Former Italian prime minister and mogul stays in spotlight
ROME — While Silvio Berlusconi is no longer Italy’s prime minister, he isn’t about to step out of the spotlight.Last week saw the former PM release a record album, defend himself against numerous charges in court and watch his holdings sink in the wake of his ouster. The fourth CD of Berlusconi-penned Neapolitan love songs, “Vero Amore” (True Love), crooned by close pal Mariano Apicella, went out on independent Italo label Artist First. It includes tunes titled “Stay With Me,” which smacks of wishful thinking, and “Come What May,” which, with the three trials — recommencing now that Berlusconi has lost immunity as the country’s leader — sounds appropriate. Court cases revolving around Berlusconi promptly resumed Nov. 23, with one trial involving charges that he paid for sex with a Moroccan dancer who at the time was a minor, another long-standing case centered around allegedly fraudulent Mediaset TV rights deals, and a third, separate trial regarding an alleged ring to procure prostitutes for Berlusconi, who is not a defendant in that case. Berlusconi, who attended the Mediaset trial, maintains his innocence in the trials in which he is a defendant. Meanwhile, the Milan stock exchange continued to batter Mediaset, with its share price sinking last week to below €2 ($2.70) for the first time ever. The company’s outlook might even be worse with a member of the anti-Berlusconi opposition in power, instead of the nonpolitical government headed by Mario Monti. Italians are beginning to wonder whether they are seeing the country’s TV landscape already beginning to change. Last week, tiny channel La7, owned by telco giant Telecom Italia Media, announced it had doubled daytime ratings to a still small but significant 4.7% share, and vowed to forge on with ambitious new shows, including one by standup comic and noted anti-Berlusconi helmer Sabina Guzzanti (“Draquila — Italy Trembles”). Pubcaster RAI scored a whopping 42% primetime share Nov. 21 with an entertainment spectacle hosted by hugely popular Sicilian showman Rosario Fiorello, which not only featured live performances by Coldplay and Michael Buble but also a satirical monologue waxing nostalgic about the Berlusconi government. It was “folkloristic, kind of happy,” Fiorello reminisced in the show. “Now everything has changed, and nobody talks about sex anymore.” While it’s too early to gauge the impact of an upcoming post-Berlusconi era on Italy’s entertainment industry and pop culture, it’s a safe bet Italians will continue to seek solace from their crisis in laughs. Italo film figures for the first half of 2011 show six homegrown comedies among the top 10 box office draws. More recently, expletive-packed laffer “I Soliti Idioti” (The Usual Idiots), a watered-down movie adaptation of an abrasive MTV-Italy show, has been scoring mightily: $13.5 million in three weeks. It was produced and released by Berlusconi’s Medusa Cinema. Once a media mogul, always a media mogul.