Executives lobby to keep 'The Squad' in region

Campania has been home to telepics and skein productions ever since the 1960s when Italo pubcaster RAI, the country’s top web, set up its Naples production center.

More recently the RAI TV studios have been churning out Italy’s first and longest-running soap, the 12-year-old “Un posto al sole” (A Place in the Sun), and also Naples-set copshow “La squadra” (The Squad), which is inspired by “Hill Street Blues.” Both are co-produced with FreeMantleMedia Group’s Grundy Italia unit.

Shot in high-definition, with plenty of handheld camerawork, “The Squad” has introduced both a cutting-edge but also a more industrial approach to serial production in Italy.

(Incidentally, this naturalistic police procedural, which has been running on RAI since 2000, is the show where helmer Paolo Sorrentino (“Il Divo”) and scribe Roberto Saviano (“Gomorrah”) cut their teeth before hitting the big time.)

RAI’s current management, installed under the government headed by Silvio Berlusconi (who owns rival web Mediaset), has recently been mulling pulling this solidly rated show, prompting a local chorus of alarm and protest.

“It would be a huge mistake and an enormous waste,” says Francesco Pinto, topper of the RAI production center in Naples.

“We are strongly committed to defending ‘The Squad’ from the risk of closure and also to relaunching it,” the region’s governor (officially “president”), Antonio Bassolino, tells Variety.

RAI additionally produces sitcom “7 Vite” (Seven Lives) in Naples and has co-produced several high-profile skeins in the region, including the glossy “Capri” mini made in tandem with Rizzoli Audiovisivi.

Mediaset is also active in the region. After scoring stellar ratings with its Naples-set mini “O professore,” Berlusconi’s web just ordered up four more episodes of the skein, which stars Italo A-list thesp Sergio Castellitto as a local schoolteacher with a social conscience.

In May, Mediaset will begin shooting a 10-episode skein on the isle of Ischia titled “I delitti del cuoco” (Crimes of the Cook), centered on a detective-turned-chef who mixes crime-solving with creative cuisine.

Fantastic food, after all, is another of the region’s strong suits.

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