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Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia

Uomini e Donne: An Italian TV Phenomenon

Italy's trashiest TV show

Every country has its own form of trashy dating television shows that are defined by its culture. The UK has Love Island, The US has The Bachelor and Italy has Uomini e Donne which directly translates to Men and Women. The show has been running since 1996 and is still going strong with a total of 25 seasons. It was conceived and conducted by a presenter, author, and producer.Maria De Fillipi is involved with a number of popular Italian productions including  C'è posta per te, Temptation Island Italia, Tú sí que vales  and Amici di Maria De Filippi, all of which have extensive viewerships at a national level.

Uomini e Donne airs every day from Monday to Friday on Canale 5 of Mediaset at 14.45.

The running time is a result of the Italian viewership consisting of mainly stay-at-home moms and retirees. Although their streaming platform Witty TV and casting diversification has encouraged the young adult viewership to grow. 

What does the show entail? 

Maria de Filippi

Much like The Bachelor, the ultimate goal is to find your one true love but with several twists. The main contestants undergo a journey to find their love interest over the course of three months. This journey is called “the throne” because the contestant sits upon a literal throne as they are introduced to their potential partners. That contestant is referred to as the “tronista”. There are three paths that a contestant can follow: the Classic Throne, which is the basis of the show where a young man or woman is seeking a partner of the opposite sex, the Throne Over which consists of contestants between the ages of 40 and 60, and the Gay Throne which, you guessed it, has the exact premise of the other two versions but is catered to contestants seeking same-sex relationships. Each season has multiple "troniste" at different stages of their journeys than one another. During filming, contestants are not allowed to have any contact with each other outside of the show.

The contestants are free to live their lives, as long as they do not communicate over social media, the phone, or in person when the cameras are not around. Any contact without the cameras present, that is not pre-approved by the production team, calls for the immediate elimination of the two contestants.  

How is the show structured?

The show classically consists of male and female contestants that participate in several gendered competitions or performances to win a private date with the "tronista". The competitions are extravagant demonstrations of character presentation and strengths. The contestants then get graded on their actions and are selected or denied a private date with the "tronista". New contestants are introduced depending on how well the current contestants satisfy their relationship needs. Unlike The Bachelor or Love Island, the show has a loose structure that allows for contestants and mediators to insert themselves whenever they feel it necessary. Maria guides the contestants through the competitions and selection process, and mediates discussions in order to move the show forward. Alongside Maria, the main conductor of the show, there are 3 commentators who insert themselves at will and often comment on their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the behavior of the contestants.

After the “private” dates, the footage of each date is played back for the men and women to confront each other in front of a live studio audience, and the other contestants. They share their feelings while being mediated by Maria and at the end of the confrontation sequence the "tronista" gets to choose the contestant they want to slow dance with.

The slow dance represents the person they prefer most out of the other contestants. The slow dance sequence is strange because they dance as the show closes so you see the happy couple(s) dancing but the production team is walking across the set cleaning up and the other contestants are free to join the floor and mingle as the credits play.  

What is the appeal?

The format seems as though Uomini e Donne is another cookie-cutter dating show but the appeal for its viewers and the disdain from most of the Italians I spoke with stems from the arguments that ensue. The majority of the program time is taken up by fighting. Love interests arguing with the "tronista" because they aren’t spending enough time together, commentators berating contestants, contestants yelling at each other, women crying, men crying, and everyone screaming over each other. That is the purpose of the show, not the spirit of competition, not teaching people to work through their feelings, and not even love. 

Uomini e Donne is essentially a mix and match of elements from other dating shows that come together in a beautiful trainwreck that is impossible to look away from.

Each episode is complicated and convoluted full of passion, heartbreak, and emotions running high. The appeal lies in the nonsense. The sheer capabilities of the show to create drama that glues its viewers to the tv.

Who will they pick? What will they say? What will happen next? That's the beauty of Uomini e Donne and that is what keeps millions of people on the edge of their seats every day of the work week.  

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