Italian television is infested with big shows, quizzes and melodramatic series. This does not only hold for Berlusconi’s commercial Mediaset channels, but for the public Rai broadcasts as well. It is the domain of old men and young largely nude girls, the veline. Hardly worth watching, unless you like young nude girls or want to practice your Italian language skills. Or both at the same time. To improve your idiom the early evening quiz called L’eredità is a good choice though.
Suburra, the tv series
Strangely enough the Rai every now and does succeed in producing a high quality tv series, like Il capo dei capi about Toto Riina. And the Montalbano crime series based on Andrea Camillieri’s popular novels is very entertaining as well. And now there is the brand new Suburra serie about the drugs, white collar crime and mafia scene of Rome. An excellent production, based on the novel by Carlo Bonini and the earlier movie with the same title.
The name suburra nowadays denotes any city quarter of ill repute, but originates from the ancient Roman Suburra zone, the current Quartiere Monti. A piazza Suburra still exists. The name seems to originate from the lower position of the quarter with respect to the rest of the city: sub urbe. It was a very dangerous zone in ancient Roman times, but nevertheless a man like Caesar was born there. The Subarra zone remained a bad area till modern times but now the gentrification has set in. The quarter has become popular, also because of its central position.
The series are highly recommended for the excellent storyline and great acting of the fairly unknown and young actors. The production is directed by Michele Placido, internationally known for his role in the ’80s La Piovra mafia series. As a viewer you get a good insight how corruption works on all levels of administration, from the streets of the suburra up to the rooms of the Vatican. It is clearly shown how dangerously easy it is to become involved in the mafiose practices. And once you are in, you can never get out again and your life is always at risk. Survival is a very difficult game with all the different protagonists acting in a unpredictable way. The viewer is treated with some beautiful imaginery as well, such as spectacular architecure form the fascist era EUR quarter of Rome.
Highly recommended and available on Netflix. You will need the subtitles even if you understand quite a lot of Italian because the dialect in which the characters express themselves is impossibly difficult.