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  • 10 Surprising Facts about Italian TV
    As this writer rocks her baby boy back to sleep in the middle of the night, she gets schooled in Italy's television viewing habits
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    My husband and I are finally in Italy, and this time we brought along our six-month-old son. Between baby boy's inability to sleep through the night and his jet lag, I have had many a sleepless night here. What's a mamma to do while breastfeeding or rocking baby boy back to sleep? Well, watch Italian TV, of course. In doing so, I've gotten quite an education. Here, I share what I've learned. These are 10 facts about Italian TV you probably didn't know:

    10. Even in Italy, you can watch Law & Order just about any time of the day. Of course, Lenny and the judges will be dubbed in Italian.

    9. If you are watching television in southern Italy, particularly near Naples, you will also be able to see the comedian Toto all night long. The legend's films are a staple of television viewing in these here parts.

    8. You might enjoy sitcoms, action, mysteries, dramedies, and you can see them all here. But you'll also add another genre to the list – nostalgia TV. Favorite Italian hosts – from Massimo to Carlito – host programs that let Italians relive everything from their favorite music to soccer championships of yesteryear. Viewers can wax nostalgic at least once per night, sometimes more.

    7. Anyone who wants to catch up on Teen Moms or the Jersey Shore can do so – and in English with subtitles – on MTV. Seeing the Situation gripe about how everyone hates him, Snooki's hoo-ha, and Sam and Ronnie go at it while the teen moms are dumbfounded that the fathers of their babies are irresponsible low lives might help Americans feel at home.

    6. Vampires are getting big here, too. There are fangs all over the place.

    5. Baywatch is like a train wreck here, too. No matter how many years ago it was popular or how ridiculous the storyline (who believes David Hasselhoff – the guy in that horrendous drunken video with the hamburger on the floor – is so together that he can save a different life everyday?), you can't help but watch. And you can watch it over and over again because they usually run three to four episodes in a row.

    4. Your favorite Italian actors – think about all the characters on RAI's Un Posto al Sole who you love – have been in many other programs and films over the years. And most of their previous work was rather embarrassing. The nice thing about Italy is that they never let them live it down because they re-run it all, especially in the middle of the night. The good news is that they re-run a lot of the good stuff, too. For instance, Vento di Ponente, which had two lovers, Francesca and Marco, from opposing families, fighting their urge to be together, is on in the evenings during the week here, years after it first aired.

    3. Italians like to watch people fail miserably, too. Wipeout and the Italian version of Deal or No Deal are also hits here. Isn't it nice to know you can feel good about yourself by making others feel badly no matter what country you're in?

    2. Italian TV shows, such as La Squadra, have amazing direction and cinematography. They shoot on location in the actual places in which the scene takes place with lots of actual outdoor shots. This is something American TV almost never does. To save money, sets are usually used and actors shoot TV shows that are supposed to take place in New York in California. It's wacky and we know it. Despite this commitment to producing beautiful scenes in Italy, some of the TV stations will still use tape that must be 100 years old because it's grainy, with funky colors, and sometimes there are even wavy lines running through your screen when you try to watch an old film. I guess it's part of the charm of watching something from years ago, right? If you say that enough, you'll convince yourself.

    1. This one is wild. You'll be thrilled to find your favorite old sitcoms, such as The Jeffersons, Diff'rent Strokes, and The Cosby Show. It goes back to that whole nostalgic ambience around here. But you might not know what you're watching at first. Many of the shows have completely different names. The Jeffersons is the same, but Diff'rent Strokes is called Il Mio Amico Arnold, and The Cosby Show is unrecognizable. It's called I Robinsons. In fact, the Huxtable clan is not the Huxtables at all. They are re-named the Robinsons for the Italian version of the show, which is dubbed. It took some getting used to, but when baby boy wakes me from my slumber at midnight, I tune into I Robinsons. It makes me feel like I'm watching Nick at Nite back home in the States.

    Di Meglio is the Guide to Newlyweds for, and you can follow her life and work at the Two Worlds Web site.

    Article Published 4/16/12


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