The Australian television smash hit, featuring gambling, hookers, drugs, guns, crooked cops and all round mayhem on the mean streets of Sydney's Kings Cross, is dividing Australian society.
Media Man and Gambling911 recently discovered that the Australian Prime Minster and Communications Minister failed in their attempts to ban the show (its a show, not a doco), and now public figures including a former judge and numerous police officers are speaking out.
Television shows featuring crime like ratings winner Underbelly are disgraceful glamorisations of criminals, evil acts et al and there's nothing admirable about events depicted in them, says ex Supreme Court Judge James Wood. Wood has every right to feel that way, being the man who led a royal commission on New South Wales police corruption.
Wood said the Network Nine hit and the ilk of were at least partly responsible in make guns and violence acceptable and glamorised characters based on people who were nothing but "hoodlums and thugs".
We point out to Wood and his friends that the legal profession has had more than its fair share of bad apples over the years, as had the church, education system, political arena, and so the list goes on. At least crims are usually straight up about it.
Underbelly: The Golden Mile went to air this this past Monday and attracted a massive 2,237,000 viewers down under. The show promotes Kings Cross as the place "bent cops, straight cops, cool criminals and colourful characters all converged to make their mark" until the royal commission threatened the "black empire" with collapse.
The royal commission named 284 police officers, (unlucky) seven of whom were locked up in the slammer, including one of the central Underbelly characters, the former chief of detectives Graham "Chook" Fowler.
Wood, these days holding the positions as chairman of the New South Wales Law Reform Commission, advised he had not seen the first episode of this series but was familiar with its content.
He is hopeful that a doco the Australian Broadcasting Corporation will screen in May would deliver balance, as Underbelly and crime-show genre created the "wrong impression" about the behavior exhibited.
"There's nothing honourable or admirable in relation to the people who are depicted in these programs," he said. "For the impressionable kids out there watching these programs, they think it's a lot of fun. It's bloody well not a lot of fun. It's harming a lot of people and carries huge risks. You've got a high chance of ending up in a prison for 20 or 30 years. These shows don't show that."
Network Nine censor, Richard Lyle, said the majority of those depicted would not come out of the Underbelly story well, with the exception of a few clean police and Mr Wood!
Mr Lyle said the series was a very responsible tale which started off with a bang because it was necessary to set the scene and explain what lured people to the criminal underworld. Why do people become gangsters? Because they get a lot of sex, drugs and rock'n'roll. But if you wind up dead or in jail, this is a cautionary tale."
Loyal readers, sound a bit like the gambling industry? That's what we thought. Gambling scenes are featured in 'The Golden Mile' and in a non coincidence, gambling is starting to make a comeback on the mean streets and back alley's of 'The Cross' as this report goes to press. A birdie tells us its more than just a bit of 2UP between mates, but its not exactly the VIP high rollers room at Star City or Crown Casino either. The stakes are super high however, and if things go belly up, one can pay the ultimate price. Not to further glamorise the seriousness of things, but picture Johnny Cash and the classic 'The Man Comes Around' and 'Folsom Prison Blues', and your getting the right idea. Punters and crims be warned, there's no gambling (officially) in most prisons around the globe, and that includes online slots and online poker. The only betting in the big house might be about who's going to "cop it" next, be it in the shower or gym.
On a most serious note, please bet responsibly and adhere to laws and regulations applicable to your circumstances. Good punting.
References: Network Nine, NSW Police, Fairfax Media, News Limited, Casino News Media, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, National Library Of Australia (and unidentified persons familiar with the mean streets of Kings Cross).
* Greg Tingle is a special contributor for Gambling911
* Media Man http://www.mediamanint.com is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company. Gaming is just one of over a bakers dozen of industries covered.
* No informants were paid in the compiling of this report
* The writer is a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
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