Friday, February 7, 2014

Things I've Learned While Abroad: T.V. Watching

In the past four years living my French life, I discovered over time one rather life-changing epiphany: I don't need a television to be happy.

Yes, from being absolutely broke living on my own with no space having access to the Internet/buying DVDs to get my T.V. watching fixes changing one country for another, I have since learned that I can dedicate my valuable free time for other lofty activities such as cooking, exercising and browsing the Internet for hours on end.

Still, on the rare occasion in which I do have access to a television set, be it from visiting friends or staying at a hotel room, I've noticed that, for some reason, American T.V. shows are very popular in France provided they are dubbed, and it seems that the homegrown French programming is limited to French "Dancing with the Stars," French "Master Chef," French "The Voice," and French "Un Dîner Presque Parfait."

Oh, wait. That last one is probably 100% French.

From what I have noticed, it seems that as far as French programming goes, the most popular or memorable "shows" appear in the evenings as short sketch comedies that are meant to take up space before the major dubbed American ones and the eight o'clock weather forecast are aired. Sketch shows such as the famous Un Gars, Une Fille, Very Bad Blagues,

and Scènes de Ménages (which  I discovered is also available in a Dutch version called "Ik ook van jou") are often the highlight of French T.V. watching.

There is also a brief, nightly political "news" show featuring rubber puppets mocking French politicians and world leaders (Guignols de l'info). I do believe this is similar to the British "Spitting Image."

The French also have their histrionic soap operas (Plus belle la vie, which I once mistakenly referred to as "Poubelle la vie" in front of my students) and mind-numbing crap reality T.V. shows (infamously, Jersey Shore-esque Les Ch'tis à Wherever the Fuck in the World  or the even more cringe-worthy Les Marseillais à Miami), but I fortunately never developed a taste for watching them. After a ten-minute bout of French reality T.V., I find myself with the need to purge the stupidities that I had placed before my eyes and gravitate to the more cultural and informative Arte channel. It's like PBS, and PBS is usually a winner.

I've also come to realize that now that my T.V.-less life provides me with a limited access to commercials, I am more tranquil and less self-conscious about my flaws regarding the forced need to purchase make-up, clothes, perfume, shoes, cars, and erectile dysfunction pills.

But I do have to say this: I like the French way of showing commercials as opposed to the American style. In France, you will more than likely watch an entire episode of NCIS without once seeing a commercial break. And when you do have commercials, they are all clumped together to be shown in one lengthy slot of time. I have to appreciate the lack of interruptions and the consideration shown from giving me a cue as to when I can take a comfortable bathroom break without needing to rush back to the couch within two minutes.

Meanwhile, I've discovered that without the commercials coming in seven-minute installments, American T.V. shows are actually quite short, particularly if it is an episode that is supposed to last at least half an hour. Really, a traditional 30-minute show just manages to graze the 20-minute mark, allowing for the remaining 10 minutes to be dedicated to advertisements.

Every time I go home for a few weeks to visit my mother, I realize how bothersome it is to enjoy anything with an important plot and subsequent climax while it is constantly cut by repetitive suggestions bombarding me to part ways with my hard-earned cash.

Allow me to demonstrate what it is like to watch a T.V. show in the United States, complete with commercial breaks.

I never did find out who Shaneequa's Raxacoricofallapatorian baby daddy was.

While I don't advocate living a T.V.-less existence for everybody, I can say that living without this one distraction has cleared up my general time and mental well-being.

Still, I do like me some Doctor Who and am still waiting for France 4 to air the last Christmas special... *bawls*

Barb the French Bean


  1. I love the European system of lumping the commercials together! I even watch most of them, probably more than I do here (as I'm rushing here and there).

  2. This is why I love my DVR - not having to sit through commercials every 5 minutes, especially when it's the same commercial played every single break. I get it, Hyundai, you've got a 100,000 mile warranty, but I'm still never going to buy one, so STFU and let me watch my show.

    Also, those clips made me realize that in America we need a lot more shows with creepy semi-realistic puppets and more shows with ninja guys in background-colored spandex manipulating stage items.

    Oh, and I hope I didn't ruin it for you, but Maury ruled that Doctor Who was NOT the father. He did a ridiculous celebration dance, and Shaneequa has been inconsolable for days.

  3. I don't watch many TV shows, but the ones I like I record with my DVR. Commercials are unbearable.


  4. I don't watch television as much as I did before, but I do have my guilty pleasures. I've gravitated to Hulu and the main U.S. Channels. I have a laptop hooked up to the television, and I'll watch my programs whenever the time permits.

  5. Hi Barb...I'm Bouncin Barb! Just added you to my Google + list and read this blog because I saw you are friends with Bryan & Brandon. That means you must be pretty cool!! haha. Seriously, I have cut out TV by 70% after moving in my a guy who only has a TV set in his bedroom. I get more accomplished all day long. And I hate commercials so we live in a streaming world a lot lately. Sounds like the French have the right idea on how they group the commercials together. That's brilliant. Gives one more time for a bathroom break and to get another beer!!


Apparently, leaving comments on this blog is a hit-or-miss game of Russian roulette: you are either lucky and can comment away, or you are required to log in when the settings are CLEARLY set to allow trouble-free commenting (sorry 'bout that, folks). If anything, the Facebook page is always a viable option. :) -Barb