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Italian TV Adapts to Global Tastes

Italian TV is breaking away from a long stretch of shows about prim priests, good cops and bad cardboard cutout mobsters, as shifts in the media landscape prompt local content providers to raise the bar. This, in turn, is generating shows that are putting Italy on the international TV map.

On Oct. 6, Netflix’s first Italian original, “Suburra,” rolled out in 190 territories, including Italy, of course. The show about corruption in contempo Rome — in which a priest has a heart attack during a cocaine-fueled orgy — will also air domestically on state broadcaster RAI, thanks to an unusual pact with Netflix.

The big change is that the country’s creative talent knows it can aspire for a different kind of product. This, in turn, is starting to spawn fresh content that reflects the country’s glorious cinematic heritage and is commanding attention at home and abroad.

The following is a compendium of standout Italian TV skeins in various stages, some of which will be shopped at Mipcom.

The Hunter
Italy’s real Mafia wars of the 1990s and the battle between the Cosa Nostra and the Italian state is reconstructed through the eyes of a Palermo prosecutor who, thanks to brilliant hunches, spectacular raids and front-page arrests, manages to put hundreds of Mafiosi behind bars. Produced by Cross Prods.

Les Italiens
Nicolas Winding Refn is the showrunner on this noir about a squad of French-Italian policemen working in Paris’ famous Quai des Orfevres headquarters. Based on crime novels set in Paris by Italian writer Enrico Pandiani, series is expected to lense in 2018. It’s being produced by Lucisano Media Group with an unspecified French partner.

Medici: Masters of Florence
The second season of the hit Frank Spotnitz-show produced by Italy’s Lux Vide for Rai started shooting in Tuscany in September. While the first season was framed as a whodunnit, the second season is conceived as a coming-of-ager in which Lorenzo de Medici and his posse are depicted as a group of young Florentine revolutionaries.

The Miracle
Best-selling Italian novelist Niccolò Ammaniti is serving as writer-showrunner on this gender-bending skein centered on a statue of the Virgin Mary that weeps tears of blood, produced by Wildside and Arte for Sky. Wildside’s Lorenzo Mieli calls it “the strangest, most innovative show from a narrative standpoint that we’ve done in Italy so far.”

My Brilliant Friend
Rai and HBO have teamed up on this eight-episode adaptation of the first of Elena Ferrante’s four bestselling “Neapolitan Novels” about the deep friendship and rivalry between two inextricably bound women starting in 1950s Naples. Director Saverio Costanzo directs; series is co-produced by Fandango and Wildside. FremantleMedia is handling international distribution.

The Name of the Rose
Before he died in February 2016, Italian author Umberto Eco supervised the screenplays of this English-language adaptation of his murder mystery set in 1327. Wild Bunch TV is selling internationally.

The New Pope
Segueing from the success of “The Young Pope,” Paolo Sorrentino will shoot another limited series produced by Wildside for Sky and HBO titled “The New Pope.” Production is planned to start in late 2018. Lenny Belardo, the tormented American pontiff played by Jude Law in the first series is pope no longer, though it is possible that he may re-appear in flashbacks. Other details are being kept under wraps.

Italy’s prominent Palomar shingle and eOne have teamed up on an English-language “epic, contemporary and cruel story” about “a man with a bottomless desire for power who wanted a worldwide revolution,” according to promotional materials. The series is being developed by Italo scribe Roberto Saviano (“Gomorrah”), co-writing with Israeli producer-director Nadav Schirman, whose documentary “The Green Prince” went to Sundance.


Four sirens surface in the port of contemporary Naples seeking a mythological male sea creature who has disappeared. This effects-laden fantasy, a first for Italy, will debut on Rai in November. It’s written by Ivan Cotroneo, who is known internationally for having penned Italy’s hit TV show “Crazy for Love.” Produced by Cross Prods.


Mixing Rome’s political machinations with the Italian capital’s criminal underworld, “Suburra” weaves a complex narrative involving politics, the Vatican, the Mafia, corruption, drugs and prostitution that takes its cue from real events. It’s produced by Cattleya, the shingle that made “Gomorrah.”

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