The most popular of all homemade TV series in Italy is without a doubt Il Commissario Montalbano, a crime TV drama which has a ’share’ of 45% as the Italians call it. This means that half of the population watches each new episode.
A crime tv drama situated in Sicily
The character of the moody Sicilian police investigator Salvo Montalbano was invented by writer Andrea Camilleri, now in his eighties. His books about the moody cop became so popular the Rai decided to start a series about him some 15 years ago. Each puntata, episode has the length of a full movie and every year only a few new ones are released. The stories all are situated in the ficticious city of Vigata in Sicily. The home of Montalbano plays an important role in the series and actually lies in the city of Porto Empedocle. It has become a major tourist spot and the city has recently decided to rename itself to Porto Empedocle-Vigata. The house was turned into a bed and breakfast so you have the chance to sleep in Montalbano’s bed. Unfortunately without the good-looking commissario, played by actor Luca Zingaretti (his look-alike brother is in politics and has just been chosen regional governor for the second time).
Italian customs and humor
The series largely achieved its popularity, I think, as a result of the humor with which the author has spiced his stories. It is also a comedy of typically Italian customs and therefore very interesting for expats like me. Montalbano e.g. is a goloso, a food addict and considers his time for lunch and dinner as sacred, more important than his real work. And so in the series, of course, he is constantly disturbed while eating. When his single favorite restaurant has to close Montalbano isn’t sorry for the owner but angry because he denies him his holy lunch. „E adesso, che faccio? And now what am I to do?” he asks the owner in an accusing tone.
A moral dilemma … of sorts
And of course all male characters in the series are womanizers, Montalbano’s colleague Augello (Mimì) being the expert. Although engaged he has affairs with lots of women, sometimes with those under investigation! His crisis arrives when his fiancee is expecting him to ask her to marry her. What should he do? He doesn’t want to lose her but once married he cannot possibly continue having affairs. Or at least not that many … a moral dilemma! In panic he consults Montalbano who as a man that recognizes the problem takes it seriously but also makes fun of it.
The very intriguing Sicilian music of Olivia Sellerio has elements of Arabic, Jewish and gypsy tradition, reflecting the island’s history as a melting pot of all Mediterranean cultures. It reminds one of the compositions of Fellini’s one-time favorite Nino Rota.
There is a lot more to say about this very entertaining crime drama, but you should better see it for yourself. There are dvd’s on the market, but some episodes are available on the Internet as well. With subtitles to help you understand the text, that has some elements of Sicilian dialect. Learn some Italian while enjoying yourself! Highly recommended.