The best French sitcom … ever?

I often hear the phrase ‘French TV is rubbish’ bandied about, by many British expats in France, as a way of justifying their purchase of expensive satellite systems and subscriptions to SKY plus. However on balance, I think it’s fair to say that those who say this, don’t actually believe that the dross served up on British screens is any better than that on offer in France, but it’s easier to simplify the argument down to a question of quality, rather than simply admit that you miss your weekly dose of Top Gear and Red Dwarf.

While there may be many differences between British and French television, quality is not one of them. The main difference is format. This is particularly true for sit-coms. In the UK, one would expect a sit-com to be aired weekly and last somewhere between 25 and 45 minutes an episode; in France however it is more likely to be aired every day and last no longer than 7 minutes.

Why this is the case I have no idea, but it certainly makes the French idea of sit-com slightly less contrived/painful than the British. The French simply do away with boring things like plot and through-line, and focus on the gags. (So, in theory, you should get just as many laughs in a 7 minute French sitcom as you would in a 25 minute British one.)

When the French do comedy the British way they like do it feature length and via cinematic release.

This means that when you first start watching French TV, you soon get the impression that there is almost no comedy programming breaking up the endless cop and reality shows, hence the ‘rubbish’ tag. However, you soon get used to it, and if you know where and when to look, you can balance out your dross consumption nicely between comedies, dramas and documentaries. (If you enjoy reality shows you wouldn’t be complaining about ‘quality’)

So can the French do comedy? Absolutely. My favourite sit-com Un Gars et une Fille (A Guy and A Girl) to a Brit it might feel more like a sketch show but it makes for addictive viewing. The beauty of the show is that even if your understanding of the language is limited 9 times out of 10 you will get the joke, and even if you don’t you only have to wait a few seconds until the next sketch.

It ran for 486 episodes over a four year period and had regular viewing figures in excess of 6.5m, making it one of the most popular French comedy shows of all time. These days you can flick through old episodes on You Tube, or if you have TNT catch regular ‘Best of’ emissions on France 4.

So there you have it – it is possible to laugh ‘with’ and not just ‘at’ the French.

Here’s a ‘best of’ episode of Une Gars et Une Fille care of You Tube:

9 responses to “The best French sitcom … ever?”

  1. I totally agree with you, of courde the french do excellent comedy and thanks for the tip about un gars un fille

  2. Bizarrely this is currently the most popular post on the blog … I wonder why?

    French sitcom fans might like to know that M6 are currently repeating Kamelott – the King Arthur spoof, again same format as Un Gars et une fille, which incidentally is also being repeated on M6.

  3. In a not entirely unrelated turn of events I am delighted to reveal that I am the author behind France’s entry into the Eurovision Sitcom Contest, a fringe show taking place in Camden, London later this month.

    It’s full of French gags and characters that, certainly if you’re French or have ever spent any time in France, you will find somewhat amusing. The actors/comedians taking part come from a healthy stock of Francophones enlisted by London’s Bilingual Theatre company : Echange Theatre. So a big ‘merci’ to them for making it happen.

    For more information visit the producers site The Sitcom Trials or the venue itself.

    See you there!

  4. Rectification : Un gars et une fille est une sit-com française vendue pour être adaptée dans une trentaine de pays, dont le Canada.

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