The Carousel raised its curtains for the first time on RAI on February 3rd 1957 and it was the main Italian TV advertising expression for 20 years: it showed sketches and short stories, not pertaining to the advertised product, at the end of which was inserted a trailer, lasting 35 seconds, expressing the real publicity. Just less than one year before the last episode was broadcast (on January 1st 1977), a survey carried out by the weekly magazine “Epoca” estimated that out of 19 million Italians watching Carousel, a good 9 millions were kids and that 80% of them exacted that their parents bought the advertised products. There are lots of directors, scriptwriters, singers and actors who gave their contributions to Carousel: from Eduardo de Filippo to Mina, from Vittorio Gassman to Dario Fo, from Sergio Leone to Totò, but also Nino Manfredi, Nino Taranto, Raimondo Vianello, Carlo Giuffrè, Gillo Pontecorvo, Lina Wertmüller, Dino Risi, Ermanno Olmi and Pupi Avati, just to mention some of them.
The household appliance world, especially represented by washing machines, dishwashers and refrigerators, was one of the great protagonists of this program, proposing series often dedicated to children (to the extent that in lots of Italian families the Carousel end market the time to go to bed for kids) and cartoons, but also real auteur short films, humorous scenes, stories set in fantastic worlds or in daily life, experimenting modern visual solutions and languages that ranged from the animated drawing to drama, mime and ballet.
Candy and the Tic perfect robot
Different were for instance the series by Candy: the first Carousel of the brand washing machines staged a professor, personified by the French actress Hélène Rémy, of a husband school. This series preceded the famous one whose protagonist was “Tic the perfect robot”, interpreted by the mime Angelo Corti. Tic was inspired by the character of Robby, the robot of the film dated 1956 “Forbidden planet”, a classic of the science fiction cinema, directed by Fred McLeod Wilcox. The series was broadcast for some years starting from 1962: the robot established itself in a family, initially composed by the husband Aldo Giuffrè (who will be then replaced by Roberto Villa), the wife Xenia Valderi (then personified by Marisa Borroni and Antonella Steni) and the young Mauro De Francesco, and did various housework, until he asked to be allowed to do the laundry. The housewife’s answer was unavoidably: “No, at home there is who does the laundry better than you, and I tell her: thank you Candy!”. In the various episodes Tic did various enterprises, from saving the dinner of its landlords to thwarting thefts and even falling in love with another robot. In 1966 Candy abandoned Tic in favour of other Carousels: among them, there is a series whose protagonists were famous personages who changed every week and some of them drew inspiration from the idea of science fiction documentaries.
Castor and the Little Ghost by Bruno Bozzetto
Still in the washing machine ambit, beloved was the series by Castor, “The adventures of Buc the buccaneer”: the protagonist was a little ghost, with a hole in its belly, devised and designed by Bruno Bozzetto and Guido Manuli, who in each episode tried to frighten someone without success; at the end of each adventure Buc got dirty and hurled itself into the washing machine, exclaiming “Castor wash me!”, and then he got out of it very clean. Buc had anyway some problems with the censorship: some perplexities were aroused by the phrase, pronounced also by kids who watched the ghost, “Mum, I want a hole in my belly, too!”. It seems that Bozzetto narrated that it was difficult on one hand to explain to Sacis (the company for the control and development of the TV advertising created by RAI) that there was no ambiguous obscene sense and on the other hand to the enterprise that the hole in Buc’s belly was not caused by washing machines.
A quite famous and beloved series was devised by Armando Testa agency for Philco household appliances, with animated puppets and set on Papalla planet, inhabited by white balls with eyes and nose (physically plaster balls), which was broadcast from 1966 to 1972. The series staged various customs, traditions and vicissitudes of the planet: they narrated its scientific progresses, like for instance cultivating directly macaroni and spaghetti instead of grain, they told how the free time was spent, considering that on the planet they were on holiday 5 days a week, or Olympic Games, called Papalliadi, and even the choice, by the women living on Papalla planet, of their husbands thanks to an electronic computer until the marriage, while waiting for a Philco appliance. Concerning the series, Armando Testa, in an interview given in 1968 to “Philco time”, told how these strange characters were born: “to be coherent with the advertised product, we have thought of an astral world, of a planet inhabited by nice and progressed people who nevertheless bowed in front of the high technical value of Philco products”. In the opinion of the advertising agent, the inhabitants of the planet were intended for representing, “a rich, opulent life”, underlining that “in the case of TV sets, refrigerators and washing machines, the line does not matter and therefore we offered an infrequent opportunity of using an all-round personage, a real ball. To recall something of Philco products in the personage appearance, we added the video-shaped eyes, even if hidden by pseudo-glasses”. The advertising agent said that they had devised “a progressed world, a world far ahead in technical and scientific discoveries to remind the world to be advertised. There is, however, one thing that the astral world envies to the Earth: Philco products and it imports them in a continuous stream”.
Cinematographic Carousels by Rex
Rex staked instead on the relationship with the cinema world: to advertise washing machines and burner, they devised a series (by the McCann Erickson agency), with the music by Ennio Morricone of the film dated 1970, directed by Elio Petri, “Investigation of a citizen above suspicion”. Among the situations represented, there was for instance the vicissitude of a group of people, followed by an escort, who took precious art objects and washed them in Rex washing machine, to demonstrate the delicacy of the appliance.
A real pearl are then the Carousels, for the same brand, directed by such an outstanding director as Gillo Pontecorvo: they are episodes in documentary style, among which stands out the title “The debut”, dated 1970, which narrates the debut of a child in an outdoor circus.
Another relevant series by Rex, to advertise refrigerators and cookers, had as a protagonist a professor interpreted by Paolo Stoppa, who is convinced that he will get rid of any situation by pronouncing difficult words to create sensation; but the tactic does not work, because people want “facts, not words”, as explained the famous slogan of the brand. The same idea will be at the base of the successive series, where the professor will be replaced by “the director”.
Ignis, from “never satisfied” to Nino Manfredi
Another brand identified by very popular series is Ignis. Perhaps, the most renowned one features the “never satisfied” people, with music by Ennio Morricone. The story was based on a family, first with Giampiero Albertini and then Adolfo Celi in the husband role, who, in each episode, went into a different store to shop, for instance a tie, a skirt, a cake, a camera, a pair of glasses and so on. Each time the shop assistant deployed all the goods in front of the unmanageable breadwinner and, unavoidably, after trying to satisfy him in vain, he stated: “But you are never satisfied!”. And then the husband answered “Never!”. The family then, at the end of the episode, bought without fail an Ignis household appliance. The shop assistant was from time to time played by a different actor, generally a character actor of the cinema, like Leo Gullotta, Marco Tulli and Franco Bracardi.
Also Nino Manfredi played in the Carousels of the brand: in a series inspired by the Italian comedy, in particular reinterpreting a scene of the famous film by Dino Risi “Torture me but kill me with kisses” and in another, directed by Enzo G. Castellari, where the actor described his memories of cinema and theatre.
Zoppas with Dario Fo and Franca Rame
Other celebrated personages who played in Carousel are Dario Fo and Franca Rame. In 1963 Zoppas broadcast some series, devised with the BBDO agency, which dramatized the constant bickering of the couple; the episodes ended with Dario Fo who, inside a washing machine, said: “Is it Zoppas? Then it is OK!”. This series was also at the centre of a controversy. On the magazine “Vie Nuove” you could read about it: “in the first days of January it was scheduled the broadcasting of a series of Carousels played by Dario Fo and Franca Rame on behalf of a big producer of cookers and refrigerators. Only now we have been informed that the company, involved in huge economic investments and having already paid the time at disposal and the production costs of short films, was compelled to threaten RAI of subpoena, to obtain that Carousels were anyway broadcast, even if late. RAI had in fact rejected the flicks, deeming as unbecoming the presence of Mr Fo and of his wife, banned from television after the scandal of “Canzonissima”. The vicissitude to which they refer is the withdrawal of Mr Fo and Mrs Rame from the program “Canzonissima” because RAI had censured a sketch of the pair of actors about construction workers, just during a labour dispute concerning them.
Atlantic Electric between witticisms and lions
Atlantic Electric household appliances, especially refrigerators, are remembered in Carousel mainly for the series where the testimonial was the African actress Kadigia Bove (then become famous also for being the first wife of Achille Occhetto), who in the episodes was presented as “Stella Atlantic”. The publicity stunt was to oppose a white and cold product like a refrigerator to a black beauty. For several years the brand broadcast episodes played by the actress: in the first she sang and danced dressed with a silver tail-coat, then she talked about her earth, Africa, showing some small animals like the little lion Kiko, which will accompany her in other series set for instance in her home in Rome (equipped to live with the lion) and in a farm. Another cult Carousel of the brand, even if perhaps less known, was broadcast to launch, in 1960, Atlantic refrigerators: various personages, for instance an Eskimo and an Indian, challenged each other in a world championship of “witticisms”, that’s to say of jokes, on a boxing ring with Gianni Cajafa as arbitrator; who succeeded in more decreasing the temperature on the ring was the winner of a refrigerator.
Girmi in the family of the future
There are not many Carousels that on the contrary advertised small appliances. Among the most famous ones, there are the episodes of the series “The Jetsons” (1975) that publicized the small appliances for kitchen and bathroom branded Girmi, realized by Toni and Nino Pagot (authors also of Calimero personage). The authors essentially redesigned for the Italian market “The Jetsons”, a series of cartoons by Hanna-Barbera, which narrated the daily adventures of a family of the future, broadcast for the first time in the United States on September 23rd 1962.