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October 4, 2015

Starz Planning to Remake 'Underbelly'

by Scott Harris, posted Jun 22nd 2010 12:00PM
American fans of the wildly popular Australian gangster drama 'Underbelly' are about to be in luck, because a domestic adaptation is in the works. Just one thing: The show will be about different characters involved in different storylines in a different setting.

If that seems like a fairly odd way to stage an adaptation, well, have no fear: The folks at Starz know what they are doing, at least according to New York Magazine, which is reporting that network CEO Chris Albrecht has acquired the rights to 'Underbelly' and is fast-tracking an adaptation. And Albrecht is no stranger to internationally acclaimed gangster shows -- in his previous gig as head of HBO, Albrecht was responsible for a little series called 'The Sopranos.'

So can 'Underbelly' do for Starz what 'Mad Men' and 'Breaking Bad' did for AMC? Albrecht certainly hopes so, as he has been aggressively pursuing new series and adaptations, including 'Camelot' and an American version of the BBC sci-fi hit 'Torchwood,' in hopes of emulating AMC's success. But to hear New York Magazine tell it, the main sticking point with 'Underbelly' may be the fact that the source material is so inherently Australian in nature -- telling the true story of drug wars that ravaged the Australian underworld over a period of decades -- that it can't be adapted without completely changing it.
"Since the show is based on real events that took place in Australia starting in the 1970s," the report reads, "Starz can't simply film the original scripts using American actors. But the network is currently researching various American crime families that they can build effective story arcs around ... just as long as the clans aren't from New York or New Jersey, which would invite calls of 'Sopranos' copycatting."

Just how much of the original 'Underbelly' DNA will still remain once the characters, setting and storylines are all changed begs the question: Why do an adaptation at all if you're going to have to make so many alterations? Still, if anyone can pull it off, it's likely Albrecht, whose track record also includes hits like 'Sex and the City,' 'The Wire' and 'Six Feet Under,' and who is said to be so enthusiastic about 'Underbelly' that he hopes to have a script in hand by the end of the year with the aim of going straight into series production.

For a look at what all of the fuss is about, here's a look at the trailer for last year's series prequel, 'Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities':

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There should be some great source material for a US Underbelly series, not least the DeMeo crew story grimly brought to page in 'Murder Machine', I couldnt put that grisly tale down and it would easily trump the Melbourne gang war story.

January 22 2012 at 6:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jon Carpenter

Pleast don't call Starz's Torchwood an American remake. It's just a continuation of the series but it is being partly funded by Starz and will film some of the season in the US. Not a remake at all.

June 22 2010 at 12:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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