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Last Updated on March 8, 2021 by Helga

As the color and private channels enter the industry, how does Italian television change? An overview of Italian 1970s TV.

Italian television

Italian 1970s TV

The industry was shaped by two events: the advent of color and the introduction of private channels. Italian television was changing.

The former event is was an epic saga, influenced by politics as much as a lifestyle. Its innovation started in the mid-sixties and it saw many delays and false starts. Until, finally, color reached Italian television.

During the 70s, RAI (the national broadcaster) started losing its monopoly. In fact, more and more viewers tuned to shows from other countries, such as Monaco and Switzerland. These programs were produced abroad and broadcasted in Italian. For the first time, the public had options.

The rise of women in Italian television

One of the most loved personalities of the 1970s TV was the showgirl Raffaella Carrà.

She caused a huge scandal when she appeared on-air wearing a tight dancing outfit that exposed her navel. Indeed, it was quite a shock for conservative viewers. She didn’t budge. In fact, the showgirl went on to sing the Tuca Tuca Dance a song chock full of strong sexual innuendo.

Other prima donnas of the decade included Sabina Ciuffini. She was the first speaking female TV assistant in the history of Italian television. Ciuffinin was so successful that she became a co-hosted Rischiatutto with Mike Bongiorno.

More and more women took over Italian television. Names such as folk singer Gabriella Ferri and pop singer and comedian Loretta Goggi. This is the decade of Sandra Mondaini and her famous comedy skits with her husband, Raimondo Vianello. The effects of the 1968 sexual revolution hit TV too. In fact, the first topless shot on a live show appeared in 1979.

Slowly but surely, variety shows started losing the public. Instead, Italians wanted fiction.

Fiction, fiction, and more fiction

There was one, unequivocal winner in Italian television of the 1970s TV. It’s the show Sandokan, inspired by the books by Emilio Salgari. It broke all the records. And everyone knew the lyrics of the soundtrack.

While Sandokan was a fan’s favorite, other Italian series took over TV. Titles such as The Life of Leonardo da Vinci (1971) with Philippe Leroy, the five-episode The Adventures of Pinocchio (1972) by Luigi Comencini, and Jesus of Nazareth (1976) by Franco Zeffirelli.

American series found success on Italian television. The most popular ones were Happy Days, The American Dream of Jordache, and Fury.

Beyond the 70s television shows

Italian tv shows and television series weren’t the only entertainment Italians enjoyed.

In fact, Portobello was a successful program. The host Enzo Tortora put ordinary people at the center of Italian television. For example, during the program, people presented and tried to sell their inventions. Furthermore, people searched (and often found) long-lost relatives and friends. While others tried to sell their things in a garage sale environment. Portobello soon became the must-watch Friday night show. 

Unfortunately, in 1977 the popular Carosello went off the air. But young Italians had their share of animated entertainment anyway. First with the success of Supergulp! (Comics on TV) (1977), then with the invasion of Japanese cartoons such as Atlas Ufo Robot. Japanese anime had a deep impact on Italian culture. It was the unofficial birth of the Italian geek.

Italian TV in 70s. The popular shows and people.
Enzo Tortora hosting Portobello. Via Culturalmente.

At the end of the 1970s, RAI 3 launched the third public channel. Yet, that didn’t influence the viewer’s taste. In fact, the following decade would be all about private channels and a revolution in Italian television. This is the short story of the 1970’s TV in Italy.

Find out more about Italian culture in the 70s and 80s here!

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