Big Brother, The XFactor, Strictly Come Dancing… Reality TV is so deeply ingrained in British culture that it’s hard to remember a Saturday night in without it.
Yet the concept seems lost on the French, who only boast a small number of reality shows and are completely baffled by us Brits’ obsession.Could it be that the French have too much class and sophistication to enjoy trashy TV? Or is it because they don’t have the same culture of D-list celebrities trying to boost their 15 minutes of fame? (ahem… Amy Childs and Mark Wright.)
The UK has so many shows and their spin-offs trying to cash in on the same success, I’d be up all night if I tried to count them.
Talent shows like Nouvelle Star and Star Academy were popular about ten years ago when the concept first arose, but the French quickly grew bored. The attempt to bring XFactor accross the Channel tanked in 2009 with ratings ranging from 589,000 to 928,000 at its peak.
There was also allegedly a series of France’s Next Top Model a couple of years ago, which was such a flop it flew completely under the radar. Not only would an equivalent French version of ‘dramality’ shows The Only Way is Essex or Made in Chelsea not work, it simply wouldn’t be of any interest to these picky frogs.
So what do the French like to watch?
They do like a good adventure game show, Fort Boyard being a longterm favourite. Similarly Survivor equivalent Koh Lanta was well received. No posh people prancing around in bikinis trying to win a popularity contest, like UK favourite Shipwrecked, this was the serious version.
The Big Brother equivalent comes in the form of Secret Story which has had – wait for it – FOUR whole seasons making it their most successful reality show. Contestants all have a secret to hide, ranging from the ground breaking ‘I’m secretly a twin’ to the more worrying ‘I’ve killed a man.’ Apparently it’s quite good fun.
Now for the weird bit. The French won’t watch any fashion based shows… but they love farmers. L’Amour est dans le Pré is one of the most talked about programmes amongst the younger generation. It’s aim: to set women up with the rustic man of their dreams.Then comes Les Ch’tis a Ibiza . For those of you who don’t know, a ch’ti is a nickname for a poor charver who lives in the North of France (Nord-Pas-de-Calais.) It’s the French equivalent of Jersey and Geordie Shore. It’s not half as tacky or trashy, but is just as hilarious.
This group of young ch’tis jet off to Ibiza to party. They look quite demure compared to their anglo counterparts, don’t they? And a whole lot less orange. It was such a success last summer, the ch’tis are heading off skiing next time!
My theory is that the French just enjoy making fun of people. People who aren’t as socially gifted or as well off as them. Programmes that promise a life changing prize just aren’t realistic enough and soon grow old. And watching a group of glamourous 20-somethings on their nights out doesn’t appeal. But follow a chav around with a camera and hilarity ensues.