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I missed the first episode of The Young Montalbano on BBC4, but luckily, next day, I was sent a DVD copy to review.
A prequel to the late-Nineties Italian pot-boiler Inspector Montalbano a show I also somehow managed to miss, this Sicilian cop series is set in the very pretty fictional seaside town of Vigata.
Clad in a polo neck and a heavy sheepskin coat, beardy male lead Michele Riondino plays Montalbano a man with a firm belief in justice, a deep disdain for corruption and an all-embracing love of seafood and pasta.
The two hour long, feature length opening episode contained more dialogue than any television series I have ever watched in my life, the characters barely pausing for breath as they crammed wordy speech after wordy speech into every scene. At one point I yelled at the screen, "For the love of God stop talking for a moment!" But to no avail.
This much dialogue would have difficult to process at the best of times, but add to that the fact that the whole thing was sub-titled, and the experience fast became quite exhausting. There was hardly enough space on my TV screen to fit all the words, and I occasionally had to press PAUSE in order to catch up with my reading. Thankfully, most of this dialogue was related to plot and backstory, but quite a large percentage of it, in true Italian style, was concerned purely with detailed descriptions of food.
Ragu and braised lamb, linguine alla vongole ten minutes into the show and I've switched to the TV in the kitchen so I can watch while cooking pasta and popping open a bottle of Valpolichella and this at 1.00 am in the morning.
Montalbano's boring, plain girlfriend Mery (played by Katia Greco) brings me back down to Earth with a bump. What's he doing with this woman? She only seems to show up when she wants a quick shag or someone to nag. Or maybe a nice prawn tagliatelle or salmon carbonara in a creamy sauce.
Food plays a huge part in this show. At one point our hero appears with what appears to be a plate of spaghetti vongole and offers it to one of his prisoners in a cell. He seems to think this will make the interrogation more civilised. Can you imagine the desk sergeant in The Bill whipping up a quick squid vermicelli for one of his prisoners? I don't think so.
There was some action. At one point, two cars collided with each other at 6 miles an hour in the town square, causing slight damage to the driver side front bumper on a Fiat. Insurance details were not exchanged and one of the drivers got slapped in the face. The James Bond franchise has nothing to worry about.
Comedic relief comes in the form of the copper who runs the switchboard at Montalbano's nick. The joke seems to be that this man speaks faster than everyone else (which is tricky), plus he's a bit deaf and he gets everyone's name slightly wrong. I can't decide if this character is inspired by Manuel from Fawlty Towers or Officer Crabtree in 'Allo, 'Allo.
The Young Montalbano is nice to look at. The scenery is beautiful, and the whole thing feels a bit like a Sicilian Bergerac, in a white wine sauce, with a green side salad. But for non Italian speakers, I fear that life may be too short for 2 whole hours of Montalbano every week.
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