Monday, November 1, 2010

TeeVoo (TV)

In Italian, tv is pronounced teevoo, and it seems more humorous to call it that, for some reason. I'm not a big fan of television in the first place, though it has taken over my life from time to time. In Italy, I only watch it for the purpose of learning the language, which amounts to watching one evening quiz show and movies when I can. But most movies don't start until 9:30 pm, and it's rare that I make it through an entire movie. The easiest ones to follow are children's movies: there is usually a dubbed American children's movie every Saturday night.

I'm no expert on Italian television, and only have a small tv with limited channel access, so I have a limited understanding of what's available. (Most Italians have cable or satellite tv, and access to hundreds of channels, as we do in the U.S.) So my observations may also be limited. However, I have noticed a few things:

  • I avoid the news, as I do in the States, for the simple fact that it's usually depressing. In fact, a recent article in La Repubblica (national newspaper), entitled La TV della paura (tv of fear) reported that crime is the highlight of Italian newscasts, a tendency that is unique among other European nations. The article went on to say that this approach to news is creating more anxiety and fear among Italians. (Sounds a lot like American television, non è vero?)
  • There are many jokes and comments about women on Italian television, so I won't go there, except to say that they are more likely to show a lot of skin and decolletage. Women are usually attractive and sexy on Italian tv, while men often are not.
  • There are many discussion shows on Italian television, with panels of people sitting around and discussing various topics. (Not interesting or helpful to me, as they talk too quickly for me to comprehend much of it.)
  • There are many American television shows and movies featured. They take good advantage of what the U.S. produces and simply dub in Italian voices.
  • Nearly every foreign movie or tv show is dubbed in Italy...subtitles are rare, and Italians are experts at dubbing. It can be quite amusing to watch the Simpsons, Bones, and many other popular American shows in Italian. They are even able to match the voice tone of the original characters (like those on the Simpsons). Quite amusing!
There is one show that I watch in the evenings when I'm home: Chi vuol essere milionario? (You guessed it: Who wants to be a millionaire?) It's on every single night! The star of the show, Gerri Scotti, is something of a phenomenon, as he is also the spokesperson for most of the products that are featured in the commercials during the show.

It seems Scotti has the persona of the beloved portly uncle that everyone can trust, and he manages to sell everything from DSL service to chocolate, cleaning products to books, pasta to furniture, and everything in between. (When I mentioned this to one of my Italian friends, he offered this codicil: well, he only sells one brand of each product.) Coming from a culture where most celebrities only vouch for one product at a time, I find it amusing to see Gerri Scotti on most of the commercials for his nightly television show, often using the same set for different commercials. (My initial thought: Ka-ching! But I doubt that Scotti is making the money that one would make as an American spokesperson. It may even be part of his contract with the show.) Scotti is also the host of other shows, including a talent show for children called Io Canto (I sing.)

The format of the quiz show Chi vuol essere is one I prefer to the American version. For one, there is no time limit on answering the question. Discussion of the possible options seems to be the most important part of the show, rather than moving quickly up the scale of winnings. Contestants are encouraged to share their knowledge about each possible answer, and discuss why they choose their answers over the other possibilities. Watching the show has been a great venue for learning new vocabulary, as well as learning many new things about the history and culture of Italy. I can easily understand the questions because they are posted on the screen, which is also an advantage. If I don't know a word, I write it down to look up later. Many questions concern American culture and history as well, more than any other foreign country represented on the show. But since Italians grew up on American television, movies and culture, it's no wonder that information about the U.S. is common knowledge to many Italians.

To be honest, I think I'm going to miss "uncle" Gerri when I go back to the States: he's worked his magic on me. Go figure!

1 comment:

Massimo-Bologna said...

It's interesting reading your impressions about italian television, this helps me to understand what's different in the U.S.
In several shows here you can see the host of the show making advertisements during the "commercials time" in his own show... it's part of his duties, expecially in the commercial (not public) televisions.
It's true you can see a lot of nice girls in italian television, likely showing their body... but remember that Silvio Berlusconi is the owner of the most important private televisions here... not surprising he is often involved in hot scandals!
We always get a lot of fiction and movies from the U.S. (dubbed in italian) and most italian people learn part of the American culture and habits, being strongly influenced by this.
ciao
Massimo