It had crime, it had violence, it had drug use, it was based on some semblance of fact, it was on commercial television, and it was absolutely loaded to the brim with heavily stylized, semi-explicit sex scenes and exposed breasts. It was, in short, the televisual equivalent of bogan heaven.
Underbelly, for the uninitiated, was Channel 9’s attempt to dramatise the story of Melbourne’s ‘crime war’ during the 1990s and 2000s. With breasts. During this war, several heretofore unknown criminals became household names. To the bogan, ‘household name’ is entirely synonymous with ‘celebrity’. And the only thing bogans love more than celebrities is celebrities playing celebrities. For proof, look no further than Walk the Line, where Joaquin Phoenix managed to create a bogan-friendly image of Johnny Cash, or even better, check out Jamie Foxx in Ray.
Even better, Underbelly was packaged by its creators as high brow entertainment, and the banning of the programme in Victoria lent it the perfect level of illegitimate cred. And it had loads of breasts. Professionally and slickly filmed, it was frenetic enough to withstand the bogan’s extraordinarily short concentration span, while simultaneously giving the impression of intellectual legitimacy. It thus became the bogan equivalent of Janus, Blue Murder or Phoenix. Bogans are unaware of those shows.
It was so successful, in fact, that Channel 9 began immediately hunting down other criminals in order to expose Australia’s bogans to a second series of actors holding guns and fondling/leering at breasts. Thus, Underbelly 2: A Tale of Two Cities pushed further back into the 70s, when the story was less interesting, the criminals less famous, and Australians had to watch Matthew Newton. And a pair of delightful New Zealand breasts.
This has, in turn, exposed a nascent urge in the nouveau bogan. The irrepressible desire to associate themselves with said underworld figures. The bogan will, upon an Underbelly-related conversation beginning, immediately and enthusiastically offer an anecdote about how, when they worked at a café, they worked with a guy who once served a coffee to the table that Mick Gatto was sitting at. And that he seems like ‘a top guy’.