Pay cable channel Starz and Chris Albrecht (formerly head of HBO) clearly want to encroach on the other big players in the business and they’re coming out guns blazing. After announcing the development of a “Camelot” series and the co-production of “Torchwood,” Starz has now acquired the U.S. rights to the popular Australian mob series, “Underbelly.” The series is based on the book “Leadbelly” by John Silvester and Andrew Rule and is a depiction of the violent gangland wars that have occurred in Melbourne since 1998 (and according to ABC news Australia, whose effects linger even through 2010). In 2008, when the Nine Network was ready to air “Underbelly” after having shot the series at the precise locations where events took place, it caused such a ruckus (trials were ongoing) that a judge blocked the show from being aired in Victoria.
The show gained both critical and audience acclaim, and having previously read a bit about the series, I was already foaming at the mouth over having a replacement for “The Sopranos.” But, the interesting twist is that instead of doing the show as an Americanized version of an Australian story, Starz is researching our own crime families to find a true life basis for the series. Apparently seasons of “Underbelly” are each based on specific events, but I’d figure they want more than just a format for their money. We’ll have to trust that Albrecht, who led HBO to its heyday with “The Sopranos,” “Sex and the City,” “Six Feet Under,” etc., knows what he’s doing.
Any Ozzies out there? What say you?