Kiwi Critics Toast Underbelly NZ

Underbelly NZ's Thijs Morris and Anna Julienne

TV critics for The Dominion Post and the NZ Herald have pumped full of praise last night’s HD premiere of Underbelly NZ: Land of the Long Green Cloud.

The DomPost’s Jane Clifton reckons viewers of TV3’s ’70s drug lords drama needed a strong stomach — “for the fashions alone” – thought the casting “terrific”, the storytelling clear and succinct, and “the ton of gratuitous sex scenes, alarmingly realistic violence scenes” and profane language warranted.

Her “only faint niggle” was the snappy dialogue.

“It’s doubtful that, however undeniably intelligent many of these people were, they were capable of so much witty banter. But it helps whip the plot along at a cracking pace.”

Greg Dixon, writing in the NZ Herald, said Underbelly NZ owed “a hell of a debt” to its predecessors – “it’s all been faithfully recreated from the Aussie template” – but added: “If the Kiwis are simply copying the Aussies, the three principals are being being played with real verve.”

He also loved the humour. “The writers appeared to be aiming for affectionate nostalgia as much as balls-out crime drama.

“There may be another reason for this. Much as American TV dramas live in the shadow of The Sopranos and The Wire, all New Zealand drama now lives in the shadow of that Newzild comedy-drama hit, Outrageous Fortune.

“And there is more than a little of the latter’s playfulness and exuberance in LOTLGC.

But Herald on Sunday’s Deborah Hill Cone dubbed it “the television equivalent of The Coffee Club” that “ticks the same old boxes” of the Australian franchise.

“If you were thrilled by the other Underbellies, you will get a kick out of this six-part retelling of the story of the 1970s drug ring.

“But don’t expect this Underbelly offshoot to have taken the idea anywhere new or even to have an eccentric New Zealand flavour.”

Meanwhile, the writer of Underbelly NZ, John Banas, also will script Screentime’s next NZ true-crime dramatisation, City Under Siege, a $2.65 million HD telefeature about the police’s 50-hour siege of Jan Molenaar’s Napier house in 2009.

Like Underbelly NZ, it will be funded from NZ On Air’s Platinum Fund.

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