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FIRST OFF . . .

<i> Arts and entertainment reports from The Times, national and international news services and the nation's press</i>

The largest audience for a single episode of a series in Italy tuned into the finale of “La Piovra” (“The Octopus”) this week and watched as a beloved anti-Mafia police commissioner was assassinated. A record 17.2 million Italians, nearly 60% of the TV viewing audience, saw the TV hero, Corrado Cattani, walk out of a Milan hospital and fall victim to 70 rounds of ammunition from Mafia killers’ guns. Though fans protested the death (one threatened suicide if the character was killed off), Michele Placido, the actor who played the part for four seasons, was not upset. “I couldn’t bear the thought of doing another season. I’m glad Cattani is dead, for me it’s a rebirth,” said Placido, who wants to move on to other projects. “La Piovra” will be back for a fifth season, with a tough and beautiful anti-Mafia judge swearing revenge.


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