Another Great Nero Wolfe

The Italian Nero Wolfe (2012) is fantastic. Before I go any further, I want to commend the Portland Public Library Inter-library Loan system for being able to get it for me.

I'm a big fan of Timothy Hutton's Nero Wolfe (A&E) starring Maury Chaykin in the titular role. The Italian Series (2012; there is an earlier one) stars Francesco Pannofino as Nero Wolfe and Pietro Sermonti as Archie Goodwin.

The series are remarkably similar in tone and look. They both capture 1950s aura with big band music and clever violin comedy music. 2012 Archie is slightly more sardonic and a tad more serious in comparison to Hutton's more glib and slightly more high-energy interpretation. 2012 Nero yells less than Maury Chaykin's Nero. But they are brothers under the skin.

In fact, if one watches the two shows side by side, one comes away knowing all the important traditions about Wolfe and Archie: Wolfe's grouchy personality, his office, his orchids, his schedule, his iconoclastic attitudes towards authority, his attitudes towards women, his love of gourmet food. Plus Archie's chivalrous attitudes towards women (despite or maybe because of his confirmed bachelorhood), his interpretation of his role in Nero's life, his detective abilities (some mystery critics maintain that Archie is as much a detective in his own right as Nero Wolfe), his love of milk.

In fact, the Italian Series does something so clever, I wish all "retold" versions of popular characters would do the same. Instead of creating an Italian Nero Wolfe who just happens to share the same name, characteristics, etc. etc. as his American cousin, the Italian Nero Wolfe IS the American Nero Wolfe. He and Archie have come to Rome, Italy to escape badgering from the FBI (these episodes would take place after The Doorbell Rang). They quickly gather around them a private investigator, gourmet chef, and police inspector as well as an intrepid female reporter, who plays Lon Cohen plus all of Kari Matchett's roles.

And it works. It is entirely plausible that Nero Wolfe would speak flawless Italian. It's a little less plausible that Archie would pick up flawless Italian so quickly, but I have no doubt that eventually, Archie would.

And I love the fact that this Archie and Nero develop some of the same quirks and ways of relating that appear in the A&E production: Archie's sweet and protective instincts towards the household chef, Nanni. Nero's tendency to ask Archie questions that assume that Archie has also guessed the answer to the mystery (and often, he has). Archie's propensity for manhandling rude guests. Nero's ability to be gentle with a frightened individual.

Another great addition to the Nero Wolfe television collection! 


Eugene said...

Elementary did something similar (including getting badgered by the FBI) at the end of the 2018 season, though Holmes and Watson escaped to London. Maybe next time they can escape to Hong Kong.

Katherine Woodbury said...

Yeah, it's amazing how useful the FBI is as a plot device (something I'll be posting about later this month).