The first time I’ve visited the US, I found everything so new, yet utterly familiar at the same time. You see, as pretty much everyone of my generation, I grew up watching american tv shows on the telly. Rigorously dubbed into Italian, american sit-coms, dramas and movies set trends and created manias, all while showing to Italy how the US looked like and lived. Even though, especially in the last couple of decades, italian tv has become more independent from american imports, increasing the screen presence of national productions, the popularity of american shows is always high. Read on, if you want to discover which american shows rocks – and rocked in the past – italian screens.
1. Beverly Hills 90210
Beverly Hills 90210 hit italian screens in the late Fall of 1992, two years later its debut in the US and it was an immediate success. Even though I never truly got hooked on the show, I remember watching the first two seasons, mostly because I had a crush on Luke Perry. Don’t be fooled by my lukewarm teenage relationship with the series: young italian gen-xers were crazy about it. Beverly Hills 90210 was every 12 to 20 year-old’s thursdays’ prime time’s fixture, especially for the first two or three seasons.
The series’ protagonists became household names, their faces plastered on the walls of hundred of thousands of bedrooms all over the country; merchandise emblazoned with the series’ logo would go like iced lemonade on a hot summer day. I remember some classmates coming to school with Beverly Hills 90210 notebooks and binders, many more with pages and pages of their diaries filled with pictures of Luke Perry and Jason Priestley. I think the hype reached its apogee when young couples started naming their children “Brandon” and “Brenda,” after the Walsh twins and Oh Lord! it wasn’t even the first time it happened: back in the 1980s, it was all about Pamelas and Sue-Ellens, after the protagonists of another popular US series, Dallas.
By the mid-1990s, however, the Beverly Hills 90210 mania had quieted down. The last bunch of seasons didn’t manage to repeat the exploit of the first ones and went largely unnoticed by the public.
2. The Bold and the Beautiful
Unnoticed by the public is something The Bold and the Beautiful (known as “Beautiful” in Italyy) is certainly no. The intrigues and secret lives of the Forresters and their many friends and enemies have been entertaining Italy since 1990, three years after the soap’s debut on US tv, without loosing, in the end, an ounce of its popularity. During its first months on Italian screens virtually everyone knew about Ridge, Brooke, Caroline and the feud between the Forresters and the Spencers: the soap’s main actors became immensely popular in Italy and even a magazine bearing the same title began being published.
Even if the show does no longer enjoy such a level of widespread popularity, it keeps being followed by an average of 3 to 4 million viewers everyday, scoring a hefty 20% share: in other words, a lot of Italians are faithful to The Bold and the Beautiful, in spite of time passing and storylines getting more and more unprobable. This year’s news that the show may be at risk of cancellation back in the US has caused a wave of dread among its numerous italian fans.
I must admit that I missed most of the italian hype around Friends, as I moved away from Italy only a handful of months after the show came to our screens. It was initially picked by RAI 3 (the third national channel of Italy) to fill the 20-20.30 summer slot, notoriously quiet. RAI didn’t expect the show to be this successful and had to put aside its plan to keep Friends as a summertime filler. The show was eventually moved to RAI 2 (a more important channel than RAI 3), keeping the same time slot. Its last season was shown entirely on prime time.
Since 2002, RAI began showing the show’s previous series on its satellite channels and, starting in 2004, the first seasons became part of FOX’s pay per view channel. Season ten, the last, was shown in Italy at the beginning of July 2005, but the series keeps on being extremely popular in the country: today Friends is part of ITALIA 1’s daily schedule and it’s still enjoyed by many, even if we all know how it all ended.
Some curiosities about the Italian edition: the prononciation of Joey’s surname and Phoebe were slightly changed to be more pleasant to an Italian speaking audience, becoming respectively “Triviani” instead of “Tribbiani” and “Phai-bai” instead of “Phee-bee.” Joey’s digs into the Italian language were translated using a southern italian dialect and Paolo, Rachel’s italian boyfriend, became “Pablo” and spoke exclusively in Spanish.
4. Twin Peaks
This is one of my favorite shows ever and I can only begin explaining how happy I’m David Lynch’s preparing a new season. Since its premiere in January 1991, Twin Peaks conquered the italian public with its mix of mystery, horror and beautiful settings. The show was dubbed a success even before the airing of its first episode, on the 9th of January 1991, and was introduced to the public with a grand gala shown on CANALE 5 (the main private channel in the country) the night before. David Lynch, author and director of the series along with Mark Frost, was already a well known director in Italy, thanks to his collaboration with De Laurentis productions, Dune and Blue Velvet and, well, his relationship with famous italian model and actress Isabella Rossellini.
The two seasons (and the two movies inspired by them) became a mass phenomenon in Italy in those years and gained a cult status which the show maintains today. Greatly successful was also Angelo Badalamenti‘s soundtrack.
6. The X Files
Here’s another of my favorite shows (you can really tell I’m a grunge gen-xer to the bone…), the success of which was largely unexpected in Italy. I clearly remember when the first episode of the X Files aired, in the Summer of 1994, on CANALE 5. It was initially slotted on saturday, late at night. I became a fan immediately and, like many others, I was thrilled when the show was moved to prime time, the following season. The X Files became a hit in Italy, just as in the rest of the world, thanks to its mix of chilling plots and sexual tension between the two main characters, agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. The episode when the two finally kissed (albeit only in a dream) was highly anticipated and, I remember, we teenagers talked about it for days after it happened. When, in January 2016, FOX Italy premiered the show’s new mini season, almost a million people sat down to watch it, an incredible number considering FOX is only available on satellite tv and the majority of Italians don’t have it. It seems Mulder and Scully still have it.