Underbelly is a 13-part Australian television mini-series, retelling the real events of the 1995–2004 gangland war in Melbourne. The series is based on the book Leadbelly: Inside Australia's Underworld, by The Age journalists John Silvester and Andrew Rule. Underbelly began screening on 13 February 2008 on the Nine Network in all states and territories except Victoria, due to a court injunction. An edited version of the series premiered in Victoria on 14 September 2008 after the injunction was partially lifted, although only the first five episodes were shown.The series depicts the key players in Melbourne's criminal underworld, including the Carlton Crew and their rival, Carl Williams. Underbelly is produced by the Australian Film Finance Corporation, in association with Film Victoria.The executive producers are Des Monaghan and Jo Horsburgh
The lead-up to Underbelly involved a heavy marketing campaign which covered radio, print, billboards and an increased online presence, including the use of social networking tools At a reported cost of $500,000, both this marketing investment and potentially millions of dollars in advertising revenue were claimed to be put at risk by the Victorian Supreme Court's injunction, as the series was expected to attract 800,000 to 1 million viewers in Victoria alone. The injunction was put in place to ensure that upcoming criminal trials were not unfair to the accused, because the series contained fictionalised re-enactments of several disputed events. Underbelly was a critical and ratings success when ultimately aired,being described as "Australia's best ever crime drama". The opening double episodes, which aired on 13 February, attracted an average of 1,320,000 viewers nationally, minus Victoria
Every episode of the 13-part series was soon made available for download on a range of sites, with the Nine Network saying it was considering legal action. The legal DVD of Underbelly was released on 8 May 2008, a day after the final episode was aired on television. Due to the legal suppression, the release was not able to be distributed through any retail or rental outlets in Victoria or on the internet. The Nine Network then aired a second season, prequel to the series, entitled Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities and recently commissioned a third season, expected to begin airing at the beginning of 2010.