Underbelly NZ: Land of the Long Green Cloud

Last updated
Underbelly NZ: Land of the Long Green Cloud
Genre Drama
Written byJohn Banas
Directed byMike Smith, Ric Pellizzeri
Country of originNew Zealand
Original languageEnglish
No. of series1
No. of episodes6 (list of episodes)
Executive producerPhilly de Lacey
ProducerRic Pellizzeri
Running time40 minutes
Production companyScreentime
Original network TV3
Original release17 August (2011-08-17) 
21 September 2011 (2011-09-21)
Related shows Underbelly

Underbelly NZ: Land of the Long Green Cloud is a six-part New Zealand television mini-series. The series originally aired from 17 August 2011 to 21 September 2011. It was the first Underbelly series to be created outside of Australia, and depicts events prior to and concurrent with Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities .



The series is an account of the rise and fall of New Zealand's 'Mr. Asia', Marty Johnstone (Dan Musgrove), who built the country's first ever drug cartel, the Syndicate. Set between 1972 and 1980, it traces Johnstone's development from small-time crook to international playboy with a global drug empire, and how he became the architect of his own demise. Closely aligned with Johnstone's tale is that of Detective Constable Ben Charlton (Jamie Irvine), who realises that changing criminal tactics will necessitate drastic alterations in New Zealand policing. Charlton also acts as the narrator of the series.

The six-part narrative can be seen as a prequel of sorts to the Australian series Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities , which focuses on fellow Kiwi and Syndicate member, Terry Clark. However, events in the two shows do overlap, as both cover the period 1976–1980. Characters that appear in both shows include Clark, Johnstone, Andy Maher and Karen Soich, but none of the actors reprise their roles in the New Zealand series. [1]

Production and airing

On 21 December 2010, New Zealand on Air announced it would contribute almost NZD$3.9 million to TV3 and production company Screentime for six one-hour episodes of Underbelly NZ, saying that the Marty Johnstone story was "a dramatic part of New Zealand's history - in some ways the end of innocence for us and our police force." [2]

The mini-series began filming in April 2011, around the same time as Underbelly: Razor . All six episodes were scripted by screenwriter John Banas, known for his work on Australian crime shows such as City Homicide and Blue Heelers . Mike Smith directed four of the episodes, while series producer Ric Pellizzeri took the director's chair for the remaining two. [3] [4] [5]

The show was originally set to debut on 10 August 2011 at 8:30pm, but NZ On Air asked TV3 to move its timeslot to avoid clashing with another local drama, Nothing Trivial, on rival channel TVNZ. Eventually, the show was moved to 9:30pm and broadcast delayed by a week.[ citation needed ]

On 22 September 2011, a day after the TV broadcast ended, the complete series was released as a two-disc set on DVD. [6]

Cast and characters

Underbelly NZ: Land of the Long Green Cloud features 12 regular cast members, with others who recur through the series.

Dan Musgrove stars as the drug dealer, Marty Johnstone, also known as 'Mr. Asia', and Thijs Morris plays his right-hand man, Andy Maher. On the police side, Detective Constable Ben Charlton, the narrator of the series, is played by Jamie Irvine, and Holly Shanahan portrays his colleague, Detective Constable Caroline Derwent. Other members of the regular cast include Andrew Laing as DSS Laurie Mackenzie, Calvin Tuteao as Diamond Jim Shepherd, Damien Avery as Det. 'Goose' Gosling, Richard Knowles as DS 'Ding' Bell, Edith Poor as Bonnie Marie Jones, Gary Young as Chinese Jack, Joel Tobeck as Gary Majors, and Stelios Yiakmis as Big Ari. [7]

The recurring cast includes:

Critical reception

The series was generally well received in New Zealand. Chris Philpott of Stuff.co.nz called it "an interesting, albeit familiar, story focusing on a riveting character on a fascinating journey, that was performed and produced to an extremely high standard." [8] However, some criticised the show for emphasising style over substance, sacrificing character development for a fast-paced story. [9]


No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
1"Disorganised Crime"Mike SmithJohn Banas17 August 2011 (2011-08-17)
Marty Johnstone's small time criminal career gets a big boost when he makes contact with a supplier of Thai cannabis sticks. With his new business associates, Terry Smith and Big Ari, he quickly builds a drug empire. Detectives Ben Charlton and Caroline Derwent help with Marty's arrest, but his lawyer manages to swing bail.
2"Trains 'n' Boats 'n' Planes"Mike SmithJohn Banas24 August 2011 (2011-08-24)
Marty tries his luck in the tough London criminal scene, setting up the smuggling of 75,000 LSD tabs. The Syndicate becomes more organised as Ben and Caroline are assigned to the Special Investigations unit. Marty sets about acquiring his own blue-water capable boat as the police establish an undercover operation.
3"All at Sea"Riccardo PellizzeriJohn Banas31 August 2011 (2011-08-31)
Andy and Marty arrange their first big blue-water shipment out of Thailand, but the enterprise is not without its difficulties. The Special Investigations unit has major setbacks as they try and build a case against the Syndicate, despite a lack of support from above. Josh Easby, a reporter at the Auckland Star, realises he may be onto something big.
4"Marty / Party"Riccardo PellizzeriJohn Banas7 September 2011 (2011-09-07)
Marty is living the high life, but his addictions to cocaine and heroin mean that mistakes are being made. Terry Clark begins plotting to cut Marty out of the New Zealand drug market. Ben and Carole are frustrated by the powers-that-be, and the drug war gets personal when shots are fired at Carole's house. Marty's plan to smuggle heroin by boat goes horribly wrong.
5"Dominoes"Mike SmithJohn Banas14 September 2011 (2011-09-14)
Marty desperately tries to clean himself up in order to get back on top. The Auckland Star investigation continues and it puts pressure on both the police and Marty. Carole's domestic problems continue. Terry has Pommy Harry killed, as the tensions between himself and Marty reach boiling point. As Marty loses more money in bad deals, Terry begins pressuring Andy to kill his old friend.
6"Thirty of Silver / One of Gold"Mike SmithJohn Banas21 September 2011 (2011-09-21)
Andy reluctantly starts the preparations to kill Marty, who is desperately trying to set up one more deal. Carole and Max are reunited. Andy lures Marty to Scotland and kills him, bringing the police case to an abrupt end. Even though Marty never faced the force of the law, he proves to be a catalyst for drastic changes in both crime and policing in New Zealand.

International broadcast

Related Research Articles

<i>Shortland Street</i> New Zealand television soap opera

Shortland Street is a New Zealand prime-time soap opera centering on the fictitious Shortland Street Hospital, first broadcast on TVNZ 2 on 25 May 1992. It is New Zealand's longest-running drama and soap opera, being broadcast continuously for 7,000 episodes and over 28 years, and is one of the most watched television programmes in New Zealand.

Popstars was an international reality television franchise aimed to find new singing talent. Serving as a precursor to the Idol franchise, Popstars first began in New Zealand in 1999 when producer Jonathan Dowling formed the girl group TrueBliss. Despite all shows in the Popstars franchise having been off air in recent years, it remains one of the most successful TV show formats of all time with the format being sold to more than 50 countries. The show was the inspiration for Simon Fuller's Idols franchise.

Merrick Watts Australian comedian

Merrick Watts is an Australian comedian, radio and television presenter. He is best known for performing stand-up comedy and radio works as part of the comedy duo Merrick and Rosso with Tim Ross.

Holly Shanahan is an actress from New Zealand. She is best known for playing Camille in Power Rangers Jungle Fury.

Terry Clark (drug smuggler)

Terrance John Clark (1944–1983), also known by the aliases Terry Sinclair, Alexander James Sinclair, Tony Bennetti, the Australian Jackal and Mr Big, was the head of the Mr Asia drug syndicate, which imported heroin into New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom in the 1970s. In fact, Clark was the 'second' head man of the syndicate and became the lead having successfully plotted the murder of Marty Johnstone, the man who became known as "Mr Asia".

Underbelly is the side of something that is not normally seen. Figuratively, it means a vulnerable or weak part, similar to the term Achilles' heel, or alternatively, a hidden, illicit side of society.

Underbelly, the first series of Australian crime television drama series Underbelly. The thirteen-part series originally aired from 13 February 2008 to 7 May 2008 on the Nine Network and is loosely based on the real events of the 1995–2004 gangland war in Melbourne. It depicts the key players in Melbourne's criminal underworld, including the Carlton Crew and their rival, Carl Williams. The series is based on the book Leadbelly: Inside Australia's Underworld, by journalists John Silvester and Andrew Rule, and borrows its name from the successful Underbelly true crime anthology book series also authored by Silvester and Rule. An alternative and significantly updated tie-in novel, Underbelly: The Gangland War, was released as their 13th book in the series. The series is produced by the Australian Film Finance Corporation, in association with Film Victoria. The executive producers are Des Monaghan and Jo Horsburgh.

Roy Billing New Zealand television actor, now based in Sydney, Australia

Roy Harwood Billing is a New Zealand television actor, now based in Sydney, Australia. He was brought up in Ruawai, Northland, New Zealand.

Police Ten 7 is a New Zealand reality television show, devised, created and produced by Ross Jennings for Screentime with the assistance of the New Zealand Police for TVNZ 2. The show profiles wanted offenders and asks the public (viewers) to help the police in their search for them. In addition, the program follows the work of police officers in their patrols and other police activities.

Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities, the second series of the Nine Network crime drama series Underbelly, originally aired from 9 February 2009 to 4 May 2009. It is a thirteen-part series loosely based on real events that stemmed from the marijuana trade centred on the New South Wales town of Griffith. The timeline of the series is the years between 1976 and 1987. Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities primarily depicts the Mr. Asia drug syndicate and its influence on crime in Australia. Among the characters presented are real-life criminals Robert Trimbole, Terry Clark, George Freeman, Christopher Dale Flannery, Alphonse Gangitano and the Kane Brothers. The mini-series is a prequel to the 2008 production Underbelly, which was about the Melbourne gangland killings and forms part of the Underbelly series.

Underbelly is an Australian television true crime-drama series which first aired on the Nine Network on 13 February 2008 and last aired 1 September 2013. Each series was based on real-life events. There have been six series in total. A 2014 series titled Fat Tony & Co is a sequel to the first series but is not branded under the Underbelly title.

Choice TV is a privately owned, national free-to-air television channel in New Zealand and has been on air since 2012. In November 2014, Canada's Blue Ant Media bought a majority stake in Choice TV, marking the group's first international expansion.

The 2012 New Zealand Television Awards were the new name of the New Zealand television industry awards, following the demise of the Aotearoa Film and Television Awards. The awards were held on Saturday 3 November at The Great Room of the Langham hotel in Auckland, New Zealand, with highlights screening on TV ONE on Sunday 4 November. The New Zealand Television Awards took a similar format to the previous Qantas Television Awards, honouring excellence in New Zealand television and television journalism. This was the final New Zealand television awards presentation organised by Think TV, after Television New Zealand withdrew its support in 2013.

The 2003 New Zealand Television Awards was staged on Friday 22 August 2003 in Auckland, New Zealand. Honouring excellence in New Zealand television for the previous year, the awards ceremony was hosted by TV presenter Jason Gunn and was sponsored by the newly established government agency New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. Highlights of the event were later broadcast on TV ONE. This was to be the final awards organised by the New Zealand Academy of Film and Television Arts. No awards were held in 2004, with the New Zealand Television Broadcasters Council organising the new Qantas Television Awards in 2005.

Agent Anna is a New Zealand comedy-drama television series, created by Maxine Fleming with Vanessa Alexander and devised by Robyn Malcolm. It is produced by Great Southern Film and Television and funded by NZ on Air and Television New Zealand. It began airing its first series of six episodes in New Zealand on 31 January 2013. NZ on Air announced on 12 August 2013 that the show received funding for a second series of 10 episodes.

<i>Hounds</i> (TV series) New Zealand television series

Hounds is a New Zealand television comedy series, written, produced and directed by The Down Low Concept.

Fat Tony & Co. is a nine-episode Australian television series focusing on Tony Mokbel and covers the manhunt which lasted 18 months and dismantled a drug empire. It premiered on 23 February 2014 and concluded on 6 April 2014 on the Nine Network. It is technically a part of the Underbelly franchise, with various actors reprising their role from previous series.

Jamie Irvine is a New Zealand actor who has appeared in theatre productions, films and television.


Screentime is an Australian television production company, which develops and produces scripted and unscripted television programs in Australia and New Zealand. The company has produced numerous popular series including Popstars, the Underbelly format, RBT and Janet King.


  1. "Episode guide". Underbelly: A tale of two cities. Nine Network . Retrieved 23 January 2012.
  2. "Press Releases: New Platinum Fund TV projects announced". New Zealand on Air. 21 December 2010. Archived from the original on 19 February 2014. Retrieved 23 January 2012.
  3. "Underbelly NZ: The Land of the Long Green Cloud". Australian Television Information Guide. Retrieved 23 January 2012.
  4. "Screentime - Underbelly NZ". Screentime. Retrieved 23 January 2012.
  5. "John Banas on IMDb". IMDb . Retrieved 23 January 2012.
  6. "Underbelly NZ: Land of the Long Green Cloud (2 Disc Set)". Mighty Ape. Retrieved 23 January 2012.
  7. "Underbelly NZ: The Land of the Long Green Cloud: Episode Guide". Australian Television Information Guide. Retrieved 23 January 2012.
  8. Chris Philpott (22 September 2011). "Wrapping up the latest Underbelly series". Stuff.co.nz . Retrieved 23 January 2012.
  9. "Review – Underbelly NZ: Land Of The Long Green Cloud". Change the Channel. 18 August 2011. Archived from the original on 7 January 2012. Retrieved 23 January 2012.
  10. Knox, David (23 December 2013). "Airdate: Underbelly NZ". TV Tonight . Retrieved 23 December 2013.