Seriously, I know I'm super late on some pop-cultural phenomenons, but is Underbelly not kinda the worst thing, like, ever? That is, for something that isn't widely considered the worst thing ever. I mean, we can all agree on 20 to 1. But this...
I tried, I really did.
My initial impressions of the show were dismal. My sister loaned me the whole set, and I lasted about fifteen minutes into the first episode. What exactly was the appeal of this frenetically cut and clumsily scripted mess? I stopped it right there. Only later, after my sister had given me a stern talking to (she's to-the-point and somewhat scary) did I promise to give it a fair shot. And hey, I'd just moved to Melbourne - I'd be learning something about my new home, right?
And now, for some reason, I've seen all thirteen episodes of the thing, though at no point did I feel compelled to keep going. At no point was I hooked on the narrative. At no point did I get that wonderful "I need to go bed, but just one more episode" feeling. I kept plodding on, until I'd reached a point where I sadly realised I was going to watch the whole sodding thing. You know, to see what happens. Though I didn't care. Though I could see the bullet coming.
Where to start? The voiceover which tells you what you already know? The complete lack of insight the show offers into either police surveillance or the modern drug trade (don't think about The Wire, it'll only increase the pain, I assure you). The Benny Hill style of coitus everyone in the show partakes of, made doubly unwatchable by a reliance on zooms the likes of which haven't been seen since late 70s chopsocky? The inconsistent character psychology? The preposterous overuse of slow motion? The preposterous overuse of opera-laden montage?
You walk away from the show dazzled that someone as dim-witted as Carl Williams lasted five minutes on the streets of Carlton. The Victorian Police, famously "somewhat corrupt", are both white-washed and poorly treated. You get no sense of their investigation, or why they couldn't crack these losers sooner. This would be fine if the show suggested it was aware of the fundamental ridiculousness of the situation, but Underbelly is no friend of dramatic irony or comic understatement. For example: only in the last episode do they lean on a known associate of Williams for case-breaking information - someone, incidentally, who was arrested five episodes ago. Did they forget he was in prison?
What's curious to me is the level of hype that attached itself to the show's caboose, and the popularity of the DVD release. I can understand lazily watching this thing on TV, but I remember the first day it was released on DVD. I was working at Canberra Borders at the time, in the "prestigious" Multimedia Director position (aka "the guy who stocks the CDs and DVDs") and we couldn't keep it in the store. From memory our original shipment of 500 copies was sold out by the first afternoon. Dear God, why? Is it plain cynicism to put this down to the Australian public's on-going fascination with crims and other various morons. What's harder to explain is the media's love affair with the show - after all, it got excellent notices from otherwise sane scribes. Too much TV watching just might convince you this stuff was anything other than time-passing fluff. Perhaps everyone was coming off a Two And A Half Men marathon...
On the plus side, Kat Stewart (as Roberta Williams) is great in an underwritten role, and Damian Walshe-Howling as Benji completely steals the show.
Fans of the first series say the second series is terrible. I shudder at the implications.