Italian brilliance: HBO brings beloved Italian novel to the small screen

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Andrew Warren / TV Media
Elisa Del Genio and Ludovica Nasti star in "My Brilliant Friend"

Elisa Del Genio and Ludovica Nasti star in "My Brilliant Friend"

Italian brilliance: HBO's latest miniseries is anything but mini, and in a first for the premium channel, it's also its first non-English original series. "My Brilliant Friend," a lavish drama set over the course of 60 years, premieres Sunday, Nov. 18.

Based on the book of the same name by Italian novelist Elena Ferrante, the eight-episode series is just the first chapter of a broader story, with adaptations of the other three novels also in the works. It's filmed fully in Italian, not English, so non-Italian speakers will have to follow the subtitles -- but with a story this immersive, that's hardly a distraction.

"My Brilliant Friend" is a coming-of-age story set in the outskirts of Naples, Italy. When she receives word that her childhood friend has disappeared, the elderly Elena does not suspect foul play but assumes that her old acquaintance has finally made good on a promise that she made years prior. Out of respect for her old friend and sometimes rival, she starts putting to paper everything she can remember about their years-long friendship, taking us all the way back to the early 1950s, when the two of them were children.

Newcomer Elisa Del Genio stars as the young Elena, a smart and polite girl who excels at school. Ludovica Nasti, another child actress appearing for the first time on screen, is Lila, a more rebellious and unruly child whose arrival threatens to knock Elena out of her spot at the top of all of her classes when she turns out to be something of a prodigy.

Over its eight episodes, "My Brilliant Friend" follows the two girls into their teenage years, with Margherita Mazzucco and Gaia Girace, both newcomers to the screen, taking over the roles as the girls age.

The first two episodes of the miniseries were screened at the Venice Film Festival earlier this year and received rave reviews; and if audiences are as warm to it as the critics were, then adaptations of the rest of the novels are a really safe bet. "My Brilliant Friend" -- just the first chapter in the story of Elena and Lila -- premieres Sunday, Nov. 18, on HBO.


Best in the world: The Super Bowl is among the biggest sporting events in the world, and next year the matchup is being paired with what might be the world's biggest talent competition. 

"The Late Late Show" host James Corden will be front and center when "The World's Best" premieres immediately following the Super Bowl's post-game coverage on Sunday, Feb. 3, on CBS. Billed as the world's biggest talent competition, the series will feature acts from countries around the globe performing in every genre and style imaginable.

Along with Corden, whose easy humor has given him a global fan base, the stage will also include a judging panel comprised of actress Drew Barrymore ("50 First Dates," 2004), country singer Faith Hill and Emmy-winning TV host RuPaul Charles ("RuPaul's Drag Race"). But the contestants aren't just aiming to impress the American judges. They also have to keep an eye on the "wall of the world," a collection of 50 more judges from every corner of the world who are experts in every genre of entertainment.

That's a lot of eyes to impress, but for a talent competition this massive, no one ever thought that it would be easy. "The World's Best" premieres Sunday, Feb. 3, immediately following the Super Bowl on CBS.


Darkness is coming: The world may be getting a bit more "Grimm." Luckily, that isn't as dire as it sounds: in happy news, NBC is working on a spinoff of its popular dark fantasy cop show.

"Grimm" ran for six seasons, from 2011 to 2017, and starred David Giuntoli ("Buddymoon," 2016) as a homicide detective who learned that he's descended from a group of people who hunt supernatural creatures. It was part police procedural and part grim fantasy, and somehow the two genres just fit together -- the show was a quiet hit on Friday nights, drawing in respectable ratings and attracting a loyal fanbase. 

The spinoff, should it go to series, is planned to be a continuation of the storylines and setting established in "Grimm." While the focus will be on new characters, dangers and lore, that doesn't mean that the old is being tossed out. Fan favorites will return, although it's still too early to know who or what will make the jump to the new series.

In the same vein, there's also no news yet as to what exactly will be new in the spinoff. It's still in the early stages of development, and "Grimm" fans will have to wait for any announcements about casting, stories or even if the show will follow the style of a police procedural or whether it will take an entirely different tack. What is clear, though, is that NBC hasn't completely shelved the setting and lore established in "Grimm."