Underbelly NZ: Land of the Long Green Cloud is a New Zealand spinoff of the Australian Underbelly series based on the "Mr. Asia" syndicate led by Christopher Martin "Marty" Johnstone, based on events which took place in New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Thailand, and the United Kingdom, between 1972 and 1980.
Analogous to the Australian series Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities, this Kiwi spinoff focuses on the story of Marty Johnstone (played by Dan Musgrove) and his rise from petty thief to drug lord, and his eventual demise—along with that of the drug syndicate he helped create. Marty, along with Heterosexual Life-Partner Andy Maher (played by Thijs Morris), with the help of "Chinese Jack", begin importing Thai Buddha sticks into New Zealand, setting up their initial success. They then take Terry Clark (played by Erroll Shand) under their wing; however, Clark has an agenda of his own.
The show also shines a spotlight on the changes forced upon the New Zealand Police which, up until then, had been completely incompetent to deal with the influx of weed and heroin brought into Aotearoa. Only through the efforts of Detective Constables Ben Charlton (Jamie Irvine) and Carole Derwent (Holly Shanahan), along with a team of plucky Auckland Star reporters led by Pat Booth (Jason Hoyte), does the Police have a chance at stopping the trade.
Unlike most Underbelly shows, Land of the Long Green Cloud featured only six episodes instead of the usual thirteen, possibly because other parts of the story had been already told in A Tale of Two Cities. The series aired between August and September 2011 on New Zealand's TV3. The cast consisted mainly of local Kiwi actors and was filmed entirely around Auckland.
Tropes Associated With Underbelly NZ: Land of the Long Green Cloud:
- Action Mom: Carole. She's in a relationship and has two children.
- Affably Evil: Marty. His name "rhymes with party."
- Anyone Can Die: Played straight with both minor and major characters on the show.
- Based on a True Story: Like all Underbelly shows.
- Briefcase Full of Money: Seen several times throughout the show.
- California Doubling: New Zealand doubling for Thailand, Singapore, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Spain, no less.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Given that so many Syndicate members were jockeying for top spots, this was inevitable. It comes to a head when Terry Clark takes over after Marty is murdered.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Andy Maher is fond of this trope. So is Jimmy Smith in the finale.
- Composite Character: Ben and Carole, and perhaps several of their colleagues, are composite characters based on real-life New Zealand Police detectives working on the Mr. Asia case. The character of Gary Majors is based on Peter Fulcher, a real-life Mr. Asia syndicate member that was alive during production of the show. He later died of emphysema at age 71.
- Crapsack World: Although Marty and his mates are seen enjoying their success in the drug trade, lives begin falling apart. People begin dying of heroin overdose; syndicate members are often scrutinized by leadership; and bodies begin to pile up when they've failed or for breaking off from the main group. Worse yet, the police are often powerless to do anything about it, and those who they do arrest are often quickly released.
- Deadpan Snarker: Ben in spades. Detectives "Goose" Gosling and "Ding" Bell also fit this at times.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Failure within the Syndicate is rewarded with beatings and sometimes death.
- Drugs Are Bad: Played straight. Characters are either dead because of drug overdose or, indirectly, because of backstabbing and greed involved in the drug trade. Some are even murdered because they got high off their own supply.
- Et Tu, Brute?: Andy betrays Marty by killing him on the way to Glasgow on the pretense of a major drug deal.
- Foregone Conclusion: Given that the series was based on actual events, it's clear that Marty ends up broke, disgraced, and later dead at the hands of his best friend and business partner Andy.
- Foreshadowing: After Marty tells Andy that he's his "best mate" in the pilot, he replies that this is where Marty goes down and that "there's no such thing as mates" in crime. Turns out, he's right. In fact, he kills Marty in the finale.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Marty and Andy, until Andy killed him.
- Hurricane of Puns: Oh, so many, especially in the earlier episodes. But it got better.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: An Underbelly staple makes it across the Tasman. Only the major characters get their names shown on screen.
- The Narrator: Ben.
- The Nicknamer: Pat Booth. Due to legal reasons, he could not print Marty Johnstone's name in The Auckland Star, so he coined the nickname "Mr. Asia" instead. Of course, Marty knew that it applied to him.
- Official Couple: Doug & Isabel Wilson. Marty and Bonnie Marie Jones were this for a while.
- Oh, and X Dies: Done with Greg Ollard, Julie Theilman, Doug & Isabel Wilson, and "Pommy" Harry Lewis—all who were murdered either directly or indirectly by Terry Clark, an associate of Marty's.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: During the last two episodes, it becomes quite evident as to who can hold down a passable Scottish accent, and who, well, can't.
- One Steve Limit: Averted. There are two female characters named Julie: Julie Theilman (played by Olivia Tennet), who is a courier working for Terry Clark and a drug addict, and Julie Hue (played by Sophia Huybens), a Scottish friend of Andy's who becomes Marty's girlfriend after he broke up with Bonnie Marie Jones.
- Police Are Useless: And how. New Zealand Police had many restrictions in what they could do to bring criminals like Marty to justice. Syndicate members are often arrested, only to be released days later. The escalating drug trade eventually led to increased police powers by the time the Syndicate was dissolved.
- Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: Marty, who often spends money on the finest luxury goods, even as he fails to meet his own financial obligations to his associates. Coupled with his newfound love for cocaine, this is seen as the beginning of his downfall.
- Ship Tease: Ben and Carole, though Ben had a brief relationship with another female officer, and Carole had already been in a relationship and was a mother of two.
- The Starscream: Terry Clark. He went from setting up his own heroin operation (with Marty's knowledge) to eventually taking over the syndicate in Australia, and even setting up Marty's murder.
- Stock Footage: Archived footage is sometimes used in between live shots.
- The Syndicate: Well, duh. In fact, the "Mr. Asia" Syndicate was the first of its kind in New Zealand and had international reach as far out as the United Kingdom.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Ben confronts a fellow New Zealand Police detective after he found out he had been sabotaging police operations while working undercover within the Syndicate, even getting high off some supplies.