Fat Tony’s An Offer You Can’t Refuse?

The Underbelly franchise switches from TV3 to TV1 tonight with the 9.40 premiere of Fat Tony & Co.

Although the Sydney Morning Herald reports the true-crime drama is a stand-alone series, “its bloodlines can be directly traced to the original Underbelly and it features an array of characters and actors from that first season”.

“It revisits some of the characters and some of the stories, but it goes in its own direction,” star Robert Mammone told SMH.

He plays Tony Mokbel, one of the key players in the Melbourne gang wars of the 1990s who barely featured in the first Underbelly because of legal proceedings that led to a 30-year sentence.

The new nine-part series, which debuts after the season four premiere of Person of Interest, traces his rise from pizza boss to drugs boss.

“While the form is the same – and with most of the original actors and creative team back on board – does Fat Tony and Co live up to the high standards of the 2008 smash hit series?” one critic asked when it aired a year ago on Channel Nine.

“The answer is yes and no. The acting, writing and direction of the premiere is top notch, it’s a stylishly made true-crime drama that many will feel puts recent instalments like Underbelly Razor and Squizzy in the shade.

“But it doesn’t quite have the same blend of magic as the original – the same visceral fascination, visual flair or humour.”

Agreed another: “There is a sense of having been here before, which after six seasons of Underbelly, is presumably the intent.

“In 2008 it was compelling to watch national headlines being portrayed on the screen, even taunting the Victorian courts in the process. That made Underbelly event TV.

“Now it’s rather par for the course, and while the actors turn it on with a swagger and a smile, it may not be enough to draw in those beyond the fans of the franchise.”

Nonetheless, the SMH says Mokbel is played with fierce conviction by Mammone.

“The actor stacked on the kilos to play the part and, on the basis of the first two episodes, his efforts have resulted in a rock-solid foundation for the drama.”

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