Italian Tween TV is a Confusing, Wild Ride (and I Love it Anyway)

If I’m being honest, my experience with Italian TV has been extremely limited during my time abroad. My Italian isn’t great, so I’ve been watching the same thing for the past three months: "Alex & Co," an Italian Disney Channel production that actually reminds me a lot of the old shows we watched like “Zoey 101” or “Life with Derek” –– the good stuff.

However, watching this show has gotten me to reconsider if these programs were actually good, or if I’m just looking at the past with rose-tinted glasses.

"Alex & Co" would feel right at home with those American shows and their plots, but the way the Italian versions turn up the drama is unbelievable for a 20 minute show marketed to the 8-to-12 demographic. The show is about a group of high schoolers who form a band that they have to keep secret, because singing is banned in Italy (sorry, that’s totally not true -- I just don’t remember why).

The high school is Americanized to the nines with lockers, mean girls, and even a school soccer team, which actually is not very Italian at all. Even their songs are in English, and while my host sisters love to sing along, I have to admit as an English speaker, all of the show’s music is made up of absolute word salad. It’s like the song writers are throwing an Italian/English dictionary in your face, but the dictionary has all the words in the wrong place, and then for some reason it's your job to unscramble them.

For example, the show’s theme song “Music Speaks” tells us: “If I cannot sing a single song that I’ll understand and sing along." Yeah it's not great, and I didn’t even touch upon the worst parts. That being said, the 13-year-old in me is revived by the show, or maybe this show is secretly a work of genius — but either way, I’m hooked.

All of the characters are terrible, especially our main character, Alex, who is this artsy fifteen-year-old that thinks his creative talents give him a free pass to shirk all educational, personal, and professional responsibilities. He completely forgot about his six-month anniversary date that his girlfriend slaved over because he was writing a song, for God's sake.

I would like to take this time to note that I know for sure everyone in my host family is obsessed with this show, because when my host dad found out that this happened on the show he had a full-on freak-out. However, no matter how bad Alex or any of the other characters get, I cannot stop watching. Apparently, neither can all Italian girls that I know between the ages of 2-12, either.

We have serious conservations about the show, too. Okay maybe not conversations, but discussions. Okay maybe not discussions, but just one discussion. Okay it's not a discussion, it’s a question: Hey, can you tell me what’s happening? I have no idea what they just said ( Ehe, potete dimmi che cosa ha sucesso adesso, non l’ho capito).

The show takes so many twists and turns that I don’t remember even my childhood dramas taking. For example, in the 40-some episodes I’ve watched, there have been music competitions, plagiarism, paternity accusations, grandmas falling, moms falling, break-ups, make-ups, the cutest nerd couple ever, stolen diaries, girls with secret pasts, and now, Alex is pretending to be two people to further himself creatively but also to hook up with one girl and his ex at the same time –– he really is the worst.

What I’m trying to say is that even though this show isn’t the height of the 'golden age of television' that we currently live in, it's done a lot for me: It’s sustained me every night at 9:30, helped me bond with my host family, and given me some great memories. It’s weird, but I think I’m going to miss it when I get back home.