Review – Underbelly: Badness
Underbelly: Badness – Nine – 8:30pm Monday – AUS
Episode 1: Thy Will Be Done
Underbelly returns to Channel 9 this time with an easy to mock title – ‘Badness’ which is fun because sometimes this show is bad and having the title ‘Badness’ will come in handy later on in the season when things start to sag and the show becomes unwatchable we can all just say ‘Badness? Sounds about right.’ Underbelly: Badness tells the story of Anthony “Badness” Perish played by Jonathan LaPaglia who is being hunted, for the murder of Terry Falconer, by Det. Sgt. Gary Jubelin played by Matt Nable. Gone are the costumes and endless parade of characters of Razor as Underbelly brings things back to basics – a bad man and the man sent to bring him down.
The Underbelly series has a couple of major problems that it has never been able to resolve; the first is that show is more concerned with looking cool than with saying something. This is a flashy first episode but it’s flashy in all the same ways that Underbelly is always flashy. Take away the cool yellow and green filters, the literally endless slow-motion, the slightly off-kilter close-ups and the shiny surface and there’s nothing there. Underbelly: Badness is all front and the only thing that this season has going for it is that the story seems to be some simple and so straightforward that it might actually make for a watchable season of flashy, frothy, fluff.
The second major issue that the series can never escape is that it treats its audience like complete morons. Caroline Craig is again over-narrating the proceedings chiming in whenever there’s a quiet moment to give us far more exposition than we could possibly need. One of the first times we meet Det. Jubelin he’s lying upside down against the wall to highlight how quirky he can be, but that’s not enough and Craig has to start listing things about him, like how he prefers to drink green tea rather than coffee. Somebody needs to go around to Screentime and teach them the ‘show don’t tell’ rule of visual storytelling because these guys are the absolute worst in the business at it. For a show as visually interesting as Underbelly can be at times (those green and yellow filters really do look cool) it has no idea how to present information to its audience in any way other than via huge information dumps.
Seeing as we can’t expect things like substance and subtly from Underbelly: Badness what can we ask of the show? Unfortunately that answer is ‘fun’ and I say ‘unfortunately’ because this show takes real life crimes and the most it can do with them is make them fun, which is kind of awful the more you think about it. We watch Underbelly because we want to be taken on a thrilling ride. We want to see some good performances (which were certainly lacking in Razor) and we want to enjoy a bit of a rollercoaster ride (which was definitely missing from the saggy, boring Razor).
On the performance front it looks as though Aaron Jeffrey is going to be the clear standout, even if the promo for next week grossly stated how it was THE. PERFORMANCE. OF. HIS. LIFE. The last time we saw Jonathan LaPaglia he was turning in great work in The Slap and the last time we saw Matt Nable he was turning in kind-of-crap work in Bikie Wars. The tables are turned here with Nable giving the better performance in this first episode and LaPaglia feeling rather hammy as Parish. Unlike last year’s Razor, which was too dumb and too long for its own good, I’m oddly optimistic about Underbelly: Badness. Don’t get me wrong, I doubt the show will approach anything resembling ‘quality television’ but thanks to its narrow focus (one villain and one cop) and it’s shorter running time (only eight episodes) I think that Underbelly: Badness may be a solid improvement over the last three entries in the series.
Good, Alright, Bad Or Ugly?
This review is part of Change The Channel’s episode by episode coverage of Underbelly: Badness. The full list of episode reviews can be found under Series.