Tutti pazzi per amore: Contemporary Fiction and Spreadable Music
by Luca Barra — Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan
April 17, 2012 – 00:00
In 2009, a convergent approach to TV fiction aired in prime-time on Italy’s main PSB network, Raiuno. In a time slot usually filled with period dramas and conventional comedies, the network launched Tutti pazzi per amore (There’s Something about Love) to attract a younger demographic. The experiment worked: the show received high ratings and recently concluded its third season.
Tutti pazzi per amore relies on all the conventional topoi of family comedy, but refreshes this tradition with modern themes and language. A widower, Paolo, and a divorced woman, Laura, who lives next door, meet for the first time in the lift, fall in love and decide to form a new family, together with her two children and his daughter. Various minor characters are connected to the main plot offering an ensemble approach to romance and friendship.
Several aspects contribute to make Tutti pazzi per amore a successful experiment of convergent TV. The producers used YouTube to spread promotional videos in the weeks leading up to the series premiere. The light and surreal “tone of voice” – with a number of “what-if” and “dream-like” scenes often interrupting the flow of events – as well as the constant presence of meta-linguistic devices has also succeeded in engaging a loyal audience that has made the show an active presence in social media.
However, some months before Glee aired in the US, the main innovation of Tutti pazzi per amore is the role played by music. Every episode is titled after a famous Italian pop song and most of the show’s dialogue features references to lyrics. Musical performances are inserted into the narration, giving strength to characters’ feelings. Comedy hybridizes with musicals: the songs, played by lead characters, accompany the developments of the plot, or become playful impersonations of singers and music videos. Songs are both a meta-linguistic device and a deep narrative ingredient, as it happens with Marylin Monroe’s Bye Bye Baby, accompanying the funeral of Michele, a friend of Paolo. Death and its sacred ceremony are transformed into an explosion of joy and relief, accompanied by a final choreography that unifies all the actors. Not only does the music evoke nostalgic feelings and helps connect fictional characters and real viewers in a shared generational memory, it also converts chunks of the narrative into spreadable elements that can be distributed with playlists on YouTube, discussions into blogs and forums, and posted in social media.
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