Inspector Luca Manara roars into the small Tuscan village on his Triumph Bonneville, hoping that his exile from Milan will be short-lived. That seems unlikely. Manara’s reputation as a rebel is well established and he does little to change anyone’s mind. He’s survived as long as he has as a police officer because he’s a skilled, intelligent investigator. But he doesn’t play by the rules, often breaking into a suspect’s home or place of business without a warrant, questioning someone without revealing he’s a cop, or accessing confidential police files he has no authority to view. His superiors find him outrageous and frustrating, but those he supervises are loyal, providing cover when he needs it most.
Played with confidence and swagger by Guido Caprino, Manara’s handsome looks and irresistible charm win him female admirers wherever he goes. And a professed womanizer, he does little to discourage their advances. Renting a room at a local bed and breakfast, the owner, Ada (Daniela Morozzi), is soon bringing him breakfast in bed. Rather than a romantic relationship, however, a close friendship develops between the two, a bond that is frequently tested.
The medical examiner, Ginevra Rosmini (British-Italian actor, Jane Alexander), is Manara’s equal when it comes to playing around. At first he resists her invitations, but her fiery personality is as hard to ignore as her bright red hair. And while Chief Attilio Casadio (Luis Molteni), routinely dresses down Manara, the older man’s much younger wife, Annarita (Giulietta Revel), hints she’d like to un-dress the inspector.
Manara’s playboy ways are jolted, however, when a new inspector, Lara Rubino (Roberta Giarusso), joins his team. He’s stunned when his enthusiastic greeting earns him a slap across the face. Turns out Luca and Lara were classmates at the police academy and she’s still smarting from his rejection in favor of her best friend. There’s more to that story which unfolds over several episodes leading Lara to view Luca in a new light. The road to true love, however, will not run smooth, with many potholes and a few craters.
Lara is staying with her Aunt Caterina (a marvelous Valeria Valeri), who knows everyone in town and where all the bodies are buried. Her friendly and gracious manner puts people at ease. Even reluctant witnesses are soon confiding in Caterina. On more than one occasion, she’s dispatched by Lara and also Luca, to function as the Italian Miss Marple. She’s often assisted by her large and very smart German Shepard, Brigadier, who becomes the unofficial canine squad.
While the personalities draw viewers in, the plots provide the substance of this series. Twists and turns are routine with many surprise endings. Small town murders may produce a limited group of suspects, but ferreting out the guilty party means digging deeper and upsetting those in power. Casadio’s pressure to close a case quickly when a wealthy person is involved, fails to affect Manara. And while evidence is critical, Manara relies on his instincts as well.
Humor is provided by supporting cast members. Married officers Serena Sardi (Lucia Ocone) and Augusto Toscani (Augusto Fornari), finally get pregnant and have a baby girl, but managing home and work finds both sleep deprived. When Manara volunteers to babysit so they can have a night out, they choose to grab two hours of uninterrupted sleep in their car. And Officer Buttafuoco’s (Massimo Andrei) efforts to court Ada, agreeing to a Latin dance class where he wears a colorful ruffled shirt, earns him ribbing from his partner, Barbagallo (Mario Tribastone).
Caprino is the star and, according to a small survey I took among friends who have watched the series, the heartthrob of the series. It seems the actor is as elusive as the part he plays. “Il Commissario Manara is Guido Caprino for us,” says Daniele Falleri, one of the writers in a video following the first season.“Guido Caprino is a great actor and he can explain himself very well in this character. I mean a lot of things Manara does are Caprino’s things.” While Manara retreats to his room at the bed and breakfast to relax and play his saxophone, when filming wraps, Caprino flies back to Sicily where he was born. According to Falleri, Caprino avoids parties and festivals and doesn’t like to be interviewed. He lets his acting speak for itself.
There are currently two seasons of Inspector Manara available on MHz Choice and Amazon Prime. Falleri says a third season is being filmed.
Top photo: Guido Caprino and Roberta Giarusso
Photos courtesy of MHz Choice