Gritty Naples mafia series aims to join international TV boom

Wed Jun 11, 2014 8:57am EDT
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By James Mackenzie

ROME (Reuters) - Crime dramas often strive for gritty realism but few have had as timely an echo in the real world as the Italian TV series "Gomorra", inspired by Roberto Saviano's bestselling 2006 account of the Naples underworld.

The show, which ended its first run on Tuesday night, recalls U.S. series like "The Wire" or "The Sopranos" in its unrelenting portrait of violence, corruption and drugs in the crumbling high-rise tenements around Naples.

Made by News Corp's Italian pay-TV unit Sky Italia, it has attracted some of the highest ratings in the station's history and has been sold in more than 50 countries including Britain and the United States, profiting from the recent boom in big-budget TV series like "Game of Thrones" or "House of Cards".

Based loosely on a war between rival factions of the Camorra, the Naples mafia, in the suburb of Scampia 10 years ago, it shows the area as a lawless zone of killers, drug dealers and corrupt local politicians.

Almost as soon as it began showing, Antonio Iovine, a former Camorra boss turned police witness, provided depressing testimony of the power of organized crime in Naples in a real-life trial.

"There was money for everyone in a system that was completely corrupt," Iovine, who said he had committed so many murders he could not remember them all, told investigators as he described an elaborate shadow economy of bribes and protection money controlled by Camorra gunmen.

Andrea Scrosati, the Sky Italia executive in charge of programming, said the series, made by the team responsible for the successful Italian series "Romanzo Criminale", based on the 1970s Rome underworld, needed to be as realistic as it could be to work.

"It wouldn't have been possible to make it any other way," he said.   Continued...