Fat Tony and Co.

Nine's 'not-Underbelly' is no longer Event TV, but the cast give it a red hot go all the same.

roberta_carl_williamsIt’s the strangest thing.

The opening scene has Vince Colosimo as Alphonse Gangitano with bare-breasted women gyrating behind him. But this isn’t Underbelly.

We’re back with the Carlton Crew’s Carl Williams (Gyton Grantley), Jason Moran (Les Hill), Lewis Moran (Kevin Harrington), Mick Gatto (Simon Westaway) and Graham Kinniburgh (Gerard Kennedy). But this isn’t Underbelly.

The slow-mo shots are there and the creative team includes Screentime Exec Producers Des Monaghan, Greg Haddrick, writer Peter Gawler and director Peter Andrikidis. But no, this isn’t Underbelly.

If we’re to believe the publicity line this is a spin-off, Fat Tony and Co., which centres around drug king-pin Tony Mokbel (Robert Mammone). It takes us back to the Melbourne gangland in the 1990s, the setting of the original Underbelly.

Bringing back notorious characters and the actors who embodied them in Nine’s trailblazing first series is a clever idea to lure us into the world of Mokbel, whose story could not be told for legal reasons in 2008.

Robert Mammone, who appeared briefly in that series, now gets his time in the spotlight to portray the man who went from cooking pizzas to running a $140 million dollar drug empire, and triggering an international chase with the Australian Federal Police.

Mammone certainly steps up to the plate, colouring the role with bravado and dark humour. Some may find the portrayal too winsome for man described as a career criminal without remorse.

Indeed, the opening credits hint at a kind of 1960s spy pastiche, abandoning the traditional “It’s a Jungle Out There” theme song. And while there are flashy moments of underworld excess, and Carl and Roberta Williams (Hollie Andrew) snigger like suburban comic relief, Fat Tony maintains the same malevolence as its forerunner.

In the opening double episode, Frank Sweet provides one of the more interesting insights into this world as young thug, Billy Fischer. But it turns out his role is an amalgam rather than actual.

Madeleine West is dynamic as ‘pill press queen’ Danielle McGuire and while Debra Byrne is given little to do in the opening episode as matriarch Judy Moran, her dour memory of once dancing for Graham Kennedy was effectively bittersweet. Look forward to more from her.

On the opposite side of the blue line are Det. Jim O’Brien (Shane Jacobson) as head of the Purana Task Force and Det. Jim Coghlan (Steve Curry). But it is Richard Cawthorne as Federal Agent Jarrod Ragg who steals the show. It’s almost worth tuning in just to watch an actor upstage everybody else with his absolute stillness.

Other roles are played by Jake Ryan, Jeremy Kewley and Ryan O’Kane.

But there is a sense of having been here before, which after 6 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.

But they will certainly give it a red hot go.

Fat Tony and Co. premieres 8:40pm Sunday on Nine.

13 Responses

  1. Let this crap go and bring back the Sunday night Movies to 9 to end the week upon that were at least family friendly.For now though I’ll be sticking with 11’s older movies at the same hour.

  2. @ Pertinax – it’s actually 65 hours , not 85, so yes they have effectively completed the series when it comes to the offset. Underbelly reached 68 eps.
    I’d be interested to know how they sold this as a ‘new creative concept’ with much the same cast, locations, crew in order to claim the 20% rebate again.

  3. Yeah, I would have thought they would have run the original season over the summer to refresh our memories. I’ve really loved all the Underbelly series so am really looking forward to this.

  4. Y’know, I might’ve been tempted to give this a look if Kat Stewart was Roberta Williams again, as I quite enjoyed the first UB. However, this review confirms what I already suspected – this will just be more of the same and average at best, certainly not “event television”.

    @tomothyd – you’re right as far as Seven and Ten go. For Nine “event TV” seems to mostly be glorifying criminals and I’m just not interested.

  5. Tax concessions only apply for 85 episodes of a drama.

    But they would still be under that so it’s presumably because the Underbelly brand isn’t so crash hot after the last couple of more historical series. And they want to make it less obvious that they are rehashing Underbelly S1 with Mokbel as the focus.

  6. I thought that it wasn’t being called Underbelly so they could still get govt funding as they will only fund so many series .. Same reason there is no more Dance Academy. Which is silly .. If there is a market for show and it’s going to keep people employed then it shouldn’t matter how many series are being made

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