Mammas pick sons' brides on Italy reality TV


ROME - Often seen as mummy's boys, Italian men are now letting their mothers choose their future wives live on television.

Italy's state TV aired the first episode of a new reality show this week in which the mothers of five single men have to pick out prospective brides from a selection of candidates.

Critics said "Perfect Bride" was both insulting to women and showed Italian TV -- already packed with other reality formats such as Big Brother and Celebrity Island -- falling to new depths of banality.

In the first episode, the jury of mothers -- called only by their first names such as "Mamma Rosa" and "Mamma Ambra" -- quizzed 18 hopefuls about their suitability as wives.

From next week the mothers will have to live in a Big Brother-style house with their potential daughters-in-law, seeing first hand how they deal with household chores. Viewers will be encouraged to vote off the candidates they dislike.

Mamma Teresa said she was looking for "a simple, intelligent, classy girl" for her son Claudio. "I would like someone who's not too ostentatious and who knows how to take care of the family," she said on the program's Web site.

Claudio, viewers learn, is "a really capable person, very affectionate with his family," but suffers from one defect common to many Italian bachelors: "He has too many girlfriends! I want to find him his ultimate woman."

In a country where it is normal for unmarried men to live with their parents into their 30s and "mamma mia!" (my mummy) is a common exclamation, the Italian mother figure is revered by society but often feared by girlfriends and wives.

TV critics said the program exploited the stereotype of the over-bearing mamma.

"It's the most grandiose, caricatural, corrosive demolition of the image of the Italian mamma," said Italy's leading daily Corriere della Sera.

The show's debut comes as RAI is debating the future of reality shows which the state broadcaster's chairman, Claudio Petruccioli, said were "unrealistic and coercive, leading inevitably to unreasonable if not degrading behaviour."

Petruccioli failed in his bid to scrap the formats which have become a staple both for RAI and Mediaset, the broadcaster owned by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

La Repubblica daily said Prefect Bride had an out-dated vision of women's role in society. "State TV is going too far in its failure to limit the rubbish, the rudeness, the lying, the lack of manners and the wiping out of social changes which happened 50 years ago," it said.