Kerry Packer and friends invaded Australian houses again on Sunday night. And like all intruders, they were loud, angry and uncompromising, and refused to let us off the couch until their demands were met.
Following on from a memorable introduction, the second instalment of Howzat: Kerry Packer’s War is enjoyable without hitting the peaks of the first episode. With the focus shifting away from the Australian Cricket Board and towards the internal conflicts within the rebel World Series Cricket group, there is less intrigue to the second and final part of this Australian mini-series.
Instead of siding with Packer’s (Lachy Hulme) underdogs, the audience could just as easily find themselves hating Packer for his malevolent behaviour. Packer throws endless hissy fits, displaying unreasonable verbal brutality to his colleague Gavin Warner (Craig Hall). There are few redeeming character traits to Packer, whose bossy and stubborn demeanour remain a constant throughout both episodes.
Packer’s minions aren’t much better. Australia’s World Series captain Ian Chappell (Clayton Watson) takes on a more prominent role, forging a bitter rivalry with present-day colleague Tony Greig (Alexander England). This is just one sub-plot in what seems like quite a convoluted finale. Thankfully, competent acting and clever music selections ensure the mini-series doesn’t lose too much of its first-episode momentum.
While the first episode arguably appealed to the wider TV population, the second instalment is one primarily for the cricket lovers. Real footage from the 1970s is interspersed with dramatic recreations from the ensemble cast, while all the cricket scenes appear to be filmed on location.
Moreover, there are plenty of Easter eggs for the avid cricket enthusiast. Mouths will water as Dennis Lillee tests out the different coloured cricket balls. And shivers will run down spines during the “C’mon Aussie C’mon” scene, when a songwriter – played by the ever-loveable Angus Sampson – pens the iconic Australian anthem.
The biggest elephant in the room, however, is the Nine Network. As both the broadcaster of the mini-series and the corporation under Packer’s reign, the scheduling of this programming is a marketer’s dream. While much of the film disgraces the station’s now-deceased owner, this is well and truly compensated by some less-than-subtle product placements.
Furthermore, with Packer’s World Series Cricket format now threatened by a newer and shinier cricket alternative, one can’t help but suspect the producers have the upcoming summer of cricket schedule at the forefront of their minds.
Part 2 of Howzat: Kerry Packer’s War was broadcast on the Nine Network on 26 August.