I spent way more time than I should have watching bad French TV this weekend so I feel that it is just to report my findings.
1) The French have hardly any of their own feuilletons [TV series]. The popular feuilletons are Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy, Cold Case and all varieties of CSI (or, Les Experts) – all dubbed in French, of course. Other than those and other American series, primetime (which is later seeing that the French don’t usually start dinner until around 8 p.m.) is often occupied by movies, which are often American and often of questionable quality.
2) Which brings be to observation no. 2: American téléfilms [made-for-TV-movies]. Saturday, I wasted away over an hour of my life watching Le tueur du vol 816, the French-dubbed version of a laughably horrible American téléfilm from 2003 starring the guy from JAG. I really wonder where they dig this stuff up. Why did they decide it needed to be dubbed in French? Who exactly does it appeal to? Likewise, I stumbled across a short-lived TV series called Runaway (staring New Kids on the Block bad boy and my Boomtown homey Donnie Wahlberg) airing Sunday afternoon. I had never even heard of this series so how do the French know about it?
3) The Nanny. Yes, with Fran Drescher. It airs nightly on M6 at about 8 p.m., just around dinnertime. Again, why? Granted, the French voice actress is slightly more tolerable.
4) We do not have cable. Thus, we have eight channels of basic French TV. Of these eight channels, one shows exclusively MTV reality shows, dubbed in français: Mon incroyable anniversaire [My Sweet Sixteen], Ma life [True Life], Mariés avant l’age [Underaged and Engaged], etc. And I mean exclusively shitty reality shows. No music videos, no Laguna Beach or The Hills or whatever wealthy California neighborhood they are on to now. Only the worst-of-the-worst reality merdre. It makes my wonder … and watch in horror.
5) French Lingo. Enough said.
6) The French version of PBS takes the cake. First, I must note that all channels are owned by the state, so in one sense, they are all “public.” But “arte” is the one that most closely approximates public television in the states. Arte is a joint Franco-allemand [France-German] effort which, in addition to showing movies (often good ones) and the nightly news, broadcasts original, and often interesting, programming. One night they aired a live broadcast of La Traviata, which was being performed in a Zurich train station. Yeah, they are that badass. Another night, I watch an hour-long emission [program] on “color.” Seriously, what beats that for randomness?
En bref, you really never do know what you will get comme on zappe through the channels [as one zaps through the channels…yes, “zapper” has, evidently, become a French verb].
Ultimately, all I can say is “Bizarre, bizarre.”