Heady days of Packer circus brought to life

The music, the moustaches, the wide ties and the short Stubbies - the 1970s nostalgia hits you for six in Howzat! Kerry Packer's War.

And that's well before we hear the World Series Cricket anthem, C'Mon Aussie C'Mon, which the Nine Network has exploited ad nauseum during the London Olympics to hype its dramatisation of Packer's one-day cricket revolution.

Howzat!, made by the producers of the ABC ratings hit Paper Giants, premieres on WIN TV on Sunday, August 19, at 8.30pm. The two-part drama is slick, entertaining and occasionally engrossing, but it's no documentary, with viewers advised that certain characters and events are fictional or have been changed for ''dramatic effect''.

Lachy Hulme heads the cast with a full-blooded portrait of the bullish media mogul who was branded a ''barbarian'' by the cricket establishment in the mid-1970s.

Classified ''M'' for mature viewers, Howzat! shows Packer's volcanic temper erupting in torrents of profanity as his recruits, including England captain Tony Greig, are banned.

The magnate's humour and self-doubt are also explored, including unexpectedly touching scenes with Delvene Delaney (played by Canberra's Cariba Heine).

As Howzat! tells it, the Sale of the Century star's husband, John Cornell - better known as Paul Hogan's TV sidekick ''Strop'' - originally pitched Packer the idea of a private cricket competition to boost the paltry pay packets of Test players.

''So what I've got here is a couple of f---ing comedians coming to me with a major business deal,'' Packer bellows.

All the key figures in the on- and off-field drama are represented, with Canberra's own Offspring hunk Matthew Le Nevez playing Dennis Lillee, Love My Way's Brendan Cowell as Rod Marsh and Balibo's Damon Gameau as Greg Chappell.

Abe Forsythe plays Cornell and Travis McMahon is Hoges. The actors capture the larrikin essence of these famous Australians.

The producers seamlessly splice TV footage of the 1977 Centenary Test at the MCG, among other famous matches, with recreations featuring their lookalike cast.

Authenticity is further aided by a soundtrack of 1970s jukebox classics by The Angels, John Paul Young, Air Supply and Sniff 'n' the Tears.

The story Heady days of Packer circus brought to life first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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