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Italian TV Series Grab Global Spotlight

Four years ago, when Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Great Beauty” won Italy’s 14th foreign-language Oscar — the most of any country — the Italian TV industry was mostly geared toward the local market.

Cut to 2018, and shows such as Sorrentino’s “The Young Pope,” which aired on HBO in the U.S., and “Gomorrah,” on Sundance TV, as well as upcoming literary adaptation skeins “The Name of the Rose,” and “My Brilliant Friend,” are putting Italy on the international TV map.

“Italian producers have risen to the occasion and, finally, have been able to make the leap,” says Giancarlo Leone, head of Italy’s TV producers’ association APT. And the way Italian series are “conceived, and perceived, in terms of visual language, is no different from our films,” he notes. “Except that series provide greater opportunities for narratives to be developed beyond a two-hour time span.”

In Italy, the correlation between film and TV is particularly important. “The style of our best dramas is cinematic: strongly rooted in reality, but also with rich visuals,” Riccardo Tozzi, founding partner of film and TV production company Cattleya, told Variety in a recent interview. “It’s Italy’s strong suit, and the reason behind our escalating international success.”

Cattleya, which produced “Gomorrah” for paybox Sky Italia, is among companies that joined Vision Distribution, the theatrical alliance Sky launched last year headed by former Warner Bros. Italy managing director Nicola Maccanico. Last November, he adopted an innovative distribution strategy, releasing two episodes of the third season of “Gomorrah” for a two-day run in Italian movie theaters, where they made a killing.

Sky’s latest high-end series is “The Miracle,” a show with supernatural elements centered on a hidden plastic statue of the Virgin Mary that weeps tears of blood and affects the lives of everyone who comes in contact with it.

Co-produced by Sky and FremantleMedia-owned Wildside, “The Miracle” aired successfully in Italy in May and will be the first Sky show dubbed into English for the international market.

FremantleMedia Italy chief Lorenzo Mieli compares contemporary Italian TV production and the glory days of cinema Italiano.

“I think it’s just like what happened in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s with Italian cinema,” Mieli says. “Our auteur movies were already traveling and then we also started exporting works by genre directors like Dario Argento and Sergio Leone. This is what’s happening today with our TV shows, and I hope ‘The Miracle’ will follow that course.”

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