Inside Move: Italo TV faceoff

Silvio's surgery leads to wrinkle at rival RAI

Besides altering his face, Silvio Berlusconi‘s recent cosmetic surgery may have also caused pubcaster RAI to reconfigure its schedule.

After a month-long absence from the limelight, the prime minister resurfaced late last month looking smoother, especially around the eyes.

And while Italy was abuzz with the former cruise line crooner’s minor makeover, RAI pulled the ABC show “Extreme Makeover,” which had just debuted with stellar ratings, dubbed into Italian, on its second channel.

RAI-2 apparently decided it didn’t want “Extreme Makeover” to go head-to-head with “Bisturi: Nessuno e Perfetto” (“The Knife: Nobody’s Perfect”), a homegrown format centered on cosmetic surgery that kicked off on Berlusconi’s Italia 1 right after Silvio unveiled his new look.

“We clearly capitalized on the audience’s curiosity,” says Italia 1 topper Luca Tiraboschi of “The Knife’s” handsome 17% opening-night share.

Still, that result was lower than the 19% share copped previously by the debut of “Extreme Makeover,” which RAI-2 chief Antonio Marano has now called “just a teaser,” adding that the ABC show will resume when “The Knife” is over.

Meanwhile, a poll in newspaper La Repubblica finds 67% of Italians indifferent to Berlusconi’s facelift; 24% are negatively impressed and 9% view it favorably.

Analysts say the tycoon-turned-politician will need to look good for key European and local elections in June.

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