July 22, 2007

Forza Italia

At lunch the other day, the Italians were asking me about American TV shows.

Valentina: Have you ever seen The Beautiful?
Me: Uhm. No. There is no program called The Beautiful in the US.
Valentina: Yes, there is. It is an American drama. It stars Brooke.
Orso: Brrroooook-a. She gets married a lot.
Me: Oh! Perhaps it is the Bold and the Beautiful?
Valentina: Yes yes. The Bold and the Beautiful. You've seen it?
Me: No. Never.
Everyone: Why not?
Me: Uhm... I haven't seen it.

How do you explain to Italians that only housewives and old people watch soap operas? These archaeologists were completely dumbfounded that I had never seen the Bold and the Beautiful, as it is an extremely popular show in Italy. When I got home, I asked my English-speaking roommate about this show. He said that, yes, even he knows who Brooke is, although he hasn't watched the show. He said that Italy had its own soap opera years ago, but it didn't fare well in the ratings and was cancelled. However, they've also imported Guiding Light, which they call Sentieri for some reason. I often express to him my disbelief in how little my college-educated colleagues seem to know about the US - like that we have nearly 300 TV channels on satellite, so there's no way I could see every single show on TV.

Marco: They don't understand because in Italy there are only 7 TV stations, 3 of which are owned by Berlusconi...
Me: What? The former prime minister owns 3 TV stations? And you call yourself a democracy?
Marco: Yeah, it was a big problem. But he came to power and changed the rules, then gave the stations to his kids and cousins to prevent a conflict of interest.
Me: That's how he prevented a conflict of interest? Jeez.
Marco: He also owns a movie studio.
Me: Really? Why doesn't he just put out propaganda movies and TV shows about himself?
Marco: He does. When he first ran, though, he sent out a little book to every single family in Italy... detailing his life and career.
Me: He sent every family in Italy his resume? That's insane.
Marco: Berlusconi also owns the A.C. Milan soccer team, two newspapers, and the largest publishing company in Italy.
Me: Whoa.
Marco: He decided to run for prime minister because he wanted to save himself from being convicted of a few crimes.
Me: Wait. He was in trouble with the law and then decided to run for president?
Marco: Yeah, because the prime minister is immune from prosecution.
Me: What kind of weird political system is this?
Marco: For some reason, people keep electing him. Oh, I forgot to mention, he also started his own city.
Me: [laughing] His own city?
Marco: Yeah, it's called Milano Due.
Me: [hysterically laughing] You're kidding me. Milano Due? That's like if Bush made D.C. 2.
Marco: Or New New York.

Anyway, having studied the dead Romans for 15 years, I'd never really cared about the living Italians. But their recent politics are super hilarious. For more craziness on Berlusconi, check out the wikipedia entry.


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