The greatest obstinacy of Italians is not that of not paying taxes. It is not the one who gets false certificates of illness, disability, pregnancy at risk. It’s not the one to double-park. She is not the one to believe that all those who make more career than them are recommended. The greatest obstinacy of Italians is to consider it normal that the first television evenings last four hours.
It hasn’t always been like this, we old men remember it. I learned half of the English I know (half that I didn’t learn from Deejay Television) from the second-night Rai 3 film reviews, the Sundays in which Howard Hawks were broadcast. Yes, there was a time (a century ago) when public TV sent films from the Thirties with subtitles in the late evening, and the second evening started at half past ten.
It was another century, of course. A century in which the first evenings began at half past eight, after the news, because we did not feel the need for that monstrosity called “access time” (when we invent English names for typical Italians it is never a good sign); a time slot made either by Gabibbo or by quizzes in which they ask you if Paolo and Francesca are two characters of Dante, Moccia, or Lucio Dalla, and if you guess you win a lot of money because your intellectual sacrifices and hard-earned cards go rewarded.
Those of the television tell you: eh, but the data. Eh-ma-il-Dato, translated from the industry phrase, means: if the fourteen spectators who looked at me between ten and eleven I keep them there, not sending them the credits until one in the morning, if those fourteen navigator I keep them there even when normal people (those who wake up in the morning to go to work) have turned off, the fourteen that at ten was a one percent will be – at one – twenty percent, and being a liar media I will be able to send press releases tomorrow in which I say that ten percent of Italians looked at me.
There would be a thousand questions to ask, starting with this agreed scam. The main of which is: who cares? Given that the Auditel serves advertising investors – and those stupid ones are not, and they look at how many people there were not even in front of your broadcast, but right in front of their commercial in your broadcast – who needs the press release? To vanity, like book presentations?
Or: in a world where numbers have definitely gone to hell, and we pass off Netflix or Prime productions as great successes, of which no one knows the number of spectators (except the platforms themselves), and we witness the varied art show of Instagram direct with eighty viewers (on Instagram direct there is the merciless counter clearly visible) made by people you have to beg to be a guest on your television program seen by tot millions of people but is there badly lit speaking in public yes and no to relatives, in a world where numbers no longer say anything or what we have decided to project on them, how is it possible that we still deal with how many people with the Auditel machine in the living room have seen this program?
Or: but it is possible that all over the world have their first evenings for an hour and almost only us do not, we who even if we buy the Ukrainian sitcom for twenty-five minutes then exhaust the willing spectator by broadcasting fifteen episodes in one evening just to finish at a werewolf hour?
Or: is this thing about the given that-you-do-it-just-stretch-to-exhaustion true? No, of course. We know this but we usually keep quiet (Crozza has several more Propaganda viewers with an hour of broadcasting instead of four, but it is very unpleasant and therefore I certainly won’t be the one to say it: in Italy you cannot make the revolution because we all know each other) .
Only then comes Eurovision. This, I want to say, is not an article on Eurovision. Because I, I want to say, have never seen a minute of Eurovision in my life. Because to me, I want to say, the songs of the living suck, I only listen to stuff from when there was the lira, and in Sanremo when they sing I take the opportunity to wash the glasses (I would have said “to go and get me a drink”, but for the reputation as an alcoholic I would like to wait until next week, this one here I already have a Putinian one – tomorrow we’ll talk about it, it’s pretty funny).
Eurovision is everything I hate: the sideshow (if you’re not Renato Zero, please dress like a sane person), Twitter cheering, kitsch going mainstream, perceived intelligence. I don’t watch it, and I would have wagered that – like all phenomena from Twitter, from Calenda up – the real country ignored it. Instead: five and a half million spectators, which means that the old women have chosen the new one that advances; they betrayed me, eager as they were to throw the underpants at Blanco (they had kept a couple of them in reserve compared to the ones they had already thrown at him while looking at Sanremo). I thought I was a real country, I find myself a niche crone.
Evidently the other old women knew one thing that I did not know: that Eurovision almost had the times of the TV we grew up with. That yes, the sequins, the bad songs, the strangers for whom you don’t know why you should cheer, but: they started before nine, and at a quarter past eleven they had already finished. And the next day they were able to make the “twenty-seven percent” statement, that there are people who are a life that goes on the air until the time when the breakfast croissants arrived at the parties of our youth, and twenty-seven percent keep dreaming about it.
Yes, the TV that becomes an event, yes, the rhythmic lineup, yes, the rava, yes, the broad bean (the one with the old men always works very well); but: at midnight we slept. One thing that prime-time viewers could not do for many of those years that the other day I was reporting here a debate from twenty years ago, when the problem with TV was that the variety of Morandi and that of De Filippi, even though to scrape together a small percentage point, they ended up at more and more mannary times.
There is only one big lesson we have to learn from the success of the first of the Eurovision evenings (the second is tonight), and it’s not that Cattelan on Rai 1 can work, and it’s not that adults need to know who the Maneskins are, and it is not that we are nostalgic for when if you answered “Europe Europe” on the phone you could win gold tokens: it is that we have been wishing we could go to bed early in the evening for many years.