Mediaset’s Middlebrow Model: Il capo dei capi, L’ultimo padrino, Il clan dei camorristi, and L’onore e il rispetto

  • Dana RengaEmail author


This chapter familiarizes readers with the Mediaset, Italy’s largest commercial broadcaster, addressing the middlebrow character of Mediaset programs. The chapter outlines the perpetrator template common to Mediaset programming: Sympathetic perpetrators are conventionally attractive, and women easily fall under their spell, Mediaset men are crafty and are pitted against someone on the “right” side of the law, and this homosocial rivalry drives the narrative while rendering Mediaset programs and the villains who feature in them much less ambiguous than Sky and Netflix series. It also briefly considers Michele Soavi’s popular 2001 Mediaset miniseries Uno bianca as a striking counterexample to the rest of the visual documents treated in this book and makes clear the dramatic transformation in the representation of the villain on Italian television from 2001 to 2006. It looks more in detail at three programs: (1) the series Il capo dei capi (The Boss of Bosses, Enzo Monteleone and Alexis Sweet, 2007), looking at mafia boss Salvatore (Totò) Riina’s obsession with television (in fiction and in real life). As the chapter discusses, the Riina case prompted many debates around the ethics of representing historical criminals as alluring, especially when considering that Riina regularly petitioned for pardon or a reduced sentence and had a significant following on social media up until his 2017 death. This chapter looks at the polemics around the series’ release, in particular how controversies center upon the program’s heightening of Riina’s criminal allure, and also considers how the series displaces Riina’s crimes onto the Italian state; (2) Marco Risi’s 2008 miniseries L’ultimo padrino (The Last Godfather), which chronicles Cosa Nostra boss of bosses Bernardo Provenzano’s final years as a wanted man. As I argue, unlike other Mediaset programs discussed in this book, polemics on L’ultimo padrino were minimal and calls for boycotts and protests nonexistent. This is because L’ultimo padrino focuses on Provenzano’s final years as a free man when he is old, infirm, and nostalgic. Old men are easy to forgive, which is made easier as Provenzano is interpreted by Michele Placido, who played Commissioner Cattani from the hit Rai television series La piovra (The Octopus, 1984-2001); (3) Il clan dei camorristi (The Camorra Clan, Alexis Sweet and Alessandro Angelini, 2013), the first television series to focus on affiliates of the Camorra, the mafia of the Campania region, from the inside. It also considers Il clan dei camorristi as a bridge program that adheres to many production and generic conventions of the Rai and the earlier Mediaset series and miniseries with a criminal focus while adopting several practices familiar to the Sky model. Further, this chapter demonstrates how tensions around reception and casting create fascinations around programs featuring alluring antiheroes that open up the narrative universe and contribute to how perpetrator history is represented; (4) the popular Ares Film Mediast series L’onore e il rispetto (Honor and Respect, 2006–2017) which stars popular actor Gabriel Garko. Unlike other Mediaset programs treated in this book, L’onore e il rispetto is criticized for reasons other than whether the series is factually and historically sound or might suggest that a seductive, leading antihero would lead Italian youth down the wrong path. Instead, the prime target was Garko’s actorly prowess and good looks. Such a focus on the aesthetics of the face of L’onore e il rispetto and the derogatory stance toward those who watch it overlooks the series’ somewhat progressive message regarding gender, audiences, and power, especially when considering L’onore e il rispetto as a soap opera.


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Department of French and ItalianThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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