Colin Hogg: Underbelly formula begins to sag

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Sixth series of Aussie crime drama no match for no-holds-barred look into the life of a heavy metal legend.

Jared Daperis plays Leslie "Squizzy'' Taylor, the self-styled bad bugger of the lively Melbourne crime scene.
Jared Daperis plays Leslie "Squizzy'' Taylor, the self-styled bad bugger of the lively Melbourne crime scene.

In preparation for the launch of an eagerly anticipated new local reality show tomorrow night, I've looked to a couple of unusual places for my television viewing.

That much-anticipated show is, of course, The Life and Times of Temuera Morrison, which screens at 9pm tomorrow on TV One. I'm keen to catch it.

And anyway, six months inside the life of the great New Zealand actor might be some comfort after the recent sad news that The Ridges won't be coming back to TV3 with a second series, despite offering such a unique take on the essential tragedy of celebrity life in New Zealand.

So, as I said, I tuned my recent viewing to set the mood for the momentous launch, and found two perfect opening acts. The first, on Wednesday on TV3, suitably late at 9.30pm, was the launch of Squizzy, the sixth series from the tried and true Australian crime drama brand Underbelly. Concentrating, as always, on the issues of sex and violence - or the omnipresent potential for them - and shot in the trademark gaudy quick-cut style of a music video, Squizzy didn't quite carry the lethal punch of some of the earlier Underbelly series.

Reaching way back into history this time for its dramatised life of an Aussie hardman, Squizzy plays through the short and sordid life and career of Leslie "Squizzy" Taylor, self-styled, short-arsed bad bugger of the apparently lively Melbourne crime scene of a century ago.

Despite all the careful period costuming, there's still no trouble getting them off, though not always for the usual reason - Squizzy being quite keen on gazing at himself naked in his full-length mirror.

But his teeth are too nice and the cops too ugly, the acting mostly too naff and the cars and costumes too perfect to make this one feel like much more than the last squirt of an overproduced formula show.

Also, I much prefer a show where I might like the lead character - a show perhaps like last week's episode of Prime Rocks (Prime, Thursday, 9.40pm), the first in a two-part bio-documentary called, in a nice self-explanatory way, God Bless Ozzy Osbourne. Produced by Jack Osbourne, one the great heavy metal singer's six children, the feature-length doco - split in two for TV screening - promised to go "inside the mind of a legendary cultural figure" and indeed it did.

It also went on the road with him, stalking Ozzy closely, backstage, onstage, back at the hotel, trying to remember which day it is, not to mention where he is or what it all means.

All this came artfully interspersed with interviews - Osbourne opening up, in honest, f-word infested style, friends, family, bandmates, famous admirers, including even Sir Paul McCartney. And wife Sharon, naturally.

The documentary might have been an inside job, but it didn't hold back in telling the remarkable tale of a thicko from Birmingham, so crap at being a criminal he joined a band instead and helped invent heavy metal, making himself an unlikely and deathless superstar in the process.

Angry children from Osbourne's first marriage lifted this life story to a new level, one of them recalling of their famous father, "When he was around and he wasn't pissed, he was a great father". Mostly, though, he wasn't a great father.

Said Osbourne himself, "I've had a crazy life and it ain't over yet". Neither is God Bless Ozzy Osbourne. The second part screens this Thursday. It's a fabulous human story. Hopefully like the Temuera Morrison one will be.

But more on that next week.

- NZ Herald

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