La Piovra (Italian for "The Octopus") is a long-running Italian television series about The Mafia, which aired between 1984 to 2001. Throughout it's ten season run, it follows the Cosa Nostra's activities across Europe, in everywhere from small-time drug dealers in Sicily, to major financial institutions and political corruption. It began with a 6-part miniseries aired in 1984, which was successful enough to spawn a regular series. It's probably the most detailed and thorough work about the Mafia ever produced. The title refers to the series' central conceit: that the Mafia have tendrils in all aspects of society leading back to them.
The show focuses equally on law enforcement and the mobsters themselves, as their lives and methods have to adjust to the changing political and social climates of the day. Many of its storylines are based on real events and persons, and the series presupposed similar docudrama-style mob dramas like Gomorrah and Narcos. Seasons 8 and 9 broke from the series' traditional mold by telling a prequel story about the rise of the Mafia in the 1950s and 60s.
La Piovra was a massive success both its native Italy and abroad, and is widely-considered the first real blockbuster of Italian television. It gained a large Cult Following in Eastern Europe where it was one of the first Western-produced TV series to be aired after the Cold War. In particular, it's stars Michele Placido and Remo Girone gained sex symbol status in Russia. The positive reception followed the series back, which produced an entire season in Prague focusing on the relationship between the Italian Mafia and Czech organized crime, and later cast prominent Bulgarian actor Stefan Danilov in a starring role.
The series also had widespread ramifications for the real-world Mafia, and significantly raised awareness for Italian people's perception of how widespread and endemic organized crime had become. In particular, it came under fire from conservative politicians like Silvio Berlusconi, in large part because it explored the very-real political scandals his ilk and had been entangled in.
La Piovra contains examples of:
- The '50s / The '60s : Seasons 8 and 9 are set in them.
- The Determinator: The undaunted police inspector Corrado Cattani may be the walking embodiment of this trope. They have blackmailed him, threatened him, set him up, killed his friends, colleagues and even his daughter and his wife, but all that made him even more determined in his crusade against the The Mafia.
- The Illuminati: The Extrema Thule Nostra Salus lodge is a more realistic example, based on the real Italian secret society Propaganda Due, with a name referencing the Thule Society of Nazi Germany.
- The Mafia: The series follows the Sicilian Cosa Nostra as well as other similar groups throughout Italy.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: The series avoids using the real names of people and organizations it depicts, in some cases because the people in question were very much still alive.