Italian TV: Dancing Grannies, not Sexy Girls

A program featuring high-kicking grannies accidentally flashing their panties was served up as an alternative to the usual sexy ‘garnish girls’ gracing Italian TV programs.

“Velone” is low-budget summer TV fare at best: a 20-minute pseudo-talent contest for women over 65 that kicks off with a recycled theme song from last years’ version — a contest for young go-go dancers for popular satirical show “Strip the News.”

These senior citizens won’t be replacing skimpily-clad dancing girls anytime soon — they’re competing for a 250,000 euro prize that show creator Antonio Ricci calls ‘a violent boost to the average pension.’ It’s certainly compensation for having to twirl around the stage in a public piazza to last year’s disco hits while a graphic displays name, age, height and weight to the nation.

Wisecracking host Teo Mammucari, who regularly got the better of sexy young babes, fared worse with the four over-aged 65 contestants. They stole his lines, interrupted his jokes, ignored his cues — and the winner of the first episode, 72-year-old Gugliemina Bianchi who improvised a samba in a lacy white getup, grabbed his bum.

The debut on leading commercial channel Canale 5, owned by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset company, came shortly after state TV director Lucia Annuziata announced a ‘anti-bimbo’ decree for the RAI. So what’s the “dignified” alternative to senior shenanigans? Flagship state network RAI uno offers a no-budget random telephone call quiz show that would probably better suit radio, hosted by Sunday variety-show matron Mara Venier. Not surprisingly, Velone topped “cold phone call” in ratings — with 21.19% share compared to 17.54% for RAI uno

At the tail end of “Velone” a bit of pulchritude had to be thrown in for good measure, though, with two 20-something women competing to become “Good Evening Girls” or nearly-extinct announcers. A blonde with a plunging neckline and a brunette with an exposed midriff tripped through announcements about upcoming programs with relative success — a jury of mostly tabloid journalists gave Miss Bellybutton the thumbs up.

The Italian viewing public is in for a long, hot summer — both programs are on six nights a week right before prime time until September. ?1999-2004

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Related resources:
The Dark Heart of Italy
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