A few years ago, holier-than-thou British programmes like Eurotrash revelled in the excesses of Italian television. Remember the strip-tease housewives? The super-camp fortune tellers? The surgically enhanced tits and bums of
showgirls and B-list actresses newsreaders and members of parliament? There’s been a general clean-up since then, but the essence of Italotrash can still be found. Not in the teeming undergrowth of local channels, but in post prime-time telly on the main state channel, Rai Uno.
Porta a Porta (Door to Door), a chat show that combines
name-calling political debate with the most prurient tabloid journalism imaginable (I’m talking interviews with presumed infanticides, with mock-ups of the murder scene in the studio) was particularly hilarious yesterday evening.
The show was ostensibly about something called ‘Family Day’ (you have to pronounce it familee die to get the full joy), a kitschfest organised by the Vatican and its parliamentary drones for this Saturday in one of Rome’s main squares. The explicit aim of the demonstration is to ensure that civil union legislation is blocked and, with luck, bring down the government. It might as well be called Bye-bye Dico Day, but perhaps that’s too much English for its organisers to absorb. It’s supported by the usual gang of celibate self-harmers and right-wing divorcés.
The programme hosted four politicians, two from each coalition: well, naturally -- ‘balance’ or par condicio as it’s called here (see below for the way Italy prefers to use other languages for concepts it can’t quite absorb) is a legal requirement. It’s up to Bruno Vespa, the arbiter of the programme and a man beside whom Uriah Heep resembles Hannibal Lecter, to make sure the needs of the right are served in other, more subtle ways. I won’t name names, because that would be both invidious and, more importantly, libellous, but it was illuminating to listen to discussions of the value of the family conducted by a virgin, a closet queen, a libertine and a homophobe.
The cherry on the cake was Vespa asking Cardinal Scola, Archbishop of Venice, about the nature of love. You might as well ask a man with frostbitten fingers to mend a watch.