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'My Brilliant Friend' is really, really, ridiculously good

The cult-series from Elena Ferrante's novels is the best Italian TV show in years

'My Brilliant Friend' is really, really, ridiculously good The cult-series from Elena Ferrante's novels is the best Italian TV show in years

The (second) season finale of My Brilliant Friend - The Story of a New Name, the TV series written and directed by Saverio Costanzo (La solitudine dei numeri primi, In Treatment) from the hit-novels by Elena Ferrante (the writer who writes under pseudonym and has been selected in 2016 among Time's 100 most influential people) aired monday night and reached almost 7 millions viewers. It's now clear that My Brilliant Friend is the best series of Italian television and - against all the odds - is broadcast by Rai - Radio Televisione Italiana.

My Brilliant Friend, that premiered back in 2018 at Mostra d’Arte Cinematografica di Venezia, is an authorial series. It tells the story of Lila and Lenù, who are two friends born in the Fifties in a poor district of Napoli who grow up remaining close across the difficulties of life and continue to struggle in the aim of make their voices to be heard. It's a story about women and friendship, of rivalry and jealousy that leaves us breathless and on the verge of a mental breakdown.

Elena Ferrante's novels have been the biggest Italian literary case in years, so big that have caught the attention of HBO (the US network that produced Sex and the CityGame of Thrones and Euphoria). The show is a co-production of Wildside, Fandango and Rai Fiction in collaboration with TIMVision and HBO. It's a rare event for Italian television, that in the last years has been used to a never lasting mediocrity when it comes to its fiction.

My Brilliant Friend breaks this tradition as a thunder because it is eventually cool. Not just cool, but well-done. It's well-done because it tells the contemporary struggle of women in the fight for their rights and independence, because it has a good script and because its actresses are really good (Elisa Del Genio/Margherita Mazzucco e Ludovica Nasti/Gaia Girace, all of them at their first experience on set). Most of all, it's sincere in portraying perfectly and for the first time Italy (and the Italianess), without abusing of the stereotypes of mafia and criminality. It's fresh air for Italian television. We're not implying that Gomorra was not good, but My Brilliant Friend is better.

Despite its qualities, there is a huge prejudice hanging over this show: it's on Rai 1. In Italy there is the common belief that there are no tv series, instead there are the so-called "fictions", which are considered trash television by a large part of the public (AKA the millennials and the intellectuals). All these fictions (it doesn't matter if they're produced by Rai or Mediaset) have the problem to become too "generalist". If you pay attention you can even see their signature colors invading all their shows: dark blue takes over Rai 1, dark red takes over Rai 2, bright green takes over Rai 3, while blue&orange make the patina that dominates every Mediaset show. Though it's a strong aesthetic, it's still provincial. It doesn't matter if shows like Sanremo, Pechino Express or Il collegio try to reach the new public of millennials and Generation Z: their ship is never really able to sail.

It's a sad prejudice that we need to destroy as soon as possible, especially if we consider that My Brilliant Friend is clearly better than many other shows protected by more prestigious labels. It's the case for Luna nera on Netflix, or Made in Italy on Amazon Prime Video: they both are really, really bad, and still they could be renewed because of the driving force of their house of production.

Considering the efforts made by Rai Fiction and HBO, My Brilliant Friend should deserve more respect. And that's not because its numbers are bad (actually, it was one of the biggest success of this television season), but just to make that slice of the public aware that Rai 1 can (and it actually has to) make quality television. It's a paradox, if we think that that same slice of public snubs My Brilliant Friend but cheers when it comes to the third season of Élite (that is way more far, far away from quality television). I think it's time to stop to flip through the pages of Italian Television and start to read them for real.