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Glam grans heat up TV ‘dignity’ debate

New controversy focuses on singing, dancing 65-year-olds

MILAN — Forget the spat over Italo TV’s reliance on scantily clad young women to lure auds, a new controversy is brewing over a primetime talent show that encourages glamorous grannies to get up and shake a leg.

“Velone,” on Mediaset’s flagship channel Canale5, has scuppered the campaign launched by Lucia Annunziata, prexy of pubcaster RAI, to force TV bosses to respect women’s dignity.

The nightly show features singing and dancing “girls” over 65 chosen by audition, who compete for the final 250,000 euros ($295,000) prize and the Top Velona crown, which will be awarded in September by a jury of journalists.

“Velone” has sparked debate — and huge auds. It averaged over 23% in the first five nights after its June 9 bow, rocketing to 29% for the performance of 92-year-old former dressmaker Signora Fedora De Pra.

TV producer and Mediaset veteran Antonio Ricci devised the show, which is based on his “Veline” (Little Press Release) a mix of satirical news punctuated by girls dancing in hot pants. Velone is an invented word meaning “big press release.”

Thousands of Italian teenagers auditioned for last year’s TV competition to choose the show’s two new dancers, or Velinas — upsetting the country’s intellectual elite who bashed it for taking advantage of uneducated girls, desperate for fame and wealth.

Catholic paper L’Avvenire was among the show’s most outspoken opponents, claiming it was “embarrassing and painful.”

Left-wing intellectual and author Umberto Eco has renamed the women “nonnites,” from the Italian word nonna, meaning granny, and Lolita.

However, the show has its backers. Helmer Dino Risi says: “Life has become much longer and everybody wants visibility. Ricci understands this and has discovered a new market.

“The women are not pathetic, they are just old little girls having fun. They do things they have never done like showing everybody their ass. It’s their revenge.”

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