If you watch HBO, you may have noticed a series called “My Brilliant Friend.” If you haven’t, it time to start watching the show. The Italian-American drama television miniseries is based on the novel of the same name by Elena Ferrante. It is the first of four novels in the Neapolitan Novels series to be adapted for television. The eight-episode miniseries is a co-production between HBO and the Italian networks RAI and TIMvision. It premiered on HBO last month and due to its wide acclaim, has just been confirmed for a second season.
The series begins when the son of an old friend telephones the main character, a woman in her 60s named Elena. Elena’s childhood friend Lila has disappeared and her son is unable to find any trace of her. Elena recognizes this as something Lila in her later years has always talked about doing and believes her disappearance to be a conscious action. In the spirit of their spiteful ways towards each other, Elena begins to put on paper everything she can remember about Lila, beginning in 1950s Naples, where Elena and Lila grew up in a poor neighborhood full of violence and strife. Elena was the smart one, referred to as “My brilliant friend” by Lila. Brilliant is a word that is frequently used to describe the writing and acting in this compelling series. It is one of the best series to have come along in years. If watching My Brilliant Friend has left you with an appetite for more, here are some other Italian series worth checking out as the winter months inspire many to engage in some binge watching.
Gomorrah – like My Brilliant Friend, the series also takes place on the harsh and unforgiving streets of an unnamed suburb of Naples. That is where the similarities end. Gomorrah follows the fortunes of a ruthless crime family and its associates as they compete for wealth and power. Dark, brooding, and beautifully shot, the artistry of its cinematography jars with Gomorrah’s brutal content, but it is well worth watching for its nail-biting plot twists and genuinely wrenching turns.
Boris – If you need some light relief after all the vice of Gomorrah, check out Boris, a light-hearted comedy that takes place behind the scenes of the fictional daytime medical soap opera Gli occhi del cuore (Eyes of the Heart). Through the eyes of Alessandro, a hapless intern, you meet the show’s self-obsessed stars and the hapless characters that surround them.
La meglio gioventù – If you want something more substantial than comedy, but less violent than a crime thriller, consider the four-part mini-series La meglio gioventù (The Best of Youth), a sweeping epic that tells the story of a 40-year period in Italian history by chronicling the lives of two brothers from their adolescence in the 60’s through middle age in the early 2000’s. It combines intimate family drama with social history. If you love My Brilliant Friend, this would probably be the best place to start.
I Medici – the series tells the story of the Medici family, the fathers of the Italian Renaissance and was filmed in English to maximize its audience. If you feel like relaxing at the end of the day with some enjoyable medieval melodrama and want to learn about Renaissance history, you are bound to enjoy the series.