Italian TV Programs Life & Style

11/10/2011 by Yuan Zhong China

Recently, I met a British lady who teaches English in Rome. She has been living here for over a year. She told me that she misses watching her own country's TV programs. I perfectly understood her. I, myself, am a big fan of BBC. We started to discuss Italian TV programs and reached a common conclusion: We, being women, find it hard to accept this phenomenon, watching Italian women on TV, no matter at what age from 18 to 70, wearing high heel shoes, mini skirts, heavy make-up like layers of cake, and exposing their breasts(some naturally built, I believe, others artificial) as much as your eyeballs can take. Worst of all, these women standing with male hosts on the stage are often the objects to be make fun of.
The most common free broadcasting TV channels in Italy are Rai and Mediaset.
RAI Radiotelevisione Italiana, known as Radio Audizioni Italiane until 1954, is the Italian state owned public service broadcaster controlled by the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance. RAI is the biggest television company in Italy. It competes with three major private television companies, Mediaset, Telecom Italia Media, and Sky Italia.
I have been watching a certain types of TV programs on Rai channels which I'd like to make comments on regarding different aspects.
News reporters on Rai often hold a 4-form size leaflet in hands and they drop their eyelids to read news on the papers. It's an act which I'm not used at all. I can't recall when and where I saw a news reporter read news like that for the very last time before moving to Rome, Italy. Thus, I did not reserve my curiosity to raise my question after I got to know an Italian friend named Cristina. She was surprised and confessed to me that news reading on TV doesn't bother her at all , even when I pointed it out to her now, she wouldn't consider a change is needed. Later on, I met a TV news reporter from Belgium and I mentioned to him the Italian way of reading news on TV. He stated that it's indeed a curious case but Italy does keep some specific features which are different from other EU countries.
Rai Channels, in general, hardly provide exciting nor interesting programs. But there is one program that impressed me deeply. It's on Rai 3, every Saturday evening from nine to eleven, seasonal. The name of the program is "Ulysse", and TV presentator is Alberto Angela. The first time I watched his program was some time in 2008. Today I still could recall the episode I watched then. It was about Pompeii, an ancient town well established long before it came under Roman hegemony. On August 24, 79AD, Vesuvius unexpectedly awoke, and the violence of the eruptions brought one of the biggest disasters in the human history. Pompeii, one of the nearby towns which was hit the most terribly, entirely remained buried under a layer of more than six meters deep, from which hardly any humans as well as animals were able to escape. Not until the18th century, the buried town was uncovered and came miraculously to light. Nowaday, the archaeological site of Pompeii attracts millions of visitors from all over the world. The three-hour long documentary TV program showcased Pompeii with historical evidence as well as the technical method of modern research . It was a great film.
Since then, I followed some of the "Ulysse" episodes. Later on, I got to know an Austrian diplomat who is currently posted in Rome. He told me that he had been watching Alberto Angela's program since he was a high school student in Austria, which means in the early 1990's. In fact, the program he watched then was called "Super Quak" which was more in the direction of science, created by Alberto's father Piero. By the time when Alberto took over the program, history and human interaction blended into it, making it more a story-telling style. The Austrian diplomat was learning Italian when he started to watch the program. He is fluent in Italian after graduating from college, majoring in Italian language and literature. Recently, he managed to get an autograph of Alberto by buying his newly published book on the Roman Empire.
I had no idea how to justify Italian humor until I started to watch the program of "I Soliti Idioti" (The usual idiots) on MTV Italia channel. It is an Italian sitcom (situation comedy) broadcasted by MTV Italia. The protagonists are the various characters of the sitcom starring Francesco Mandelli and Fabrizio Biggio, transmitted for the first time on 12 February 2009, up to date airing 38 episodes in total.
Each episode consists of unique sketches in which each of the two protagonists appear, played by Mandelli and Biggio, with the appearance of extras that are sometimes inherent to the story but almost never interact directly with the main characters. They in general reflect daily life in Italy, i.e. father and son's relationship, routine office job, inefficient post office service, etc. Among these the two-gays sketch and the two catholic fathers sketch are the most extraordinary. A gay couple tries in every way to have a child, which results in ridicule as most of the time they ask the pharmacist for the meter to check for pregnancy.The other sketch consists of two men of the church (Father Boy and Father George) who work at the Vatican, showing other priests and the Pope the most extravagant ways to increase the consent of the public towards the Catholic church and Jesus Christ.
In one way or another , humor could be the most effective weapon in mankind. Whatever humor, British, Chinese, Jewish, or Italian, it makes its people laugh, think and then perhaps change.
"I isoliti idioti" defintely made people who understand Italian society and culture laugh and think, and probably a bit of change is happening. It's the hardest thing to measure.
In short, "Ulysse" is the program mainly focuses on culture and history, meanwhile "I isoliti idioti " showcasing daily life of Italians in an amusing way. For outisders, the above two programs are the ideal combination to get a true glimpse of Italia.

Yuan Zhong China

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