By the early 2000s, mainstream Italian TV fiction had adapted to the new context of media convergence, characterised by digitalisation, multiple distributive platforms and a fragmented marketplace. To illustrate, I consider the case of I Cesaroni, a dramedy aired on Mediaset’s main channel, Canale 5, beginning in 2006 and now into its fourth season on the air.
I Cesaroni is based on the successful Spanish format Los Serrano. It shows the daily complications of the marriage between Giulio, a widower with three sons of different ages, and Lucia, divorced with two teenage daughters. The story is deeply rooted in the sub-urban context of a popular neighbourhood in Rome. From a narrative point of view, I Cesaroni is a traditional series. It presents strong elements of continuity with past examples of family comedies, alongside few novelties, including storylines which stem from the teenage characters which are themselves inspired by US teen-dramas. At the same time, however, I Cesaroni is also an attempt to turn a mainstream series into a cross-media TV product, where storytelling is developed across different media through various top-down paratexts that are conceived in order to multiply the “touch points” to the text.
This occurs along two fronts. First, viewers can enjoy the romance of the teen plots and then follow it in two novels and a blog, composed in the form of a diary written by two teen characters. The second front has to do with the music in the series. As established by the Spanish format “bible”, the main teen character, Marco, is a musician. Several storylines follow his route to success: Marco is shown composing songs and performing them while presenting its album in a real radio programme, and the real label Cinevox Record commercialises the albums played by Marco in the series. The album developed alongside season three, Ovunque andrai (Wherever you go), represents a case in point of this synergic brand extension: together with the music album, the homonymous novel and blog were launched. Ovunque andrai is also the title of the season three finale episode, with Marco performing a song from the album on the stage of an imitation talent show.
The case of I Cesaroni has much to say about the dynamic of convergence in Italian mainstream TV fiction, reflecting a combination of tradition and innovation that involves both the narrative strategies of TV products and their models of consumption.