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Howzat! Kerry Packer's War

Howzat! Kerry Packer’s War

Mon Jul 8, 9-10.30pm, BBC4

By Phil Harrison
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Episode one
In the unlikely event of England losing this summer’s Ashes series against Australia, patriotic Poms will at least have this to fall back on. When it comes to TV dramas, the Aussies still can’t claim a place at the top table. This two-parter, telling the story of the Kerry Packer affair, is at best, a mildly entertaining, inadvertently hilarious romp.

For the uninitiated, Packer was an unfeasibly wealthy businessman who launched World Series Cricket in the late ’70s as direct competition to the game’s established structure. WSC was responsible for innovations including coloured clothing, white balls, day/night games and stump mics. Furthermore, it offered cricketers a proper wage after years of approximate parity with the men who pushed the sightscreens into place.

It’s actually an eminently dramatisable tale, with enough underdog intrigue to hook cricket lovers and sceptics alike. But this drama feels like a telemovie, with Lachy Hulme’s Packer veering wildly between two modes – foulmouthed bully and self-pitying sentimentalist – and seeming thoroughly dislikeable in the process. As for the cricketers themselves, rakish expressions, lavish facial hair and a permanently raging thirst seem to be the sole qualifications for casting. A decent time-passer, but jeez, the cultural cringe isn’t going anywhere…
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