By Grace Terry / Times-News
Posted Jul 19, 2020 at 12:01 AM
Mark Janicello and his three college friends from UNC-Greensboro were “inseparable.” They called themselves Tony, Tina, Lola and Lena and took the last name Finellis, and together they were “The Flying Finellis.”
Janicello was Tony, and for more than 30 years it stayed just a college nickname. Then Janicello, a former Burlington resident and Williams High School graduate, decided to turn it into a sitcom.
“The Finellis” follows the lives Tony and Tina, a divorced couple, and their two daughters Lola and Lena. The personalities of the characters are based on Janicello’s wife and kids. It also has live music sections and animated cartoons. These cartoons are the bedtime stories Janicello told his children when they were growing up.
Janicello has been living in Berlin, but still has been involved with the community in recent years. He preformed at his “Rock Legends” concert back in 2017 to raise money for the Alamance-Burlington School System’s backpack program, and to perform at his childhood church, the Burlington Assembly Ministries.
“The Finellis” is not available in the United States yet, but Janicello says they are trying to sell the show to a network or a streaming service. “I’m hoping that we’ll be on the air by early next year,” Janicello said.
Janicello is the executive producer and lead actor on the show. He says he’s done many projects over his lifetime — 100 stage productions, more than 90 film projects and 38 albums — but he thinks “The Finellis” is his best.
“I believe more in ‘The Finellis’ than anything I’ve ever done before,” Janicello said. “All these experiences of being an actor, being a singer, being a painter, being a producer, being a director, being a writer, all of these things came together to allow me to create the show.”
According to Janicello, the combination of techniques used on the show is what makes it unique. "We took the family sitcom, added live music and then animation, because no one has ever done that,” Janicello said.
Since the singing on the show is shot during live performances, Janicello says he can be singing up to eight or nine hours at a time while filming. He thinks this is worth doing over pre-recording songs then lip-syncing while filming the show.
“I wanted the immediacy of live music to make the performance,” Janicello said. “You can never lip sync as well emotionally as you sing live.”
“The Finellis” has been getting recognition winning awards from film festivals around the world. Janicello hopes some of those people who watched the show were able to take something from it.
“It’s my greatest wish that the story of Tony Finelli and his family will inspire people to say, you know, you’re never too old to go after your dreams,” Janicello said.