If you thought reality TV was bad enough in English, it’s probably just as well you don’t speak French. Jersey Shore may be starting its sixth and final season tonight, but it’s got nothing on Occupation Double, the long-running TVA reality show whose ninth season is now underway. Though drawing upon the same viewership (at least within la belle province), it manages to be even more excruciating and unbearable.
Picture, if you will, a cross between Survivor, The Bachelor and Big Brother, with a cast of Jersey Shore castoffs speaking French, and if your head doesn’t explode, well, let me tell you more. The show pits a baker’s dozen of young contestants (early to mid 20s) in a game of love where the winners get the keys to a new condo, his and hers Honda Civics and a brand-new wardrobe (apparently not by Affliction)–but only if they decide to spend the rest of their lives together. Being that the show airs on TVA, property of Quebecor media mogul (and future Quebec Nordiques owner?) Pierre Karl Péladeau, we’re treated to a full-on media blitz of stories such as “Un gars et une fille quittent l’aventure” and “«Il n’y avait pas de chimie avec les gars» – Valérie” from the Canoe news network. Furthermore, this season, Péladeau has brought in Sébastien Benoît, formerly a hard-hitting(?) news reporter, to add an air of over-dramatic feigned seriousness to the ridiculous concept.
Hugo Dumas, La Presse‘s TV critic, who is forced to watch this show in much the same way the Newark Star-Ledger‘s entertainment reporter feels obligated to cover Jersey Shore, offers a different perspective: these kids aren’t really looking for love, but, like most reality-TV “stars,” feel like they’re on the fast-track to fame. Nevermind that, as per Dumas, only a couple past contestants ever made it as far as the V network, which is kinda like Quebec’s answer to CTV2. (And here I betcha didn’t know there was a CTV2 channel!) If you can’t bring yourself to actually watch the show, but aspire to date Québécoise
strippers co-eds, Dumas’ column is a good read–if you speak the language, natch.
Speaking of which, the French you’ll hear on this show is nothing like the eloquent verbiage pronounced by cultured politicians or TV news reporters, or even the kind found in most Montreal movies. In fact, they butcher the language so badly, in general, that TVA has to use subtitles–French subtitles!–half the time. As Dumas put it, “Les téléspectateurs de TVA n’ont sans doute jamais autant lu en regardant la télévision.” (“TVA viewers have undoubtedly never read so much while watching television.”) But hey, at least those French girls are pretty hot.
Ironically, TVA is channel 101 on Rogers Cable here in Toronto, which makes me smile whenever I turn that dial. (If that went over your head, try asking a Jewish deli in Montreal why their sign says Charcuterie Hébraïque.) Oh, and did I mention that this show airs not once, not twice but three times a week–Mondays, Wednesdays and a 90-minute edition on Sunday nights. PKP must be laughing all the way to the bank!