Gangs of Oz

nswpoliceLast year Seven saw the nation’s interest in Underbelly and began to hitch a ride on Nine’s raft. Today Tonight initiated its own interviews on the Melbourne gangland wars, notably bringing Judy Moran and the late Barbara Williams face to face (it even copped its own injunction in Victoria).

Now it has an entire series set to capitalise on the subject: Gangs of Oz.

Rather than follow Nine’s path with a drama, Seven has opted for its most successful genre, factual television.

Under the eyes of network factual boss Dan Meenan, who created Border Security, this one hour programme looks at Australian crime via subcultures within it. Episode one looks at the history of “Middle Eastern Gangs” in Sydney in the 1990s.

The story unfolds via accounts from a former detective, former gang member, the father of a deceased young man, news footage, police footage and re-enactments.

It is chockful of violence, language and drug use -everything except Vince Colosimo, Kat Stewart, Gyton Grantley and Damian Walshe-Howling.

To emphasise the dark world, the look is grainy, drained of vibrant colours, with hand-held cameras accompanied by an aggressive rock soundtrack.

Most of the hour revolves around re-enactments, confidently staged with unfamiliar actors (it would never work with recognisable faces). Here also, is where the show moves from fact into interpretation of fact.

Re-constructing scenes with scripted dialogue is all good and well when we know we are watching drama. Gangs of Oz however packages the show as factual. While it is more authoritative than re-enactments of Today Tonight and others of its ilk, it’s hard to know where truth stops and dramatic license starts. No doubt different directors could reconstruct the same facts with varying results.

Foxtel’s Crime Investigation Australia also uses similar storytelling devices, but with somewhat less-dependence on re-enactments. Over the life of its existence in some cases it has also uncovered new evidence.

With its provocative title, Gangs of Oz will appeal to those who helped make Border Security a massive hit. Narrated by Colin Friels, the first episode contains some ethnic generalisations, and pinpoints suburbs and streets of Sydney with a supposedly bad reputation.

The subject matter is engagingly told and Seven has certainly timed this right.

With so much reconstructed drama  it would do well to market this as a docudrama.

35_starsGangs of Oz premieres 9:30pm Wednesday February 11 on Seven.

Photo: stock image


  1. CopyTheTitleOfanyofOzName

    I hate it when a show copy the of oz part of wizard of oz, and has nothing to do with of oz characters or oz in itself, this show has nothing to do with a oz book or movie, and let it just copy the title to get people to even look at it, thats how bad it must be and I never even heard of this show before

    I think the best oz books were made by L. Frank Baum and a few others too but thats it, not just titles that copy the name to get people to look at them, its really sad that they had to do that

  2. this comment is in reply ti ash brennans comment that the milperra massacre was on mothers day im sorry to say but it was on fathersday not mothers day i know as my family was there it was fathers day

  3. Judy Laughlin

    I missed the last episode and would dearly love to know what happened to Dr Chang. Is there a site available that I can go to and watch this episode.
    Loved the show, left Underbelly so far behind, sick of the sleeze in Underbelly.
    Judy Laughlin

  4. In tonights episode of Gangs of Oz (one of the few programmes i watch) it was the bikie episode. In the first segment you referred to the milperra massacre as ‘ the fathers day masscre’. It occured on mothers day. Please get your facts right, cause that was very embarrasing to the entire production of the show..

  5. Hello,
    I missed Wed 18th Feb show on Gangs of Oz, could anyone put in a link or tell briefly what happened? Did it show the Barbro family or is that next weeks episode on Feb 25th?

  6. FYI – the production company claims to have been in production with this for over a year. So you have to go that far back to find its influences.

    I don’t think about ripoff – I think “riffs on a genre”. True crime is such juicy material and there are only so many ways of doing it.

    Perhaps they should all credit the ghost of Jack Palance.

    BTW – there’s a couple of comments here that prove the point about racial offensiveness and provocation.

  7. Ben wrote “jeez guys why don’t you watch an episode before you nail it to the cross”
    I agree Ben, and couldn’t believe that people were so negative before this show went to air……one has to wonder if they work for Ch 9.

    Gangs of Oz was Ok, and I’ll watch it again.

  8. I watched Gangs of Oz premiere on Wednesday 11 Feb and would like to get a copy of this episode on DVD as I was a friend of the two young men gunned down outside the Fivedock Hotel…can anyone help me or direct me to the relevant area to get a copy please.

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