For many years, Italian television has had a pretty bad reputation. Discussions about the small screen in Italy often end up highlighting concerns about, for example, the political consequences of concentrated media ownership, or the representation of women. Nevertheless, there have been a few oases. One of them is a series that revolves around words and the experiences and thoughts that they evoke.
Quello Che (Non) Ho (In English: What I (Don’t) Have) premiered this week on Italy’s La7 network for a brief run. The show is hosted by Fabio Fazio and Roberto Saviano, a writer who has taken a prominent role in denouncing the mafia. Guests have to bring words that are dear to them and do monologues, songs or other performances about them. The hosts also perform, and they all get very political.
At the end of the first episode, Fazio and Saviano read about the things they have and don’t have. The exchange goes on for about eight minutes, with just the two men and comedienne Luciana Littizzetto talking. No fancy graphics, no scantily clad women, no violence. Some of the lines they read were funny. Others were sad, and yet others were bitingly direct, and drew big applause from the audience. One of them attacked European Union policies in the economic crisis.
Fazio: “What I have understood is that Europe is a Greek word that means wide outlook.”
Saviano: “What I have not understood is how it’s possible that Europe has had such as narrow outlook as to abandon Greece.”
Saviano was surprised to learn that the show got three million viewers for its first episode, breaking spectator records for the network. A Twitter post on his account says it all: “A crazy outcome. Incredible how many people have wanted to defend a TV made of words.”
(The photo is from Italy’s La7, it is used by the network for promotional purposes and is used here under fair use and fair comment guidelines.)