Vita da Carlo: New Irreverent Italian Comedy Series

Vita da Carlo

Vita da Carlo (Life As Carlo) is the newish Italian comedy series I discovered on Amazon Prime while searching for something that would make me laugh. Gosh, with the virus spiking and hospital beds overflowing, I was desperately seeking an infectious comedy. This one fits the bill!

If you like the offbeat humor of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm and Seinfeld on Netflix, you’ll want to binge on this ten-episode, original series streaming now on Amazon Prime. Filmed in Rome, in Italian with English subtitles, it was released in early November without too much fanfare. 

Vita da Carlo is witty, irreverent, and contemporary.

The storyline

Carlo Verdone as Carlo Verdone
Carlo Verdone as Carlo Verdone (Riccardo Ghilardi/Amazon Studios)

Each episode is about 30 minutes long. They include exaggerated, humorous vignettes of the real life of Italian comedian, screenwriter, and film director Carlo Verdone. For the newcomer to Verdone, it’s sometimes hard to discern what might be fiction from what is real. 

The show starts off with the president of the Lazio region (played by Andrea Pennacchi) asking Carlo to run for mayor of Rome after Carlo’s tirade about a pothole goes viral on social media. He’s convinced that Carlo, a lifelong resident, knows the city better than anyone else and has the right temperament. 

When word leaks out about the possible candidacy, the whole city seems poised to take selfies with Carlo—from garbage men to bridal parties—a likable actor who has already endeared himself to the public. He’s so widely recognized wherever he goes that everyone feels like they know him. 

The prospective mayor hounded by the paparazzi (Gianfilippo De Rossi/Amazon Studios)
The prospective mayor hounded by the paparazzi (Gianfilippo De Rossi/Amazon Studios)
Consumed by the media wherever he goes (Gianfilippo De Rossi/Amazon Studios)
Consumed by the media wherever he goes (Gianfilippo De Rossi/Amazon Studios)

The plot, filled with twists and turns, moves quickly touching upon different aspects of Carlo’s life, from his dreams and neurotic navel-gazing to conflicts and misunderstandings with family, friends, and colleagues. All his intimates are always asking favors of him. 

Like the actor himself, the real Carlo is a celebrity separated from his wife with a grown daughter and son who periodically return to the nest. He lives in a sprawling, contemporary apartment with magnificent city views of Rome (the creation of a talented set designer). 

His personality is as unpredictable and off-kilter as that of Curb’s Larry David. One of his foibles: He is unable to say “no” to anyone despite the unreasonableness of any request, which invariably gets him into predicaments. In this sense, he is the polar opposite of nasty Larry; with a heart of gold, Carlo is nice to an extreme. His career is at a crossroads; while he is pondering a mayoral run, he is also anxious to become a director of art films. His producer is stuck on him performing the same comedic roles that led to his success.

On a more serious note, the show raises the issue of the compromises celebrities are forced to make in terms of loss of privacy, and the difficulty of separating a public and private persona. Surrounded by people, all Carlo craves is some “peace and quiet,” which he goes to great lengths to get.

Commenting on the series in Italian media, Verdone notes:

“Verdone in private and in public life partly reflects the everyday life of the real Carlo. Even if the fictional part obviously takes over.”

The players

Carlo and his pharmacist, Dr. Annalisa
Carlo and his pharmacist, Dr. Annalisa (Amazon Studios)

The show is as well-acted as it is well-written. It moves quickly, leaving the viewer thirsting for more.

Although I hadn’t seen Verdone before, he’s apparently as popular with Italian fans as he is portrayed to be in the show. He was born into cinematic royalty in Rome,  the son of Mario Verdone, an important Italian film critic and academic. 

His filmography is impressive, jump started with three very successful comedy films: Un sacco bello (1980), Bianco, rosso e Verdone (1981), and Borotalco (1982). Later films include Maledetto il giorno che t’ho incontrata (1992), Il mio miglior nemico (2006) and Io, loro e Lara (2010). 

The ensemble cast includes recurring appearances of Carlo’s daughter Maddalena (played by Caterina De Angelis), son Giovanni (Filippo Contri), best friend (character actor and impersonator Massimiliano [Max] Tortora, playing himself). and his overbearing housekeeper Annamaria (Maria Piato), whom he inherited from his family.

Carlo and Max find themselves in trouble (Gianfilippo De Rossi/ Amazon Studios)
Carlo and Max find themselves in a pickle (Gianfilippo De Rossi/ Amazon Studios)

Hypochondriacal and always stressed, Carlo is constantly making trips to the pharmacy so he can self-medicate (both himself and others), monitor his blood pressure, and have an excuse to banter with the attractive pharmacist, Annalisa (Anita Caprioli), who he is interested in romantically. Adding to the chaotic fray are a host of quirky “characters,” including:

  • His agent, Rosa Esposito (Giada Benedetti)
  • His brash producer, Ovidio Cantalupo (Stefano Ambrogi)
  • Oddball screenwriter, Lucio (Pietro Ragusa)
  • Maddalena’s loser boyfriend, Chicco (Antonio Banno), who ends up living in Carlo’s home; and
  • Carlo’s ex-wife, Sandra (Monica Guerritore).
Carlo and Chicco in Vita da Carlo
Carlo and Chicco (Amazon Studios)

Vita da Carlo is directed by Verdone and Arnaldo Catinari with a screenplay created by Verdone, Nicola Guaglianone, Arnaldo Catinari, Pasquale Plastino, Ciro Zecca, and Luca Mastrogiovanni. 

Will Vita da Carlo appeal to U.S. audiences?

“I will be able to communicate with an international audience and tell them a story that’s 100% Italian, but which is also able to depict characters, feelings and emotions that are universal,” said Verdone, at the announcement of the project in Rome.

The series, one of three new Amazon Italian originals (the others are Dinner Club and Ferro), hasn’t been heavily promoted in the U.S. But it is reported to have a cult following in Italy, with 1.1 million people following Verdone on Facebook. The “group” is hoping for a second season.

Me too!

La Famiglia - Caterina De Angelis, Carlo Verdone, Monica Guerritore and Filippo Contri (Gianfilippo De Rossi/Amazon Studios)
“La Famiglia” – stars Caterina De Angelis, Carlo Verdone, Monica Guerritore and Filippo Contri (Gianfilippo De Rossi/Amazon Studios)


Vita Da Carlo Trailer on YouTube

(While the trailer is in Italian, the ten episodes of Vita Da Carlo are subtitled in English)

Where to watch

Descriptions of the Ten Episodes of Vita Da Carlo on IMDB 

  1. One Of Those Days
  2. Ready for Anything
  3. A Restless Man
  4. The Quiet After the Storm 
  5. The Myth and the Mythomaniac
  6. Vive l’Amour!
  7. To Be or Not to Be
  8. Meditations and Curses
  9. Date with Surprise 
  10. A Big Proposal 

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