TV mob series gets rave reviews in Italy

Thursday, May 24th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ROME (AP) _ ``The Sopranos'' is a hit in Italy.

Italian critics on Thursday raved about the first episode of the HBO mob drama. And although it aired at 12:30 a.m. Wednesday and had practically no publicity, the show attracted nearly a fourth of the nationwide viewing audience.

Italy's most important TV critic, Aldo Grasso, gave the show a rave review.

``Rarely does one see fiction so intelligent, ironic, full of psychological and narrative subtleties. And the dialogue! The photography!'' he wrote in the daily newspaper Corriere della Sera. ``Trust me, don't miss `The Sopranos!'''

The daily La Repubblica called the show a ``masterpiece.'' The paper deplored the network's decision to ``hide it from us'' in a late-night time slot and urged readers to stay up and watch the show.

Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset network, which is airing ``The Sopranos'' on its Canale 5, was so encouraged by the high ratings that it moved the show to an 11:30 p.m. time slot on Saturday nights. It's also rebroadcasting the first episode to attract new viewers.

The series about a New Jersey mob family just ended its third season on the HBO cable network and has won several Emmys, including a best-actor award last year for star James Gandolfini. But it also has drawn criticism from some Italian-Americans, who have said the show stereotypes them.

The Italian version of ``The Sopranos'' has been dubbed into a fairly bland version of the mother tongue, so much of the distinctive flavor of the original _ the thick New Jersey accents, the ``mobspeak'' _ is lost.

Mediaset, part of premier-elect Berlusconi's vast financial empire, has bought all 13 episodes of the series' first season.