Monday, June 6, 2011

What's on TV?

Monday nights used to be so much fun, back in the halcyon days of March. I could just plonk myself down in front of the TeeVee, with a bottle of wine and some tasty snacks, and watch the drama that was "Top Chef, France" unfold before me, knowing that I would be entertained until midnight. But all good things come to an end, and after milking the franchise for one final week with the somewhat disappointing "Top Chef, France : Battle of the Champions" (in which this year's champion, Stephanie, mopped the floor with last year's hapless contender), the series was replaced by the vastly inferior "Cauchemar dans la Cuisine" (Nightmare in the Kitchen). For a while I flirted with the all-news channel, but the repetition of the day's events on a 45-minute rotation, initially a virtue, soon became an annoying tic, as did the recent "all DSK, all the time" focus.

So I find myself, scanning the copy of France-Soir I picked up at the gym, to see what might be on in prime time this evening. For some odd reason, known only to the gods of French broadcasting, prime time begins at 20:40. What are my options?

The Closer.
France/Ukraine soccer match (a friendly)
The Devil Wears Prada
The Unbearable Lightness of Being

"Aren't there any home-grown offerings?", you may well ask. Why yes, there are.

L'amour est dans le pré (Love has come to the meadow), a reality show in which French bachelor farmers attempt to find love.
Hard, a weekly drama series, taking as its setting the exotic, if seamy, world of the French pornography industry.

Things aren't looking very promising. But wait, over there on France 3, there is a glimmer of light.

Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (Cuisine & Patisserie), documentary, 1h 50m.


The Meilleur Ouvrier de France (Best Craftsman of France), abbreviated as MOF, is an award given every 4 years to the "best" professionals in a broad variety of categories. It is, in effect, a licence to print money for the handful of contestants who achieve the designation. The categories range from the expected (e.g. cooking, pastry-making, and cheese-mongering), through the archaic (lute-making, wickerwork, cooperage, stonemasonry), with a good helping of more artisanal crafts (lace-making and embroidery, clockmaking, blacksmithing), and a nod to some modern professions (dental works, working with reinforced concrete), as well as a host of other specialties, some of which remain a little opaque. For instance, the mysterious "trappings" and "Santon" categories, or the slightly disturbing "aesthetic body hygiene", which has more of a Scandinavian than a French whiff to it. Some of the category names leave something to be desired, though this could be due to poor translation by the author of the Wikipedia article on the subject.* Was "butchery" really the best choice of word for the category in question? And why is "laboratory technicians and taxidermy" a single category in the 21st, indeed in any, century?

There is an American-made documentary (2009) about one of the MOV contests, called "Kings of Pastry", which comes recommended by my friend Peter C., but which received a lukewarm reception over at the AV club AV club review .

Regrettably, after watching only the first hour of tonight's France 3 documentary, I have to conclude that the same criticisms apply. One marvels at some of the technical mastery displayed throughout, but the program itself is "mi-figue mi-raisin", unable to find a satisfactory register between reality TV and dignified PBS-style documentary. At the risk of betraying the true lowbrow nature of my TV-watching brain, let me just say that they should have played up the reality TV angle more, to make us care about the fate of the individual contestants.

I'm sure it will surprise nobody to learn that the representation of women in both contests, among both the contestants and the judges, was vanishingly low.

*: Yes, yes, I know. Wikipedia, the refuge of lazy bloggers worldwide.

1 comment:

  1. This is a test, to see if anonymous commenting is now operative.