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‘My Brilliant Friend’ Scores Brilliant Ratings at Home

With its international rollout well underway, the critically acclaimed TV series “My Brilliant Friend,” based on the first of Italian author Elena Ferrante’s bestselling “Neapolitan Novels,” is scoring strong ratings at home in Italy, and is also playing well in the U.S. and U.K.

The show, which explores the bounds of female friendship, is being hailed as a milestone in Italian television following its primetime premiere Nov. 27 on pubcaster RAI, which earned about a 29% share, pulling in more than 7 million viewers and becoming the highest-rated drama of the country’s current season.

Those ratings have remained relatively stable. On Tuesday, the series finale – RAI’s third consecutive broadcast of back-to-back episodes – scored a 28.7% share on RAI-1. On the previous Tuesday, ratings soared past a record-breaking 30% share.

Eleonora Andreatta, chief of fiction for RAI, has called the show a winning gamble and noted in a statement that its audience share was even higher among young Italian women aged 15-24. Fabrizio Salini, RAI’s CEO, hailed the numbers as “an important milestone” in Italian public service television.

My Brilliant Friend” is largely in Neapolitan dialect and was directed by Italy’s Saverio Costanzo, who collaborated with Ferrante on the TV version. A second season has already been greenlit.

In the U.K., where it plays on the Sky pay-TV service, the series has become the best-performing foreign-language drama launch since “Babylon Berlin,” which launched in November 2017.

British viewers for “My Brilliant Friend” have been steadily growing since it bowed Nov. 19, currently attracting an average audience of nearly half a million after the first episode drew 288,000 viewers, according to Sky figures.

In the U.S., where it has received rave reviews, the show has been averaging a little over 1 million viewers on HBO after bowing on Nov. 18. “Considering the foreign language, that is a good number so far,” an HBO rep told Variety in an email, adding that the company “anticipate[s] it will continue to grow.” 

Last week, before the finale was broadcast on HBO, HBO and RAI announced that they were renewing the show for a second season. The sophomore run will be based on “The Story of a New Name,” the second book in Elena Ferrante’s quadrilogy.

“My Brilliant Friend” currently has a 94% rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes and a 97% audience score. It’s been selected among Time magazine’s 10 best television shows of the year.

The show, which launched on HBO in most of continental Europe day-and-date with the U.S., bows in France on Thursday on pay-TV service Canal Plus.

“My Brilliant Friend” is a RAI Fiction-HBO and TIMVISION series and a Wildside-Fandango Production. It is produced by Lorenzo Mieli and Mario Gianani for Wildside and by Domenico Procacci for Fandango, in collaboration with RAI Fiction, TIMVISION and HBO Entertainment, and in co-production with Umedia.

Oscar-winning director Paolo Sorrentino and Jennifer Schuur are the executive producers. Fremantle is the international distributor in association with RAI Com.

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