The global rise of Italian TV series is now in full swing, riding the wake of hits such as “Gomorrah,” “The Young Pope” and “Medici: Masters of Florence.”
A wave of new high-end shows that mine iconic aspects of Italy’s past and present, but also venture into the supernatural and tap into the vibrant reinvention of classic genres — such as spaghetti Westerns and horror that Italian cinema is historically known for — is about to roll out around the world.
But besides shows sparked by the rekindled love affair between long-form narratives and the country’s cinematic past, there is also “Winx Club,” the animated franchise featuring six trendy teenage fairies designed with a style mashing Japanese manga and classic Western animation that has bewitched millions of tween girls in more than 100 countries.
In March, Netflix announced it will adapt “Winx” into a live-action series for young adults in tandem with its creator, Iginio Straffi, whose Rainbow animation studio emulates the Disney model, albeit on a much smaller scale.
This winter will see the global outing of the anticipated adaptation “My Brilliant Friend,” based on the first of the four “Neapolitan novels” written by Elena Ferrante, whose books have legions of fervent fans. Italian state broadcaster Rai and HBO teamed up on “Friend,” which is being shot in Neapolitan dialect.
Shooting is under way at Rome’s Cinecittà studios on the English-language adaptation of Umberto Eco’s “The Name of the Rose,” toplining John Turturro. Italian production companies 11 Marzo and Palomar teamed up with Rai Fiction and Germany’s Tele München Group, which will be shopping the show at MIPTV, for the new adaptation.
In casting Turturro as 14th century Franciscan monk William of Baskerville, who investigates a series of grisly murders, producers were drawn by his ability to be “ironic, sharp and empathic,” but also more offbeat compared with Sean Connery, who played the same character in Jean-Jacques Annaud’s 1986 movie adaptation, says Rai Fiction chief Eleonora Andreatta. She says that this “Rose” will be fresh. Plans are for 2019 playdate.
Sky and HBO are also eyeing a 2019 release for Paolo Sorrentino’s limited series “The New Pope,” in which the Oscar-winning director is reinventing the world he created around tormented American pontiff Lenny Belardo for “The Young Pope.”
“Compared with four years ago when Sorrentino won the [foreign-language] Oscar [for “The Great Beauty”] we are on a whole different level in terms of recognition; Italy is now a player in the global TV arena,” says FremantleMedia Italia chief Lorenzo Mieli, producer of “Friend” and Sorrentino’s “Pope.” In March, he was in Los Angeles where he’s getting interest from U.S. networks for “The Miracle,” the now-completed supernatural show he produced for Sky that is centered on a statue of the Virgin Mary that weeps tears of blood. It’s penned by bestselling Italian novelist Niccolò Ammaniti, who also served as showrunner.
Mieli sees an analogy between what’s happening today with Italian series and the glory days of cinema Italiano, when pure genre titles by greats such as Sergio Leone and Dario Argento traveled the globe alongside works by the country’s revered auteurs.
Cattleya, the ITV-controlled production powerhouse behind Sky’s “Gomorrah” and Netflix’s Roman crime series “Suburra,” will start shooting in spring on global crime series “ZeroZeroZero,” which follows a cocaine shipment from the Americas to Europe. Based on an expose by “Gomorrah” author Roberto Saviano, with “Gomorrah” director Stefano Sollima on board as lead director, it’s been commissioned by Sky and Canal Plus.
Cattleya is also in advanced development on an adaptation of Sergio Corbucci’s 1966 spaghetti Western “Django.”
At MIP, Cattleya will also be shopping skein “Romolus” that delves into the human adventure at the base of the legend of how Romulus and Remus founded Rome. Now in advanced development, this period piece is conceived by young producer and film director Matteo Rovere, who is co-writing and will helm and co-produce via his Groenlandia shingle.
Another young Italian film director now on track for global visibility is Andrea De Sica — Vittorio De Sica’s grandson — who will lead-direct “Baby,” Netflix’s second Italian original, based on a scandal that created a stir in the Italian capital in 2014 when it surfaced that two high school students from the city’s wealthy residential Parioli district were engaging in part-time prostitution. “Baby” is being produced by Rome-based Fabula Pictures, headed by young producer Nicola De Angelis.