arsed prequel, they are doing the more logical and going back to the crime wars of the late 70s and early 80s. Despite the success of ABC’s Blue Murder, there’s still a tonne of material to mine from that era that really hasn’t been dramatised before.
From reports, they’re focusing on NSW this time, with the Sydney crime wars of the early 80s (where George Freeman’s gang took on Lennie McPherson), and the drug trafficking and murder in and around Griffith NSW, where the biggest crime was the disappearance and presumed murder of anti-drugs campaigner Donald Mackay.
According to this story at news.com.au, “celebrity girlfriend beater” Matt Newton will play Terry “Mr Asia” Clark, a noted drug trafficker from the 70s. More notably however will be Andrew McFarlane (apparently playing anti-drug campaigner Donald Mackay, and Roy Billing (the name draws a blank, but check the link for his face — very familiar) as Griffith crime boss Robert Trimbole.
Interestingly, considering his recent turn as a nutter in City Homicide, Peter O’Brien will reportedly play the original “colourful racing identity”, George Freeman.
More news on the new series as I see it. I wasn’t very excited when this was first announced, but now they’re clarifying the scope and stories they’re looking at, it could again be very good.