The Writer They Call Tay (awanderingbard) wrote,
The Writer They Call Tay

Nero Wolfe en Italia

When I joined the library a few months ago, I got access to Hoopla, which is a service that has e-books and e-comic books, audio books, music, movies, and television shows you can borrow virtually. It has a Roku version, so you can stream the movies and tv shows to your tv, and Mum and I have been watching a few things here and there. The selection isn't great, but there's been a few interesting things we've found. They have a lot of foreign film and television, and I discovered an Italian adaptation of Nero Wolfe. I've watched the first two episodes (Fer-de-Lance ['Snake Tracks'] and Champagne for One), and it's not bad.

The conceit is that Archie and Wolfe have moved to Italy after a 'problem with the police in New York' and the FBI suggesting it might be a good idea for them to leave the country. In my head, I could see it working after A Family Affair canonically, although, as the episodes are adapted from the books, they would be reliving the same cases in Rome that they solved in New York, so it's not a perfect headcanon. Archie and Wolfe are the only characters from the books, the rest are locals filling the roles of the other characters. They didn't bring Fritz, which is my biggest criticism. There's an Italian chef they hire who is so much like Fritz, they might as well have just used Fritz. He's Swiss, he could know Italian and it wouldn't even be a stretch! Archie and Wolfe wouldn't have left Fritz in New York. He's a member of the family.

The adaptations are otherwise very faithful, for the most part, changing names and tweaking plot points to fit into the new setting. It's a very different take than the A&E series, which was colourful and silly. This is a more serious adaptation, but not gritty or anything. Just less farcical than the A&E series. It's not narrated by Archie, so it's less extreme in the storytelling, and gives the opportunity to show a more realistic view of their lives than the pulpy version Archie might be portraying in his books.

Francesco Pannofino plays Wolfe and is really great. He's warmer than Maury Chaykin's take, but not cuddly or out of character, and his affection for his orchids, his love of food, and his great concern in seeing everyone fed is very cute in an appropriate way. They've kept a lot of details for him, like his yellow pajamas, his refusal to discuss work at the dinner table, and his dislike of cars and leaving the house (though he does leave it way more than in the books, which is OOC, but I can understand it from a plot POV). Because it doesn't have Archie narrating the series, I think it evens his quirks out to maybe a more realistic view than the (most likely exaggerated) version Archie tells us about.

Pietro Sermonti is Archie and, once again, his take is very different. Timothy Hutton played Archie with a cheerful sort of boistrous charm, Sermonti plays him as observant, suave, and saracastic, with a lot more of a heart. I love the way he watches Wolfe with little secret smiles at his antics and his exasperated reactions to the characters he's interacting with. He has a sweet way with the female clients and he and Wolfe have a super sweet, obvious affection for each other, the way we know they totally do but Archie doesn't bother to mention in his stories. I also like the nod to canon that Archie often has a glass of milk in hand in the background of scenes. It's hard for me to believe Archie would speak the word perfect Italian that he's doing here (he strikes as someone who could learn a language but would speak it with a very American accent), but I can suspend my disbelief due to the obvious reason that it's an Italian show.

The other characters are hybrids of the book characters. There's a PI that's a mixture of Saul Panzer and Fred Durkin in personality, and an Inspector and Sergeant that are basically Cramer and Stebbins. There's also a female reporter who is a a mixture of Lon Cohen's helpfulness and Lily Rowan's sass. She's an obvious love interest for Archie, but I don't mind because they have good chemistry and she's just the sort of girl Archie would find amusing but exasperating in the books. And the books are light on female characters, so I can see why they'd want to bring in at least one.

Overall, it's enjoyable so far. There were eight episodes made, but I can only have five rentals a month, so I'll have to wait to see all of them. If you enjoy Nero Wolfe, I would recommend checking it out if you can find it somewhere. It's not perfect, but it's enjoyable if you go in with an open mind.
Tags: misc./non-fic, rantage and randomosity

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