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Academy Award winning director Roberto Benigni debuted his one-man show Ten Commandments on Rai Uno this week, attracting 9.1 million viewers (33 percent audience share) on Monday, and 10.2 million viewers (38 percent) on Tuesday.
The Italian actor and comedian tops Italy’s prime time ratings for 2014, behind only two other shows: the World Cup Italy vs. Uruguay game, (16.4 million with 67.92 percent share) and the opening night of the Sanremo Festival (10.9 million with 45.93 percent share).
Benigni delved deep into the philosophical, linguistic, and moral meaning of the Bible’s famous laws. Throughout the two nights, he tackled a host of taboo topics spanning murder, sex, desire, love and happiness.
The evening was not without a fair amount of Benigi’s signature humor. “Thou shalt not steal,” is a commandment, “written specifically for Italians,” he jested.
To achieve such results over two nights of entertainment on religious texts was declared as public money well spent by the country’s top critics.
Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, said that Benigni’s show gave the Church a much-needed new presentation of the faith.
Benigni “has given a lesson in how a Christian can read the Old Testament and how the ten words that are at the core of the commandments are transformed into an extraordinary life lesson,” said Fisichella.
“Roberto Benigni has written many important pages in the history of television and film. Yesterday he surpassed himself, making us reflect, get excited, be moved,” said Rai general director Luigi Gubitosi. “Roberto gave a beautiful Christmas gift to Italians. Rai is very proud of it.”
While a few religious figures voiced concern over Benigni’s frank comments on love and sex, he won the approval of the Church’s most important leader.
Pope Francis reportedly called Benigni before the show on Tuesday to thank him for bringing the ten commandments into the homes of millions.
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