Elderly showgirls strut their stuff on Italian gameshow

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The Independent Online

After endless television programmes featuring half-naked girls pawing at balding hosts, an Italian channel has produced a show in which elderly women sing and dance for a big cash prize while their height, weight and age are displayed on the screen.

After endless television programmes featuring half-naked girls pawing at balding hosts, an Italian channel has produced a show in which elderly women sing and dance for a big cash prize while their height, weight and age are displayed on the screen.

Some are appalled by the programme, which is screened six nights a week. The Vatican newspaper said that such things should not be televised; campaigners for women's rights called the show shameful.

But many of the contestants described Velone, which means "Big Showgirls", as a welcome bit of fun in a country that often overlooks its elderly population. Dina Pavanello, 72, a contestant, said: "Whoever invented this show deserves a prize. I talk with tons of women of my age, and they're happy about it."

What has surprised some is the success of the show. Television in Italy has long been dominated by infantile programmes featuring song and dance numbers. Above all, the programmes are an excuse to parade scantily clad starlets, each jostling for a corner of the screen.

Velone was born as an ironic twist on this trend. The producer, Antonio Ricci, was behind last summer's hitVeline ("Showgirls"), in which young women competed for a permanent television starlet job. Critics panned Veline, prompting Mr Ricci to launchVelone, where the winner claims €250,000 (£170,000). Participants must be 65 or older, and the oldest so far was 94.

Velone appears on Mediaset, the network owned by Italy's Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi.

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