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Review – Howzat! Kerry Packer’s War

August 19, 2012

Howzat! Kerry Packer’s War – Nine – 8:30pm Sunday – AUS

Channel 9’s new mini-series How Good Was Our Old Boss? kicked off Sunday night and the amount of enjoyment had from the series depends entirely on how well you can accept the central premise. If you can buy into the idea that Kerry Packer is not only the hero of this story but is also presented as an underdog (yes, an underdog who yells at his minions but an underdog nonetheless) then Howzat! Kerry Packer’s War would have been a fun romp down memory lane. If on the other hand you found that this story of billionaire-tyrant Kerry Packer, the man who saved cricket, had the feel of a movie made for the Channel 9 Christmas party then the whole mini-series became a somewhat bitter pill to swallow.

There’s no denying that Howzat! is a slick production and that Lachy Hulme is a lot of fun as the man himself but this mini-series is a glossy but ultimately empty affair. There is enjoyment to be had if you go along for the ride and get caught up in the music montages, amusing rants and all of those memorable moustaches. However, in order to all enjoy all of that you have to turn your brain off a little bit; and you certainly have to ignore the bitter, bitter irony that this virtually female-free series is coming from the producers of Paper Giants. Oh, there are ladies around to answer telephones and pin photos onto walls and bring the boys jugs of beer but Part 1 of Howzat! is a lot of swinging dicks.

While the show itself is enjoyable in a completely fluffy wholly empty way, there’s no getting past what a long, slow pat on the back the whole thing is. Yes, Kerry Packer did change the face of cricket but for fuck’s sake all he did was change the face of cricket. Nobody landed anybody on the moon, Packer just fought for a way to get elite athletes better pay and so his television station could earn a fortune by broadcasting the sport. There is no doubt that there is some interesting stuff in here, and while there are some genuinely funny moments most of the show is incredibly pompous and somewhat delusional; go figure that Channel 9 would produce a series where Kerry Packer is always in the right.

I’m of two minds about this mini-series because while it did start to drag toward the end of the second hour for the most part it was an enjoyable ride filled. On the other hand the first hour was essentially “Do You Remember These People?”: The Series. Howzat! Kerry Packer’s War has its head planted firmly up the ass of its protagonist and that makes the whole ordeal somewhat more taxing than it should be. Again, there’s good stuff in here – Hulme really is a lot of fun as The Greatest Man To Ever Live – but it’s just such an enormous wankfest that anytime you feel like you might start enjoying yourself you get slapped with a “it’s not just a game, it’s something more” speech or two. It feels unlikely that Part 2 will be any less self-aggrandizing especially with the fate of cricket hanging in the balance – boy I hope Kerry wins and cricket gets to live!

Good, Alright, Bad Or Ugly?

This review is part of Change The Channel’s episode by episode coverage of Howzat! Kerry Packer’s War. The full list of episode reviews can be found under Series.

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25 Comments leave one →
  1. August 19, 2012 1:55 pm

    I suppose I was one to just ‘go along for the ride’ and accepted that, like Paper Giants, certain ‘facts’ are going to be re-written to tell the story (highlighted by the fact it carried a disclaimer at the beginning) I went into this with no delusion that this was going to be a documentary or that Channel 9 would paint KP in anything less than a positive or sympathetic light.

    So with that in mind and being able to accept this is part fiction, despite the fact I have zero knowledge/interest in cricket I quite enjoyed it as well as seeing the 70s setting. (Although I was a child of the 70s I actually remember very little of the decade).

    I don’t know how good part two is going to be given that some parts of tonight’s installment did lag in some spots I felt. Just hope there’s enough to keep a decent pace flowing for part two.

  2. tim jones permalink
    August 20, 2012 4:29 am

    I actually realy liked the show, great performance KP

  3. Ramoneagle permalink
    August 20, 2012 6:49 am

    I’m actually old enough to have been a kid turning young man about town and enjoying the late seventies to the fullest. Getting pissed in Moore Park on a coupla cans of KB/DA knocked off from the old man (by the Kippax lake where Dougie hit a six in the water*) and rocking up to Super Tests etc at the showground. Strewth…I wouldn’t have bothered had I thought these maverick “we are the aussies” knockabout heros were as paper thin as what we got last night. I rate the Packer portrayal…a larger than life asshole through and through…but when you get the facts pretty much straight, you’ve got a great story to tell and you bore the likes of me into hitting the off switch, the scoreboard isn’t ticking over. The Richie Benaud character tried for some dimension but what the hell was the Gary Cosier angle? KP got that dead right. Muppet. (*from the SCG # 2 between #1 and the sportsground?!)

  4. Pattie permalink
    August 20, 2012 7:11 am

    Ass? Oh, for fuck’s sake, take it for what it is – entertainment. It’s not the fucking History Channel. As for the swinging dicks and lack of women it power – that’s how it was back then you donkey.

  5. Riga permalink
    August 20, 2012 9:39 am

    I was curious to see how the well known faces of that era would be portrayed. After about 20 minutes, once my curiousity had been satisfied, I lost interest.
    By the way, if you want women, women and more women in your drama, you can always switch to the ABC.

  6. Leigh permalink
    August 20, 2012 10:10 pm

    I’m glad for this review – I thought I was alone as I heard so many sing the show’s praises. I thought the acting was ordinary and the role of Packer overdone (sure he probably was an a^%$hole in real life, but I felt that playing it up with every second word f&^k got in the way of the story). I wish it was possible for me to turn off my brain and go along for the ride for I love cricket and its history, but that is how we end up with rubbish TV. I say turn on your brains and demand quality TV.

  7. ben permalink
    August 21, 2012 7:10 am

    I hope you sat down and gave yourself a big pat on the pat on the back after writing this review you little fucking twerp. Any money youd be a fat virgin that has nothing better to do than pick shit out of everything. Take it for what it is you fuckstain and get a real job and a fuck you worthless piece of crap.

    • pdjones permalink*
      August 21, 2012 7:13 am

      Is the show your dad or something? Why are you so upset? It’ll be okay – look, here, let me help: the review points out that the show is entertaining whilst being incredibly bias. Does that help calm your nerves little buddy? It’ll be okay you can still enjoy the show, heck, if you want I can find you a positive review of series so you can bask in the self-reflective glow of the exact same opinion as your own.

      • Amanda permalink
        August 21, 2012 3:50 pm

        Hello! What a totally bizarre comment from Ben there? Fat virgin?!?! Come on Ben! Don’t like the review? Don’t read it!!! I really enjoyed the show. I take some of your points about the preachy tone and bias, but I liked it. Maybe what I liked about it was that it seemed to give every single Australian male actor you could ever think of a job for a few weeks. Like some kind of giant NIDA reunion or something! I’m looking forward to the next part but will feel okay if you don’t like it as much as me!! Ben? It’s okay if he doesn’t agree with us. We live in a democracy!!! PS I love your site. Always great reviews!

      • pdjones permalink*
        August 21, 2012 4:03 pm

        Thanks Amanda, this show was a weird one because I – like most people – found it entertaining but I just got hung up on a few elements that stopped me from fully getting on board.

      • Amanda permalink
        August 21, 2012 4:19 pm

        Yes! It’s the pompous thing, isn’t it? Channel Nine sort of excels at that! I’m not sure if it was made by the same people as Paper Giants, but what I liked about that one, missing in this one, are the intimate moments. Ita walking to her bus each day. The tension at home. Just like you said in your review for Puberty Blues (I loved that exchange you mentioned about visiting Paris), small moments fill out the world. I think Howzat was alright and entertaining. I personally don’t think it was bad, just overdone a touch (in a very Channel Nine way). At one point, as that Lachie fellow was in full f**k you flight, my husband turned to me and said “Kerry Packer’s dead, isn’t he?” because the portrayal was pretty heightened (although I saw on Twitter that jouno Peter Harvey said it was spot on). I quite liked John Cornell’s character though.

        Anyway, keep up the informative, thoughtful reviews!

    • Sam Slewman permalink
      August 23, 2012 7:52 am

      Harsh! Very harsh and not very fair, to say the least.

  8. Ramoneagle permalink
    August 21, 2012 10:00 pm

    Sheez Ben, are you channeling the big bloke? I shudder to think what out rates this in your things that piss me off scale…and at 7.10am. Have a nice day.

  9. deej permalink
    August 21, 2012 11:25 pm

    I was looking forward to this show, having lived through the era. Having watched it, I then looked forward to reading your review because I knew you would hone in on the finer details. It was alright but I’m not sure I’d be devastated if I didn’t see the rest. However what does entertain me are the comments some people are writing. Tis a shame World Peace, Poverty and Injustice can’t arouse as much intensity.

    • Sam Slewman permalink
      August 23, 2012 7:51 am

      Hmmm, want world peace, an end to poverty and injustice? Just look to the United Nations. Um, then again, better just keep watching TV and wait for some wealth redistribution and Hope and Change stuff that arouses intensity.

  10. Sam Slewman permalink
    August 23, 2012 7:42 am

    Uh-oh. Again with the profanity? At least there was no Sarah Palin/mainstream media reference in this review. pdjones is no doubt getting a little antsy waiting for Obama to land someone on the moon, or produce a budget, or reduce unemployment… The Hozat program’s narrative which pdjones thinks should have been a anachronistic documentary devoid of things such as “female-free” and “bias” doesn’t do justice to the bigger picture of what the Packer period of Australian sports achieved. On re-reading the review it’s clear to me my once warming to pdjones is now waning as there seems to be a prejudice towards the great Kerry Packer that clouded his/her opinion.

    Ya know Jonsey, I was recently listening to a 2011 podcast by a US sports journo interviewing a legendary figure of all things Las Vegas. The discussion moved to the best and worst tippers in that city’s famous and often infamous history. The worst known tippers were Scottie “No Tippin’” Pippen and Michael “Hoardin” Jordan of NBA fame. When asked who was the greatest tipper the answer wasn’t Bugsy Siegel but a TV mogul from Australia named Kerry Packer. In one case after a good night at the tables (1980s) he tipped a single mother over $120,000 to buy herself a home. Mr Packer created thousands of years employment for thousands of people and changed many lives including the world of a single mum in Nevada. This show is about the machinations of a few years in Australian sports history.

    Of course anyone that runs a business empire these days is considered evil by the mainstream media. Oops! Get over your prejudice and win me back. Your review efforts on “Tricky Business” were sublime.

    • pdjones permalink*
      August 23, 2012 7:56 am

      Thanks for the comments Sam,

      I did get hung up on the whole ‘it’s a show on Channel 9 about the former boss of Channel 9′ – and look, I wavered between ‘Alright’ and ‘Bad’ on this one and went with ‘Bad’ because again, I got hung up on something that I found far more irritating than most people did. It’s not that I’m prejudiced against Packer (thought Hulme was great, Packer had some great lines) it was ‘Packer on 9′ that I was prejudiced against.

      I’m going to be reviewing Part 2 and with all of my whining about how there aren’t any female roles (and as you point out, this isn’t a documentary, they could have made some up) out of the way maybe I’ll free myself up to talk about what was in the show rather than what wasn’t in the show or what was hovering just outside of the show souring my opinion of the mini-series.

  11. Leah permalink
    August 24, 2012 9:21 am

    It’s ‘Lachy’ Hulme, not ‘Lachey’.

  12. Puffin permalink
    August 25, 2012 7:06 am

    I reckon you’ve got this one wrong PD. You seem to think that because this is a Channel Nine production, the whole show is designed as a song of praise to the great KP.

    Do you really think the writer ,Christopher Lee, the same writer for “Paper Giants” on the ABC, would have written “an enormous wankfest” under Nine’s direction? If so why was there a cruel scene where Packer publicly humiliated his secretary by saying she looked like a sack of potatoes, reducing her to sobs. Hardly an image Nine would be proud of for their former boss. Plenty of other scenes showed he could be a complete arsehole. If this show was produced for the ABC, would it have been any different?

    As for being a show about “swinging dicks”, I think you are being a little PC here. Ita got her go in “Paper Giants” . This was clearly Packer’s show dealing with the future of a game played by men set in the sexist seventies. What did you want “World Series Netball”?

    • pdjones permalink*
      August 25, 2012 7:35 am

      Do I think that Christopher Lee would have written an enormous wankfest under Nine’s direction? Yes, because he did. Nine commissioned the series. It isn’t a coincidence that this show about Kerry Packer doing a great thing happens to be on Channel 9.

      Packer being a giant asshole is part of his mythology – nobody has ever thought of Kerry Packer as being a giant teddy bear, he’s a giant asshole who knows what he wants and yells until he gets it; that’s the legend, of course that’s going to be on display.

      The mini-series is the story of an underdog (some have compared it to The Castle) but in this case the underdog is one of the wealthiest men in Australia and the former boss of the network the series is running on – THIS IS WORTH POINTING OUT EVEN IF YOU THINK I AM FULL OF SHIT, which again, I am willing to admit is probably the case.

      Mad Men is set in the sexist 60s and yet was able to find room to fit in some of the best female characters on TV. Yes, it’s set in a sexist time but that doesn’t mean the show itself has to be sexist (again, it’s fiction, Rose could have more to do than cry like a little girl when her boss yells at her because she’s a sensitive woman-type). And again, I don’t think the rule is ‘oh you ladies have had one show – Paper Giants, which had more significant male roles than this show has female roles – so now it’s time for the fellas to get one back.

  13. Puffin permalink
    August 26, 2012 4:41 am

    Why is it a coincidence that Nine commissioned the series about Packer? Would you really expect Seven or Ten to have done so? I’ll get back to my original point – if the ABC had done it, would it have been any different from your so called “wankfest”?

    You obviously have little faith in the writer Christopher Lee’s integrity. He has won numerous awards plus the Centenary Medal for his contributions to Australian television. Do you seriously think that Nine would have dictated to a writer of his standing? He would have simply told them to piss off if ordered to sugar coat his work.

    What I have read of the particpants’ views of the show is that apart from a few details, it is remarkably accurate in its depictions of Packer and what went on at that time.

    Your “Madmen” comparison is a poor one.” Madmen” is a show about an advertising agency and the professional and personal lives of those who work there. Of course women get equal billing. If “Madmen” was about baseball, you may have a point.

    I concede how my Ita remark could be interpreted the way you did. It was a throwaway line. In no way did I mean to imply it’s the blokes’ go now.

    Finally, do I think you are “FULL OF SHIT” ? No, I enjoy your independent views and the forceful and clear way you put them. We just disagree on “Howzat” that’s all. The ratings for tonights show will see if the over 2 million who watched the first one agree with your “wankfest” judgement.

    • pdjones permalink*
      August 26, 2012 5:43 am

      Of course, Seven and Ten didn’t want the show. Look, ‘wankfest’ is a ridiculous term that I was obviously using to be hyperbolic – the show is a myth-building and positive (even with all his yelling) portrait of a man who is incredibly important to Channel 9.

      The show I see looks like it’s being overly generous to Kerry Packer (and again, whether it’s what really happened or not what really happened isn’t really the point, the point is that it exists at all – this is a mini-series about the boss of Channel 9 trying to get cricket on Channel 9 so that he can make more money for Channel 9) – do I think that Nine dictated that brief to Christopher Lee? When they said ‘hey, write a mini-series about Kerry Packer and how he did that great thing that time’ they did dictate to him. Nobody held him at gunpoint and made him write a mini-series that glorifies for former boss of the network that was asking him to write the show.

      It may very well be an accurate portrait of what went on at the time – and again, an entertaining one – but that’s not why I’m raising these complaints.

      Again, don’t take this as me getting mad at you for disagreeing with me – I love a good, intelligent debate and always love to hear a different point of view.

  14. Puffin permalink
    August 26, 2012 6:30 am

    Fair enough PD. I won’t argue the toss anymore now I can see where you are coming from.

    As for your love of good , intelligent debate, I agree wholeheartedly. There’s got to be an antidote to the increasing number of “fat virgin” ghouls like Ben floating around the internet.

  15. Ramoneagle permalink
    August 27, 2012 1:36 am

    Was having a chat on the weekend with a backroom player in the Super League/ARL war who up front dismissed any idea of watching this because the scenario is essentially tedious (and that was a far more complex situation).”You’re great. Want to make some more money? Here’s a fat cheque. Don’t tell anyone.” No wonder Packer had to appear as often as he did to give it some oxygen…comedians, bikinis, broken teacups, let there be light…window dressing. Zzzzzzzzzz

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