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An ode to Italian television

Italy is of course renowned for its great public architecture, its dazzling roster of artists and sculptors, its fantastic food and wine, elegantly-dressed citizens and of course some of the most crooked politicians on the planet. Well, last week, during a trip to Malta when I had a chance to surf over some television channels, I realised that there is an even greater glory of Italian culture – its tv shows.

OK, I am being only half-serious, but Italian television is so funny, so crass, so brassy, and so choc-full of dazzingly gorgeous women and cheesy male presenters that I grin whenever I think about it. You cannot fail to feel good and be amused by it.

One of the things I dislike about much British television is just how depressing it is. Our terrible soap operas, with their tragic sense of life and victim culture, are the worst, but much else is also awful. Not so with Italian television.

Of course it is brazenly vulgar and silly. The moral scolds of the far left and far right would loathe it. But such folk, who share more in common than they would like to admit, miss the point that a certain amount of vulgarity is a sign of health, a suggestion of a level of dynamism in a culture. And judging by Italian tv, Italy is in rude good health.

And of course much of it is owned by the arch-villain of the Guardianista classes and my favourite Italian politician, Silvio Berlusconi. Belissimo!!!!

(Mind you, this guy takes a different view)

Elizabet Canalis on Italian TV

9 comments to An ode to Italian television

  • If you really wanted vulgarity you should have carried on watching TVM and Super One.

    Did you eat any octopus?

  • Noreen


    Believe me, MTV and Super One aren’t as entertaining. We had l-Istrina on for most of the time, attempting to collect over a million maltese liri for charity. Only they didn’t have the gorgeous maltese females dancing and presenting, but all the famous (!!!) and politicians in their glory, dressed in drag and attempting ballet ! Ouch. Roll on Rai Uno, Due o Tre and Rete Quattro any time.

    Octopus is a bit hard to find at Christmas time, so we had lovely lampuki pie and baracuda.

  • Mexico to America is Italy to Britain. The only show that I like to watch in Britain is Ab Fab–it may be highly vulgar at times, but I like the nastiness of it.

  • Sigivald

    Cecile beat me to it; from your description, Italian TV sounds just like Mexican TV.

  • Tony H

    Sounds fun. The worst foreign TV I’ve seen was in Portugal, Finland, and the USA – though the only programme I watch regularly here in UK is ER, a superbly produced item. Sure, UK TV is pretty bad, especially the grot-fest of domestic soap opera referred to above (seedy, uninviting, inarticulate proles expressing their angst-filled relationships in horrible accents) and celebrity-infested novelty shows; but most of the rest is even worse. German TV (though it has lots of crass US import trash, badly dubbed) can be good, especially the children’s stuff. My vote for most fun on Brit screens is Antoine de Caunes. And why hasn’t someone asassinated Oprah Winfrey?

  • Cobden Bright

    If you want nubile young wenches, why watch TV and fund a clueless prick like Berlusconi? Just dial into some internet porn channel and have far more fun.

  • Verity

    This is going to get Tony H’s dander up, but the worst, the very, very worst television in the world – the TV nadir of the cosmos – is French TV. The stupidity and ineptitude are mind-shrivelling.

    They have endless, endless talk shows and the same three “celebrities” (I’m guessing someone’s heard of them) appear on all of them all the time. And get this for slick professionalism: the host and guests sit with their backs to the audience facing the cameras. So the people in the audience, having nothing to look at except the performers’ backs, take to looking at the TV monitors to try to spot themselves in the audience. So from the POV of the viewer at home, you are looking at a talentless and witless host talking to some opinionated “celebrities” and in the background, people in the audience craning to get on camera and then pointing themselves out to their friends, and posturing the posing.

    ‘The Weakest Link’ is not bad because it is copied, down to the farewell wink, from the British – except last week the contestants were 13 Johnny Halliday impressionists. Yes, there are 13 people in the world who want to look like Johnny Halliday. They got zero euros in the first round. In the second round, they made it up to 3000 euros, but as they all forgot to say ‘banque’, they lost it. Even as chewing gum for the mind, this does not work.

    Other than the quiz shows and the talk shows, it is dubbed movies and dubbed American and British TV series (they’re still running Columbo and Dallas). They even have a dubbed German production of Maigret. Sorry, Tony, but I win this round!

  • Tony H

    Verity, surely you don’t think I’m some rabid Francophile who will spring to the defence of French TV? Sure, it stinks – but I don’t rate it quite as low as the countries I mentioned…
    “Weakest Link” is “not bad” – ? Good grief! I hate it, just the sort of cruel, schadenfreude-laden stuff that I can see turning one day into contestants being tortured to death for the TV audience.
    And what’s so awful about Johnny Halliday? I mean, compared to the creepy Cliff Richard, or the thoroughly deceased Elvis Presley? The latter’s imitators can’t be any less embarrassing, surely? I once heard excerpts from a hilarious LP collection of Elvis impersonations, the best being a rendition of I’m All Shook Up, by one Hound-Dog Fujimoto…

  • Has “Firefly” been syndicated on British TV?