Feed Thy Neighbor: Italy’s Catholic Reality Show

Sooner or later, it had to happen: a reality show on a Catholic TV network.
In Italy’s “The Mooch” (lo scroccone), the host gets himself invited to a family dinner.

The moocher in question is Danny Milano, a DJ with a Pee-Wee Herman flattop and nose stud, who created the program. Now in its third season, this new kind of dinner theater airs on Telechiara, a 15-year-old network run by the Bishop’s office of the Triveneto region, the Northeast of Italy.

What is principle-inspired reality TV like?
Less schmaltzy than one would expect. Though Telechiara‘s feel-good airwaves don’t reach Milan, you can download the show from Milano’s website — before or after listening to his latest Brazilian-house remix.

Press write-ups made it sound as if Milano went knocking on doors at dinner time, trying to get his nose-ringed, fabulous self invited in, but it’s clear from the first episode where the phone number to get on the show floats at top of the screen that this is no improv session.

Still, the extended Turri family manages to talk about gays over pasta. Gran honestly says she can’t quite get used to seeing gays “out,” her granddaughter chimes in about visiting Sydney, where, after a week of seeing same-sex PDA, she stopped noticing.

Then there’s a logorrheic woman who asks Milano to dinner for the sole purpose of complaining about plumbing problems from the apartment above and the bureaucratic nightmare of getting it fixed. Incredibly boring and uncut, just like your real neighbor.

Aside from a very mild 15-minutes-of-fame appeal, the Mooch manages to have some social value. The Triveneto is an area made up of the Veneto, Trentino-South Tyrol and Friuli-Venezia Giulia regions, most of whose humming, productive factories are kept running by the work of immigrants; Milano breaks bread with a young couple from Uruguay, where the woman has a pilot’s license but works as a dog trainer. These are the neighbors you see but perhaps don’t talk to and probably wonder what dinner at their house is like.

The freshly ironed shirts and candle-lit tables of all the families are slightly suspect, but then not something that would be out of place for Sunday lunch in Italy. And, most of these TV families have an honest bottle of red wine, or two, while they feed this particular neighbor.

The Mooch airs on Monday nights and repeats are aired four times a week.

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