Marks first foray in scripted fare for Gore's channel

Al Gore is taking interactive TV to the next level in Italy.

Gore’s Milan-based Current TV outpost — it’s only operation in continental Europe — has just started airing Italy’s first Web TV drama series, called “Frammenti” (Fragments) about an investigative journo who falls prey to a memory loss drug, accused of a murder he did not commit.

Viewers, both on TV and the Web, try to rescue Lorenzo Soare, the intrepid protag, becoming investigators themselves and an integral part of the show. Besides being a totally new type of content for Italy, the series also marks the first foray into scripted drama for Current TV, which has heretofore made guerrilla-style journalism its trademark.

Since setting up a local channel in May 2008 featuring both user-generated content and purchased product, beamed by Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Italia satcaster and visible online, Current TV is making Italy its global testing ground for the niche new media web, aimed at 18- to 35-year-olds.

“Italy acts as a laboratory for the whole network; one that yields positive results,” says Current TV Italy managing director Tommaso Tessarolo.

Gore and his team last year selected Italy as its first non-English-language base — the English-lingo ones are in the U.S., U.K., and Canada — because in the land of media-mogul-turned prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, the more sophisticated folks who go online “are deeply dissatisfied by the available existing media; especially what’s on TV,” he says.

By focusing on investigative reporting and airing its “Vanguard Journalism” shows, which often tackle off-limit topics, Current TV Italy scores an average of half a million viewers daily in a country with 20 million TV homes.

Its hot-button pieces have recently included a docu that bowed Nov. 4, about the unholy amount of moolah generated for the tourism biz by iconic Franciscan friar Padre Pio since being made a saint by the Vatican in 2002, and PBS docu “Citizen Berlusconi,” which no other Italo outlet dared to air.

And while it’s too early to guage the success of “Frammenti, it’s safe to say it caused a stir even before its Oct. 22 debut.

As part of the “Frammenti” promotional campaign, Current ran TV spots for the fictional memory-sedating drug, called Letenox, that’s featured in the show (and is supported by a Letenox website, which actually a part of the show’s interactivity). Local newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano fell for the hoax and published an article blasting the drug.

Italians “have a strong desire to get to the bottom of things, which is why we chose to turn them into investigators,” says Davide Bartolucci, topper of Shado, the Italo content company that developed the format in tandem with online game designer  LOG607.

“Now we are thinking the format could evolve toward real events and turn viewers into investigators of Italy’s dark and turbulent present and recent past.”

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