The only thing Americans love more than a soapy period drama is a gritty crime drama. Those opposing genres explain the popularity of "The Borgias," a Showtime original series about one of the most notorious crime families in Italian history. But there are plenty of other fascinating crime families that deserve to have their stories told in the form of a TV series. Here are some real-life crime families ripped from the pages of history books: each and every one deserving of a lush TV adaptation.
The Five Families
In the New York City mob scene, there were five Italian-American Mafia families that ruled the streets. Commonly referred to as the Five Families, their ranks include the Lucchese, Bonnano/Massino, Gambino, Luciano/Genovese, and Profaci/Colombo families. The names of the Five Families are attributed to Mafia informant Joe Valachi, who gave up the names upon his arrest in 1959.
A period drama that spanned the years from 1931 (when the families were organized) to the modern day would be utterly fascinating. Historical events could include the Castellammarese War, the creation of the mob hierarchy system, and notable arrests and murders. Add in a bit of romance, and you've got a show that has the best of "Downton Abbey" and "Boardwalk Empire."
This political dynasty/banking family was quite powerful in 14th and 15th century Florence. A series about their rise to power would have many parallels to today's banking climate, as both modern and Medici-era banking can be seen as corrupt. The family stayed powerful until the 18th century, when their power collapsed for good. The Medici family had their fingers in everything, from the papacy to the royal court of France.
Founded in 1915, the Yamaguchi-gumi is the largest yakuza crime family in Japan. There has never been a U.S.-made TV series that explores the fascinating world of Japanese crime in dramatic form, and a network could make a very big impact with this kind of series.
The Yamaguchi-gumi are a fascinating group. While they are involved in crime, they are also noted for their repeated aid during natural disasters. After the Kobe earthquake of 1995, the Yamaguchi-gumi coordinated relief efforts for victims before the government could sort out their own relief program. In 2011, the Yamaguchi-gumi provided relief and supplies in the wake of an earthquake and tsunami.
You might remember Charlemagne from a high school history class. He was crowned King of the Franks in 768. While not exactly a crime family, Charlemagne is thought by some historians to have been involved in the mysterious death of his co-ruler and brother Carloman. An interesting king who loved brutal warfare as much as he loved books, Charlemagne also makes an interesting TV character because of his womanizing tendencies and his toleration of the extramarital relationships that his daughters had. In addition, this period of history has been virtually untouched by TV writers. That means the stories could seem very fresh to TV viewers, who have been exposed to dozens of shows set in ancient Rome and Renaissance-era Europe.
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