Looking for "A place in the sun": The Italian way to the soap opera between global and local issues
Istituto di Comunicazione Università IULM Milano, Italy
Television serials are the expression of the so-called ?national drama? (Livingstone 1998; Allen 1985, 1995), that is, how a culture can think about itself from a daily-life perspective by focusing on private relationships such as family, friends, couple, parenthood and so on. But the serial form is also one of the clearest expressions of the globalization process, which is epitomized by the worldwide circulation of US tv series.
The relationships between local and global issues become clear in the soap opera form. While in many European tv schedules national soaps go together with US programs and they generally score better rates, the Italian situation is quite different. This will be the focus of the proposed paper.
Until 1997 there was no Italian production of soap operas. Daytime serials were mainly imported from the US and dubbed. The local production was focused on tv movies (2 to 4 episodes) or prime time dramas (up to 8 ? 10 episodes).
The first Italian soap, Un posto al sole (?A place in the sun?), resulted from a joint venture between the public broadcaster RAI3 and Grundy Productions, that sold RAI3 the production format of the UK-Australian soap Neighbours. So, the Italian soap is a mix of a British-Australian productive format, local contents and US daily scheduling.
Most of the Italian tv critics and scholars predicted an almost sure failure, but they were wrong: in less than three years, two other new local soaps (Vivere and Cento Vetrine) entered the schedule of commercial television (Mediaset). Ten years after, two of them are still on air, one of them was closed in May 2008 and a new one premiered in September 08.
This paper will analyze the cultural and industrial background that contributed to the creation of an Italian way to the soap opera, as an unusual example of the mix of global formats and local adaptations, of production rules and narrative needs.