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TV & Radio Wednesday August 17

Underbelly NZ is a coming-of-age story for a drug dealer and the country, and Dai Henwood rocks our top 100 sporting moments.


Nothing Trivial (TV1, 8.30pm). Nothing Trivial had the highest-rating local drama debut episode of the past 10 years, according to TVNZ publicity. Is that good? We do not know. Tonight’s episode ups the blonde factor by five – a new team called the Blonde Bombshells is winning all the quizzes, but Brian (Blair Strang) is convinced they’re cheating.

Rocked the Nation 3: 100 New Zealand Sporting Moments (TV3, 8.30pm). Dai Henwood presents the countdown, which is a nice way to tell those behind-the-scenes stories. In a Rugby World Cup year, what do you think will be No. 1? Hm …

Underbelly NZ: Land of the Long Green Cloud (TV3, 9.30pm). New Zealand in the 1970s, according to the first episode of Underbelly NZ: Land of the Long Green Cloud, anyway, was kind of awesome. Although most of us remember the Values Party, carless days and nothing being open on Sundays, a group of entrepreneurial drug dealers led by a charmer named Marty Johnstone were whooping it up with the proceeds of Thai buddha sticks. Our own series in the Underbelly real-crime franchise charts the rise and fall of Johnstone (played by Dan Musgrove), a young pleasure-seeker from the North Shore who took drug dealing global. It was Johnstone whom Auckland Star reporter Pat Booth (played by Jason Hoyte) called Mr Asia, and it was Johnstone who introduced the psycho Terry Clark to the world of drug dealing. “We call it a coming-of-age story,” says producer Ric Pellizzeri, but it’s not just about Johnstone; it’s about the new era he ushered in, “the introduction of drugs into New Zealand, and the change in policing, and we can’t forget the press – the role that the Auckland Star plays within the story”. As with the Australian Underbellys, the story is told by a police officer, in this case Ben Charlton (Jamie Irvine), a young copper who can see the police are woefully underprepared for the new world of drug dealing – they are still focused on assaults and bank jobs. Lest we forget, however, this is drama, and liberties are taken. The stories of many characters are channelled through a few and there are some fictitious characters to help carry the tale. “In the end we’re making a drama – it’s based on real events, but we’re not making a documentary,” says Pellizzeri. One thing that is authentic are the amazing 70s clothes, which were found via the internet: “Original jeans and shirts and jackets that had never been worn,” says Pellizzeri. “The shoes as well. It’s interesting, some of our actors look terrific in the gear.”

All About Thunderbirds (BBC Knowledge, Sky 074, 9.25pm). Excellent doco that is, as the title says, all about Thunderbirds, the F-A-B puppet series of the 1960s.

Real Life: Shoplifters Caught on Camera (TV1, 9.30pm). A series that apparently doesn’t even have its own cameras. That is some cheap television right there.

The Walking Dead (TV2, 9.30pm). Oh no, now Rick and the guys, on a mission to retrieve Merle, have to get out of Atlanta. Again. This is going to get messy ...


Dorian Gray (Rialto, Sky 025, 8.30pm). Ben Barnes (The Chronicles of Narnia) suits this brash version of Oscar Wilde’s story of a young man corrupted – and Colin Firth is also good as the debauched Lord Henry Wotton. The “the least respectful and the most fun” version, says the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw. (2009)


Nine to Noon with Kathryn Ryan (Radio New Zealand National, 9.06am). Today: schools who are refusing to implement National Standards; business academic Mike Pratt; Australia correspondent Ray Moynihan; retired CIA agent Glenn Carle; Sonja de Freiz review The Circus of Ghosts by Barbara Ewing; Marty Duda's artist of the week is Suede; legal commentator John Edwards; and arts commentator Courtney Johnston talks about the Len Lye exhibition at the Govett-Brewster. Info and audio here.