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Italian TV and L'eredità, the quiz show

Steve Cohen

When in Italy and parts of Switzerland that receive RAI 1, I like to watch the TV quiz program "L'eredità". I am attracted to this show for its astonishing complexity, its (for me, anyway) educational content both general knowledge and spoken Italian and other elements that seem distinctly Italian in flavor. The Italian version of "millionaire", il millionario, plays on Mediaset in the same time slot. It has never kept me interested for more than a few minutes, but l'eredit holds my full attention for more than an hour.

The basic rules of l'eredità are simple. Seven contestants each start with an "inheritance" of 50,000 (eredità = inheritance). In a series of competitive quiz events, players are eliminated until only one is left standing. As players are eliminated, their inheritance is given to the player who eliminates them.

It's personal.

  • A player is always eliminated by another player.
  • A yellow light marks a player with one wrong answer in an event (errore!).
  • A red light and "awooga" noise indicates a second wrong answer (doppio errore!!).

The player with the second error selects another player (A punta il dito contro B) who must then answer a question; if player B answers incorrectly he is eliminated, otherwise, player A is eliminated.

  • The eliminated player goes home empty-handed (the host's cry of "Roberto s'è stato eliminato" or "Giulia s'è stata eliminata" ringing in his/her ears).
  • His winnings to that point are transferred to the player who eliminated him (the surviving player "inherits" the money).
  • The last surviving player becomes the champion (il campione) and, in addition to winning a significant amount of money, earns the right to return and play against six new competitors.

L'eredità delivers emotional highs and lows, mystery, suspense, informative facts, audience participation and, um, dancing girls (l'ereditiere! It is, after all, Italian TV).

Question formats used to eliminate players include:

  • "vero o falso" (true or false): Say whether a given statement is true or false.
  • "la patata bollente" (hot potato): The player is given three answers, but not the question to which one of them is the correct answer (la risposta esatta). The player may choose to try the question or pass it to another player of his choice (la tengo or la passo a Roberto).
  • "lei o l'altro" (you or the other one): Given a question and one of two candidate answers, the player must say whether the correct answer is the one shown or "l'altro" (the answer not shown).
  • "la scossa" (electric shock): A question is given along with seven answers; all answers are correct except for one. Each player in turn chooses a correct answer not yet used, the host says "scossa?", and a light ding or sizzling electric sound indicates if this is the one wrong choice.
  • "l'ultima sfida" (final challenge): This occurs when only two players are left. They alternate answering questions (not multiple choice), scoring a point for each correct answer. The player with the most points wins. It's not over yet, though. L'ultima sfida, despite the name, is not the end. The champion gets to answer seven more questions, choose a second answer if the first is wrong but only for the first five and if he answers two or more wrong, the "nearly eliminated" player gets to attempt il colpaccio (see below).
  • "il colpaccio" (sudden strike): The second last survivor returns to attempt one (generally difficult) five-choice question. If the answer is correct, this player steals the champion title, keeps the winnings and comes back the next night, otherwise, the original champion remains and gets all of the above.

A couple of times during each show, the dancing girls come on in scanty, form-fitting costumes and gyrate to a dance routine. A recent question: the 2003 edition of a standard Italian dictionary defined "ereditiere" (the host's name for the dancers) as a dancer on this quiz show "vero o falso"? The correct answer: "falso". The contestant got it wrong.

Occasionally, a popular song is played and the audience, onstage contestants and host perform the accompanying movements. Friends and family members are often introduced and chat with the host for awhile between questions.

It's great fun and it's on every night except Sunday from around 6:45pm to 8:00pm on Rai 1. Followed by 30 minutes of national news.

Note: We have been advised there have been changes to the rules of this game show since this article was written. The article will be updated to reflect these changes as soon as possible.

Steve Cohen writes the Italian language lessons for Slow Travel.

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