Sunday 29 October 2023

Streaming on SBS On Demand - HIDDEN ASSETS (Two Series, Showrunner Peter McKenna, Ireland/Belgium, 2021- ) & KIN ( Two Series, Created and written by Peter McKenna, Ireland, 2021-)

Charlie Cox, Ciaran Hinds, Kin

Aha Peter McKenna. ... A name to conjure with. Full Forward for Collingwood for 13 years and 838 goals before  playing a final season with Carlton and 36 goals. Never played in a premiership side, though he did win the Coleman Medal twice, though not in 1969 and 1971 when he kicked 143 and 134 goals respectively. Hudson beat him both years.

Peter McKenna

Collingwood of course was once the domain of John Wren who made his money running an illegal tote  down in its very dirty backblocks of the day. Wren loved the football club and Wikipedia informs us that he was well known for supporting exemplary Collingwood players in the VFL's  pre-professionalised era. While players were paid a per-game salary, the amount was meagre until the late 20th century when the sport became professionalised. To compensate for this, Wren was known to send monetary gifts to players who performed well, often paying ten to twenty times the normal game salary to certain Collingwood players. Among the beneficiaries included Collingwood legend Gordon Coventry after he scored a then-record 16 goals in a game in 1929; however, in his case, League Laws prevented him from doing this, so he exploited a loophole by gifting 50 quid to Coventry's wife (A$1,995 in 2018 terms) to buy a suite of furniture. In the thirties when, as now though not so easily, money could help buy a premiership, Collingwood won a lot including four in a row from 1927 to 1930, the only time it has ever been done in VFL/AFL history. 

Wikipedia tells us the tote eventually earned Wren £20,000 per year (A$2,646,000 in 2021 terms). Wren's wealth also caused other family dysfunction problems and once again Wikipedia lays it out simply "Others of his children had troubled lives. His son Anthony committed suicide after being disinherited following an argument with Wren, while his daughter-in-law Nora and grandchildren only received a meagre allowance. When another of Wren's grandchildren, Susan Wardlaw, died, her two brothers had her buried without notifying her husband Greg, who was then given 24 hours to leave the family home, while another of Wren's daughters, Angela, purportedly died of malnutrition when she was 39, leaving an estate worth £97,000.

My goodness. You could write a book or make a TV series out of it though I'm not sure that Peter McKenna despite his post-footy media career would have been up for it.

But Peter McKenna (no relation, above) is these days the author of two terrific crime series made in Ireland and now streaming on SBS. McKenna however might be channelling something from Collingwood and Wren's past with his tales of dysfunction, betrayal and sheer brutality among a couple of Irish crime families. Kin is the more ferocious of the two. You get the impression it might be written from close hand observation or knowledge. In each series there is one crime lord who stops at nothing to have his way. The body count piles up throughout. In series one that lord is played by the wonderful Ciaran Hinds as Eamonn Cunningham, a rival of and supplier to the Kinsella family and in series two, having been set up at the end of series one he's played by Francis Magee as Bren Kinsella,  fresh out of prison and more violently psychotic than anybody else on screen. (Spolier alert). Things dont turn out well for either.

In the meantime, it's the women of the family who have the most intriguing parts  as wives, sisters, mothers, children and lovers. In most circumstances they are just smarter and more subtle than the blokes, with the possible exception of Michael Kinsella (Charlie Cox), also fresh out of prison and shortly thereafter committing another murder. Must see stuff.

Wouter Hendrickx, Angeline Ball, Hidden Assets

With Hidden Assets you get the impression that McKenna probably had a research team to help with the intricacies of money laundering, technical police investigation involving a lot of banging away at computers followed by 'gotcha' moments, and the various bits of business chicanery that take place in Ireland and Belgium. There's also the background of a false flag terrorist operation and the involvement of a populist/racist but corrupt politician. But again it's family betrayal, dysfunction and retribution that keep you on edge. However, the cops are much more prominent in this one, especially the Belgian detective Christian De Jonge (Wouter Hendrickx). Strangely the Irish female cop in series one is only referred to as having 'got a promotion to Madrid' to explain her absence in series two. Maybe the character,  the rather abrasive Detective Sergeant Emer Berry (Angeline Ball) didn't play well with the focus groups. Similarly terrific. 

Our Peter McKenna has long left the footy and media scene. Their Peter McKenna seems likely to develop a following. Perhaps next a series about Irish crims in Melbourne. You could start with a roman a clef about John Wren.

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