Maltese culture is unique, awesome, and sometimes hard to understand in these globalised times. However, we must admit that when it comes to certain things, we are, and have always been, influenced by our close proximity to Italy.
Maltese and Italian cultures have a lot in common, though obviously, up to a certain point. Think about the food, the music, the fashion, even the way certain Maltese words and expressions stem from Italian roots.
Personally, I adore Italian TV and throughout my life, I have spent hours and hours entranced by Italian programmes and celebrities, especially during my childhood. Unfortunately, many of the hosts, soubrettes, and other iconic Italian television personalities that I liked at the time have long since disappeared from the public eye, for one reason or another. Ever been curious about what happened to them and what they are doing now? I’ve had a bee in my bonnet lately and discovered a few titbits about some of my favourite childhood hotshots, who have since departed the small screen.
Mike Bongiorno (1927 – 2009) – with his trademark greeting ‘Allegria!’ (which can roughly be translated as ‘Be merry!’ or ‘Cheers!’) was an iconic television host and a fixture on first Rai, and later on Mediaset channels. He was considered to be the most famous presenter in Italy and was also known as the ‘Tele-quiz King’. In March 2009, Mike decided not to renew his contract due to illness. He in fact died later on that year of a heart attack. He was 85 years old and left behind him a void which, to date, has not yet been replaced (not for want of trying by other TV hosts).
Pippo Baudo (1936 – ) – Baudo was another very well known TV host. Some made claims that he tried to be Bongiorno’s rival, but when the two met, at least in the public eye, they always behaved in a friendly manner towards each other. ‘Superpippo’, as he was called by his fans, achieved notoriety mostly with his shows on Rai channels. He later moved to Mediaset, but never achieved the same kind of popularity he had in earlier years, and in fact he has not hosted any popular shows on TV in a while.
Lorella Cuccarini (1965 – ) – In the 80s and 90s she was the soubrette par excellence. Dancer, singer, comic, actress, T.V host, she worked in many variety shows, most notably the Sunday programme ‘Buona Domenica’ (‘Good Sunday’). In the early 2000s, Cuccarini started focussing on her theatrical career, leaving the small screen. She is also known to have been involved in a number of charity marathons and events.
Maurizio Costanzo (1938 – ) – Journalist, TV conductor, TV author, university professor, Costanzo mainly hosted shows debating current, as well as political national affairs. With his ‘Costanzo Show’, he was a fixture from the early 80s to around 2009. As of 2011, he has been appearing less and less on TV, being more concerned with his own Radio Station, as well as being an editor for an Italian newspaper.
Paolo Villaggio (1932 – ) – Known mostly for his iconic portrait of ‘Ugo Fantozzi’ in a very comical, yet multiple layered social satire which started to be aired on TV in the 70s, not many are aware that Villaggio is also a satiric writer, cabaret actor, and theatre director. Getting on in years, Villaggio is now working mostly as a writer.
Sandra Mondaini and Raimondo Vianello (1921 – 2010 / 1922 – 2010) – these two were mostly known for their impersonation of the archetypical, not to mention funny, old bickering couple. Having multiple TV shows, always together (Raimondo also specialised in sports criticism, while Sandra had appeared in children’s shows), they were loved by young and old alike for their whimsical portrayal of marriage, especially in the well-known sitcom Casa Vianello. Both spouses died within months of each other in 2010.
These are only a few of those TV characters who stand out from my childhood and adolescence and they will always retain an important and fond place in my heart. Other personalities, such as Rafaella Carra’, Gerry Scotti, Paolo Bonolis, and Maria de Filippi are still active to date, and I hope will remain so for a while yet. Although, obviously, I don’t know any of them personally, somehow after spending so many hours being entertained and learning from their shows, I somehow consider them as friends and will definitely miss them, much as I miss the ones already departed, once they are gone.
Do you have any favourite Italian TV personalities who were prevalent in your childhood? How about those who are still currently on air?