April 26, 2001, the date when everything started. The channel M6 launches a brand new program, the concept never seen in France but adapted from the Dutch show “Big Brother”: “Loft Story”. The goal ? Lock in a huge house full of micros and cameras running around the clock a bunch of anonymous singles that viewers will see live for 10 weeks.
On the occasion of a big weekly prime time, viewers can vote by phone to be sure their favorite candidate stays into the game.
The goal is to create two winners who will win then, namely at the time, a house worth 3 million francs. The first “confinement” game French was born and it is an immediate carton despite the debates surrounding this concept, judged by some people as unhealthy and voyeur without any sociological goal.
The anonymous candidates become real stars overnight and the M6 channel becomes a must thanks to this fantastic poker game.
The followed surge on TV
Following the exceptional enthusiasm shown by the TV show, it is no surprise that reality television has grown in the years that followed.
An increasing number of reality TV programs, many of them adapted from foreign reality shows, have invaded the everyday life of the French.
Pure “confinement” reality TV shows
Indeed, the year 2000 saw the birth of all sorts of programs, mixing confinement and entertainment like “Nice People” (bringing together candidates from all the European countries in the same house) or “Secret Story” (improved version of “Loft Story” with the aim of discovering the secrets hidden by the other candidates).
Musical reality TV shows
Then comes a new concept in France, musical reality TV.
“Star Academy” is the first program of its kind in France and is the adaptation of a Spanish TV show “Operación Triunfo”.
Its arrives on TF1 and invites us to follow in a castle a band of anonymous who wish to make a career in the song. The program presents itself as a school that gives courses to the student candidates and puts them in competition each week on prime time TV.
A kind of remake of the movie “Fame” TV reality version.
Popular singer Jenifer was the first to win the show in 2002.
But also “Popstars” (adapted from the New Zealand program of the same name) between talent show and reality television, which allows the viewer to follow auditions of apprentice singers in front of a jury of professionals. Then to follow them again during singing lessons, dance lessons, before their regular passages before the jury until the victory of one or more members to record an album.
One of the most recognized French artists in recent years, Matt Pokora, has been revealed through this TV show.
Reality TV shows with celebrities
Another version of the reality show “basic” those aimed at staging personalities, all are adapted from foreign programs.
“La Ferme Célébrités” followed by “Première compagnie” or “Je suis une célébrité, sortez moi de là” meet in front of the television a wider range of viewers thanks to the presence of older stars (for example Aldo Maccione, Jean Pierre Castaldi or Francky Vincent) that affect a generation other than that usually riveted before this type of program.
Adventures reality TV shows
Inspired by similar foreign programs such as the Swedish reality TV show “Survivor”, the French reality television is then moving towards outdoor concepts.
“Koh-Lanta” sends a group of anonymous people on a desert island without resources to experience a Robinson Crusoe’s adventure punctuated by various challenges for 40 days.
Split into two teams, they will have to demonstrate mental and physical strength to survive the ordeals despite the ravages of hunger but also to survive in community life. The final challenge of Koh Lanta poles, which is among the three finalists of the season, has become cult.
The show gives rise to exceptional images thanks to destinations such as Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam or Costa Rica.
Note that some seasons of the show have included celebrities often from the world of sports such as Franck Leboeuf or Taïg Khris.
“Pékin Express” follows adapted from a Dutch-Belgian broadcast. The program released duets for a trip to a foreign country with one euro per day and per person. Duets must reach before the other participants a flag signifying the end of each step (usuallylasts two days) to avoid being eliminated. It is a little the principle of a race, the barrier of language and more.
“Pékin Express” has already made long and perilous journeys on six different continents (North America, South America, Asia, Europe, Africa and Oceania).
Here again, the program offered the presence of celebrities on some of its seasons as a “mystery passenger” associated with some duets along the way.
We could see the animators Mac Lesggy and Stéphane Plaza or the stylist William Carnimolla climbing mountains at the end of the world or trying to negotiate a shelter for the night in a rough mastery of the language.
His two “survival” shows, as they are called, offer winnings of up to 100,000 euros to the winners.
On M6 again we also find “The Island”.
“The Island, seuls au monde” is a clever mix of “Koh-Lanta” and of a documentary. This is adapt from “The Island with Bear Grylls” broadcast in UK.
The group of anonymous sent on a desert island for a period of 28 days have for only purpose to survive, filmed by cameramans also embarked on the adventure. No challenges, no win at the end of the game, the program is more focused on the human.
The sentimental reality TV shows
The search for love has also made recipe in the world of reality TV with a large amount of program to the image of “Greg le millionnaire”, broadcast on TF1.
In this TV show, Greg, a fake millionaire had to choose the love of his life among 20 contenders and then reveal the trickery, namely that he is not a millionaire but mason, to see if love is the strongest.
This TV show was later declined with one of the most sulphorous single lady with the title “Marjolaine et les millionnaires”.
The sexy program “L’île de la Tentation” is as successful as scandalous when it arrives on TF1 adapted from the American program “Temptation Island”.
Its principle is to send four couples to test their love and loyalty in the face of the temptation of twenty-two beautiful singles people (half tempting women and the other tempting men) during a stay of twelve days on a paradise island.
M6 adapts for its part “Bachelor, le gentleman célibataire”, where a rich and handsome man goes in search of the woman of his life among a selection of candidates.
Sentimental reality television also takes a new turn with the arrival on TF1 of “L’amour est aveugle” (adapted from the american TVshow “Dating in the Dark”). In this program of meeting, single men and women will discover themselves in the dark in order to get to know each other without physical prejudices.
The second season of the program saw born Nabilla Benattia, a starlet staring around the reality TV shows (including “Les Anges” in which she will say this famous sentence that will make the buzz “Allo, non mais Allo quoi” In the season 5) then to have his own Tv reality show “Allo Nabilla”, like the Kardashian in the USA.
And of course, it is the arrival of the famous “Love is in the meadow” that completely innovates the French television landscape by connecting isolated peasants to men and women in search of love.
A singular concept (adapted from a British format “Farmer wants a wife”) that has proven itself, it seems that the program holds the record of couples, marriages and babies born through the program. Well done !
Culinary reality TV shows
A skilful mixture of reality TV show and television shows, culinary reality TV shows appears and take a stand (always adaptations of other countries) with “Top Chef” on M6 and “Masterchef” on TF1 before appearing a multitude of other programs such as “Le meilleur pâtissier” (where amateurs and professionals compete in pastry exclusively), “Cauchemar en cuisine” (adapted from a British program in which a chef tries to save restaurants in bankruptcy) , “Chéri(e) c’est moi le chef” (in which duets have to run a recipe with one in the kitchen and the other giving him orders via a headset).
“Chéri(e) c’est moi le chef” is a pure French creation that has been exported internationally as “My wife rules!”
The reality TV nowadays
From 2011, ten years after the initial launch of the traditional reality show in France, a new genre arrives, that of the reality series which is a modern telereality without confinement whose innovative concept is very different and which is somewhat similar to a soap opera.
The broadcasts are longer, the shoots are done abroad in magnificent villas and the candidates are free of their movements and have artistic projects: singing, dancing, animation, comedy, modeling, makeup, hairdressing, fashion, cooking, pastry, football, bartender, waiter, etc.
Viewers can follow their journey in the accomplishment of their projects but also discover their dailies by sharing their friendships, loves and disputes, etc. Episodes follow each other like in a soap opera.
In addition, the broadcast is not done live, which gives a fictional side. The candidates are also gathered around a charity project where the funds collected are donated to the association represented.
The flagship show of this new wave 100% French
The programs that follow are 100% French concepts ! Cocorico !
NRJ 12 is the first channel that embarks on the adventure with “Les Anges de la téléréalité”.
In this program, the candidates are for the most part already known, having participated in other programs of reality television beforehand but can also be anonymous.
This is one of the leading reality TV shows on the market.
The declensions of “Les Anges”
Building on this success, other types of similar programs will soon see the light of day with “L’île des vérités” and later “Friends Trip” (whose ingredients mix with “Koh-Lanta”, “Les Anges de la téléréalité” and “Pékin Express”).
Seeking to surf on this success inspired by the concept of “The Angels” and the famous French film “Welcome to the Ch’tis”, W9 launches on his side “Les Ch’tis” followed shortly after by “Les Marseillais” in which one follows the adventures of a band of anonymous young people from the north of France or the opposite of the south.
A reality show confronting the two bands was declined maintaining the same basic principle “Les Ch’tis vs Les Marseillais”.
A show dedicated to love “La Belle et ses princes presques charmants” on W9 which will lead very quickly to a spin off of the TV show with “Les Princes de l’amour” still on W9.
In the first program good looking candidates confronts candidates less spoiled by nature for the heart of the beautiful. A fight between the beauty of the heart and that of the body in a way.
The spin off features several of the unfortunate candidates from “La Belle et ses princes presques charmants” surrounded by beautiful young women who came to seek love.
Here again it is question of choice a physical advantage or not for the contenders.
The underside of reality TV
All these programs offer us a lot of content to see, but beyond what is broadcast there is, like everything, a shadow that reality would like to forget.
The resounding flops
Here are some of the programs that have struggled so much to find their audience that they have, for the most part, had no end and have been purely and simply deprogrammed along the way.
Probably the biggest flop of reality TV in France, “Carré Viiip” on TF1.
The program, which was to last ten weeks, was stopped just thirteen days after its launch. His concept of facing former “reality” stars (the Viiip) to anonymous people who are ready to do anything to become famous (the Wannaviiip) has definitely not convinced.
On TF1 again, the original concept of the program “Le Royaume” will not withstood to disappointing audiences and is deprogrammed after a week of broadcasting. The program consisted of sending 14 candidates back to the Middle Ages to learn about the living conditions of the time.
Another program that did not mark the memories “Les Colocataires” broadcast on M6.
A concept seen and reviewed of pure confinement (7 girls and 7 boys live locked for 10 weeks under the eyes of the cameras, and are eliminated as and when the vote of viewers) who is shunned by the public from the launch .
With a lot of sexy footage, M6 will try to bring back the world but it is a failure and the program will end painfully its only season.
Less big flop but disappointing audience and program quickly forgotten “Dilemme” on W9. The principle is similar to that of “Loft Story”. Fifteen young candidates, divided into two teams, are locked up for two months in a house called “The Cube” and face daily dilemmas. The program will end its season normally with a tiny audience.
On W9 still “Las Vegas Academy”, a mix of “Star Academy” and “Les Anges de la téléréalité” did not convince either.
The repeated scandals
Frequently reported to the CSA (Higher Council of Audiovisual) reality TV shows hide more or less well the many scandals they drag in their wake.
The persistent rumors of lies on the part of the productions (false secret, false couple, false fight, false votes …)
Attacks, violence, sexual harassment within programs have unfortunately become inseparable from this type of program over the years.
More and more sequences considered humiliating or shocking push the emissions to be prohibited to less than 12 years. Seems wise when we talk about about scenes of people giving themselves insults, fighting up to the blood sometimes and having extremely inappropriate sexual behavior in front of television cameras.
The first historical winner of the reality show “Loft Story”, Loana Petrucciani better known as Loana has experienced many setbacks because of her celebrity to which she was not prepared. His many suicide attempts have been for years in the specialized press.
Finally, recent revelations have revealed a vast network of prostitution parallel to the world of reality TV. Supported by proven facts and receiving new testimonials frequently, we have not stopped hearing about this gloomy story.
Even more seriously, reality television has been implicated in several deaths that have been controversial by their very nature. Indeed a majority believes that with better conditions and better guidance of candidates these dramas could have been avoided.
The suicide of François Xavier, candidate of “Secret Story” and “Carré Viiip” in 2011 moves the world of reality television but is not especially surprising for anyone.
The former candidate, who died at the age of 22, had expressed his discomfort with this sudden celebrity and the lack of guidance from the production teams of reality TV on many occasion over several TV interviews or paper report.
In 2015 it is the survival TV show “Koh Lanta” which is affected by two dramas.
First the sudden death of a candidate, Gerald Babin, on the first day of the shooting of a challenge of the new season in Cambodia.
The man died of cardiac arrest at the age of 25.
Less than a month later, while the filming was of course canceled, it is the doctor of the TV show, Thierry Costa, who puts an end to his days.
He could not have endured the media pressure around Gerald Babin’s death.
2015 always, it’s on the shooting of the first season of “Dropped” (TF1) that takes place the biggest drama of the French reality TV show.
Shooting ends abruptly during the shooting of the second episode when an aerial collision of the helicopters causes the death of ten people, including French athletes Florence Arthaud, Camille Muffat and Alexis Vastine.
A tragedy that, after investigation, could have been favored by various technical and budgetary decisions made by the production team.
A new era
Today, with the exception of the leading programs, the beginning of the disengagement for reality TV seems to have sounded, and it was time after experiencing more indigestible programs than innovative.
What remains certain is that reality TV has changed the way we watch TV forever. There has been a before and after invasion of reality TV on our screens and in our lives.