TV Review: Italian Mysteries

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TV Review: Italian Mysteries

Postby kanewai » Tue Jan 05, 2016 9:08 pm

I wrapped up the last Super Challenge by getting a taste of all the Italian mysteries and detective shows on MHZ streaming. I tried to watch at least two episodes of each before forming an opinion, but there was one that was so stupid I only lasted twenty minutes. It will probably be easy to guess which one.

I took the summaries directly from MHZ's website. The verdicts are my own.

Il commissario Montalbano (1999-2013) - 9 seasons, 26 episodes

Murder, betrayal, office politics, temptation... it's all in a day's work for Detective Salvo Montalbano. With intuition and a cadre of police officers, Montalbano solves crimes in the fictional small city of Vigata. This work brings him across the paths of unforgettable characters who could only come from Sicily. He also wages a personal war with his own demons, which fight against his professional ideals and personal commitment to beautiful long-distance girlfriend, Livia. Yet there's always time to indulge a long-standing flirtation with his ultimate temptress, Italian cuisine.

verdict: A fun show. The characters are engaging, it has a good pace, and Sicily looks beautiful. There were a couple really bad episodes around Season 5, but outside of this it's a high quality production with great writing. I'm currently on Season 7, and will continue.
Il commissario de Luca (2008) - 4 episodes

Against the backdrop of Italy’s political upheaval, Fascism and chaos spanning the tumultuous ten-year period between 1938 and 1948, Detective De Luca does the one thing he knows best: be a cop. He investigates and solves crimes in the war-torn city of Bologna and along the Adriatic coast with little or no regard for those in power, whoever they happen to be. His solitary and uncompromising character, his magnetic effect on women, and the fact that he’s simply too skilled and honest a policeman to do anything but uncover the truth, all conspire to land him in trouble from time to time with whatever side happens to be in authority at the moment.

verdict: This was a great series. Each episode stands alone as an independent movie, and it's fascinating to watch the transition of the detective from working under, and fighting with, at various times, fascists, partisans, and the bureaucrats of the "new Italy."
Il giovane Montalbano (2012) - 6 episodes

Before Detective Salvo Montalbano became the seasoned and mature chief detective we already know, he was just Salvo, new to Vigata and new to being a police chief. He didn’t always live in that glorious house by the sea, or have Deputy Chief Mimi Augello as a best friend, or Fazio as a loyal assistant. He didn’t always go out with the beautiful Genoese architect, Livia Burlando. Perhaps the only constants have been his unbridled quest for good food and the inability of his overly enthusiastic deputy, Catarella, to pronounce anyone’s name correctly. In this prequel series to Detective Montalbano, watch the genesis of the friendships, the rivalries and the romance as the players arrive to take their places in the beautiful Sicilian town of Vigata. In the crucible of solving crimes together among the unforgettable people of Vigata, they become a team.

verdict: Fun, and it's nice to see the origin stories for the Montalbano characters. The mysteries themselves aren't that great, and rely more on silly pop psychology than actual human behavior, but I'll still keep watching.
Nebbie e delitti (Fog and Crimes; 2005-2009) - 3 seasons, 14 episodes

The River Po dominates the region of Ferrara with its seasons, its power and its mystery. It nourishes the close-knit fishing communities who live on its banks, and it also hides their secrets. Secrets that are sometimes uncovered by people like police inspector Franco Soneri. Almost as inscrutable as the river itself, he stands brooding at crime scenes chomping on a cigar, trying to see what others are missing. In the ensuing investigations, he and his team often stumble upon old wounds left over from World War II, when differing political alliances turned neighbors into enemies. Passion for his job makes him Ferrara's best investigator but takes a toll on his relationship with the beautiful Ukrainian lawyer, Angela Cornelio. Filmed on location in the atmospheric countryside of northern Italy, these mysteries are inspired by the best-selling crime novels by Valerio Varesi.

verdict: Much more serious and heavy than the other shows. It's high quality, though I'm not totally engaged with the series. I watched two episodes, and might watch more.
Donna Detective (2007) - 6 episodes

When Senior Detective Lisa Milani requested a desk job in a small town outside of Rome, it was to allow her spend more time with family. But after she's called on to assist with a major case, her extreme competence causes her to end up in charge of an entire investigative squad in the big city. Now she must report to investigating magistrates and demanding superiors, solve cases involving serial killers and other deadly criminals, and at the same time juggle her family life - including dealing with a serious crisis in her marriage. Through it all, she never loses her good humor or her ability to be a good mother.

verdict: A standard cop show. I watched one episode. It was fine. That was enough.
La Omicidi (2004) - 6 episodes

A demented serial killer twists Dante's poetry into pure evil in this blockbuster Italian crime drama from the writer of the seminal Mafia series The Octopus (La Piovra). This six-part series explores the nature of good and evil, love, obsession and the criminal mind.

verdict: Another standard cop show. One episode was enough for me.
Il commissario Nardone (2012) - 12 episodes

Exiled from the Naples police department for being a whistleblower, Chief Inspector Mario Nardone finds himself transferred to postwar Milan, which is fast becoming the breeding ground for a new criminal scene. Thieves and outlaws from across Europe are moving in to exploit the battered citizens of a city emerging from war. He may not be able to find a good cup of coffee in his new city, but Nardone is committed to its safety and will do anything to protect its people. With his small squad of like-minded men, he fights crime and corruption wherever he finds it. He finds sanity in the arms of the beautiful and intelligent Eliana, a woman who challenges his old-fashioned Neapolitan thinking and makes him laugh. Inspector Nardone is based on the real-life figure who was a true legend in Milan during the 1950s and 60s, known for his unflinching moral code and his great sense of humanity.

verdict: I wanted to like this more than I did. As it was, I kept having to look it up to see if it was a show I had already watched - and I watched two episodes.
Don Matteo (2000-2011) 8 seasons

Terence Hill (famous for his partnership with Bud Spencer in spaghetti westerns such as They Call Me Trinity and My Name is Nobody) stars as Don Matteo, a thoroughly ordinary Catholic priest with an extraordinary ability to read people and solve crimes. He’s a parish priest who never met an unjustly accused person he didn’t want to help. In fact, he never met anyone marginalized he didn’t want to help: the elderly, the homeless, the immigrant, the unemployed. He sees them all as he bicycles along the streets and through the countryside of his parish.

verdict: Perfectly nice family fare, and I can see how it ran for eight seasons. I half expected Miss Marple to show up and offer tea to the vicar. I liked how easy the Italian was to understand - it's a great show for language learning - but I like my tv to be a bit edgier.
Inspector Vivaldi Mysteries (2005) - 8 episodes

Inspector Federico Vivaldi is an old-school cop in a new world: his son is gay, his wife has left him and he's got an ambitious colleague nipping at his heels to take over his position. He may be old-fashioned but he's resilient enough to find his way in the new reality. His son, Stefano, is also a cop, and father and son make a good team solving crimes together in the northeastern Italian city of Trieste.

(no trailer available)

verdict: Dull. There's an opening scene, there's an hour of filler, and then there's conflict and resolution.
Inspector Manara (2009-2011) - 2 seasons, 24 episodes

The dazzling Guido Caprino stars as Inspector Luca Manara, a dreamy man and a supervisor's worst nightmare. He dismisses procedure and refuses to kowtow to local power players, but he's also without ego and a gifted investigator.

verdict: The lead looks like a reject from a 70's porn movie, and yet all the women swoon when he's around and compete for his attention. The men just roll their eyes and marvel at what a stud he is. And that is as deep as this show gets.
There is also a set of related movies and mini-series that I still want to get to, all of which involve real life stories about the fight against the mafia.

Cesare Mori (2012) - 2 episodes

The true story of how Cesare Mori ("The Iron Prefect") cleaned up the Sicilian Mafia is a little-known chapter of Italian history and spans the years from World War I to the rise of Fascism. In one night alone, he and his men arrested 300 delinquents and Mafia thugs who had taken total control of the people and the economy of the Madonie mountain region in Sicily.

Giovanni Falcone (1992) - 2 episodes

This is the real-life story of one of Sicily's bravest sons standing up to the Mafia, wielding the law to break the back of organized crime. Giovanni Falcone was the judge who unmasked the Mafia during the 1980s and 90s by methodically following the money. His discoveries exposed the vast hierarchy of criminal families across Italy and around the world.

Paolo Borsellino: 57 giorni
(2012) - movie

Luza Zingaretti (Detective Montalbano) stars as Judge Paolo Borsellino, who on May 23, 1992, waited in Palermo for a personal visit from his friend Judge Giovanni Falcone. They planned to celebrate Falcones recent appointment in Rome as head of a national anti-Mafia office. May 23, 1992 also became the beginning of the 57 days in which Judge Borsellino lived and continued working as a marked man. Despite the danger and with unwavering support from his family, he used each day to advance the cause of bringing down the Mafia.


The short version: Check out Il commissario Montalbano, Il giovane Montalbano, Il commissario de Luca, and Nebbie e delitti! I'll pop in with reviews of the mafia movies when I get to them.
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El bosque oscuro: 0 / 100
Il consiglio dEgitto: 0 / 100
Mon nom est rouge : 100 / 730
Le comte de Monte-Cristo III: 6 / 27

Ulysses: 7 / 25

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Re: TV Review: Italian Mysteries

Postby ddich » Wed Jan 06, 2016 5:30 pm

Thanks a lot for this. Didn't even know about the website.

If nothing else, when I feel like taking a break from studying, I might just use up the 30 day trial and watch a show or two.
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Re: TV Review: Italian Mysteries

Postby sillygoose1 » Wed Jan 06, 2016 7:14 pm

You should also check out L'ispettore Coliandro. I haven't watched it yet myself except for a scene, but some Italians I spoke with told me it was pretty good.

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Re: TV Review: Italian Mysteries

Postby Montmorency » Wed Jan 06, 2016 8:37 pm

BBC4 in the UK has been showing "Montalbano" for quite some years now, and we are big fans in this household. However, I don't think we have seen 26 episodes. They just seem to show the same relatively few episodes over and over.

BTW, I can recommend the books on which the TV series is based (I've only read them in English, I hasten to say!).

BBC also shows "The Young Montalbano". It's ok, I guess, but I don't really see the point. I'm not even sure if Andrea Camilleri, the author of the "Montalbano" books, had anything to do with this series. However, I have seen episodes that included Mimi, Fazio, and even Livia, so maybe you only got to see very early episodes? Fazio's father was an old detective who was a kind of mentor the young Montalbano, and in turn, I think, Montalbano becomes a kind of mentor to the son.

...hmm...according to this: ... 84840e3205

it seems that I am wrong, and "The Young Montalbano" was based on "very early books by Andrea Camilleri".

Edit: Not sure if this is a complete list of the novels, but anyway, it's a list: ... montalbano

Edit2: also quite interesting: ... in-writing

(interview with the author).
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Re: TV Review: Italian Mysteries

Postby Cavesa » Wed Jan 06, 2016 10:39 pm

Thank you so much! Please, if you'd know of an other places where to look for starting points for Italian culture discovering, let me know!
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Re: TV Review: Italian Mysteries

Postby garyb » Fri Jan 08, 2016 11:33 am

Great post! I hadn't heard of some of these. I'm tempted to watch Nebbie e Delitti just because I know a few people from Ferrara.

I enjoy Montalbano, I've seen most of the episodes but still a few to go. I thought the first couple of episodes of Il giovane Montalbano were very promising but then it got a little silly, although I'm sure I'll still watch the second season sooner or later.

I tried Coliandro a while ago; I wanted to like it especially since I love Bologna, but it seemed a bit stupid and low-quality. I hadn't realised it was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek though, I watched it expecting a more serious show! Maybe I'll try it again with this in mind.

La Piovra (which you did mention) is worth watching too, it's the classic Italian crime series from the eighties and it was also successful in some other countries. It's a bit cheesy and dated, but the actors speak much more clear and standard Italian compared to in many modern series and films so it could be more appealing for intermediate learners. Although, like most cop shows, there's a fair bit of specialised judicial language. And it's not really a "mystery" series, it's more about the mafia.
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