French television panels

I was going to write something about yesterday’s carnival in Annecy, but I bumped my head on the snow on Friday and spent yesterday in front of the television, nursing a bad headache. French weekend daytime TV is as hit-and-miss as it is in any other country. The meerkat documentary was a welcome relief from the dubbed American travel shows and detective series. Alas, Saturday night TV in France rarely includes a movie. Apparently, the French are all too busy having social lives on Fridays and Saturdays or something. Wednesday nights are also usually void of movies because that’s the day that new films are released at the cinema.

So, what fodder do they fill French channels with on those nights? Celebrity panels. The French love a good discussion, and as I’ve mentioned before, it’s a national pastime to talk over each other. It doesn’t matter what the discussion is actually about because it’s really just an excuse to have a good natter. Last night, one of the channels broadcast the Top 100 Live TV Moments. Before I continue about the French show, let me give you an insight into how two other countries I’ve lived in tend to approach these shows. I think I like the French approach the most.

In Australia, such a show would take an hour. A ‘zany’ presenter would make a scripted joke and pull a funny face before or after each blooper, then move right onto the next one. There would be a canned audience laughing in the background. In England, they’d break it into two separate hours over two nights, usually some time near Christmas when the pickings are  a bit thin, and each blooper would be introduced by a faceless voice-over, then followed with a few recordings of some C-list celebs discussing how hilariously funny that clip was when they remembered seeing it the first time around. Those same celebs would re-appear on and off for both the hours of bloopers. They don’t bother with canned laughter or zany presenters.

Photo of the presenters

Last night's presenters with their audience behind

In France, such shows normally feature two presenters, a panel of celebrities who have learnt their lines, and a live audience behind them. Yes, behind them. I don’t know why, but this approach is very popular in France. Last night’s show lasted for two and a half hours — more telethon length than silly blooper show length. The format was to run ten bloopers, then have the guests comment on what was funny about the bloopers (perhaps they think the viewers are blind?), and replay them at least one more time during the discussion. I watched again as the British home-shopping channel presenter fell off his chair in slow motion while the female presenter looked confused and laughed. After the first fifty bloopers, the celebs got up and left, and a new panel arrived, along with a dog. Pet dogs on TV are another really common sight on French TV, and something I love. Last night’s dog was a Labrador puppy, owned by the male presenter. The French version of Wheel of Fortune also has a pet dog, as do a whole swag of other shows. It reinforces the great flexibility of the workforce here, where dogs often accompany their owners to work (well, at least here in the French Alps — I’m not so sure about office jobs in Paris).

Other highlights, apart from the dog, included two men doing a stage kiss and a woman audience member from another show getting out a fake breast much to her husband’s embarrassment. There may have been more, but I took my headache to bed before the show had finished.


I'm a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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3 comments on “French television panels
  1. snowchalet says:

    I can’t believe you weren’t watching the rugby??? Mind you, it was almost as painful to watch!

    It sounds like you really need to get a satellite dish – we struggled for a year with the poor quality of French programme-making before deciding that it wasn’t our poor language skills that made it difficult viewing and switched back to satellite viewing. Maybe it’s just a culture thing?

    (Shame I missed that last show though 8^)

  2. April says:

    I’m an Aussie rules girl with absolutely no interest in or understanding of rugby. To be honest, the TV isn’t on all that much, and I’m still thankful for Amour Gloire et Beauté (The Bold and the Beautiful) for teaching me what “quest-ce que t’ai fait?!” means (apparently, a lot of people on that show do things they shouldn’t, with so many actors asking what they’ve done).

  3. Isabelle says:

    Have you ever noticed that on the first row of the audience there is always girls? They are paid for that! The more their tee shirt shows, the better chance they have to be right behind the presenters :p

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About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced technical writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Drop by, my other site.

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