Staying in: Sauciness and silicone

A statuesque Austrian woman wearing a crown, a lurid green bikini and a matching sash reading "Miss Asparagus" sashays into a television studio to sit on the knee of a suave Frenchman. "Would you mind taking a look at my asparagus?" he asks, in more of a simple than a double entendre. "How does it compare to other boys' asparagus? What part do you prefer - the shaft or the tip?" Having salaciously invited the woman to gorge herself on some asparagus, the man then wonders: "Was it as good for you as it was for me?" The spirit of Carry On is not dead. It lives on in Eurotrash.

Channel 4's self-mockingly kitsch celebration of boobs and behinds is, rather amazingly, starting its 10th series on Friday. People either love it or loathe it because it's the show that decency forgot. One particularly memorable (for all the wrong reasons) item concerned a German artist who painted with his own excrement. Presiding like a twinkly satyr over this parade of sauciness and silicone is Antoine de Caunes, the aforementioned Frenchman.

Later on, at the studio in the outskirts of Paris, he takes time out from another ludicrous sketch - in which he is dressed, for no discernible reason, as a Spanish flamenco dancer - to explain why the British have so warmed to his bin-load of Eurotrash.

Done up in long, dark tresses, which he keeps flicking from his eyes, a gaudy red shirt, too-tight trousers and an over-sized gold medallion nestling in an unruly chest-wig, De Caunes reflects that: "If you look at it without being drunk, the show is about an absolutely ridiculous French guy who's pretending to be a sex-bomb when he's really just an old fart. The British get that sense of self-irony."

Jean-Paul Gaultier, the designer who is returning for a special-guest- star appearance as De Caunes' bickering co-host on Friday, chimes in: "Only French people could make fun of French people like this on English TV."

These subtleties, however, have been lost on the many critics who can't see beyond content, which is often bluer than a bay in the Aegean. De Caunes - who speaks much better English than he lets on during Eurotrash - has no time for these carpers. "The tabloids are always complaining that the show has too much sex, but that's so hypocritical. They put tits on Page 3 and then harass us for showing too much sex. But they're always the first people to watch Eurotrash. The British pretend to be so straight, but they're the most eccentric people on Earth. Look at London. By day, it's a normal working city, but by night all these weirdos come out of the ground like werewolves."

De Caunes goes on to claim - somewhat improbably - that Eurotrash also handles its guests with respect. "Seriously, we treat them correctly. We have weird people coming on - you open any paper and you see it's a mad world - but we're never rude or nasty to them.

"In France, there is a freak show whose only purpose is to exploit people, but we never use them because they're bizarre. We had a guy on from Scandinavia who sings country-and-western songs on a unicycle. He's so bad, it's fantastic - that's the theme of the show. We're good fun for the whole family." Especially if that family is named Addams.

In France, the 42-year-old De Caunes is developing handy sidelines as a writer of detective fiction and as a movie star. After one celebrated recent role involving a graphic sex scene, critics wrote admirably about his bottom (talk about turning the tables). Did he require a body double? "No - I'm not Demi Moore," he laughs. "It was definitely my bottom. People are always focusing on nudity. But if there's a good reason for it, I don't see it as a problem. It's no worse than pretending to be Nana Mouskouri on Eurotrash."

It is thanks to such endearingly silly stunts that De Caunes has become that most unusual of beings: a Frenchman popular in Britain. "The good news is that for people of my generation, this so-called war between Britain and France is over," he concurs. "We never cared about it, and because of popular culture, it has now disappeared anyway.

"The bad news is," he concludes with a smile, "that the French guy I'm following in terms of popularity is Sacha Distel. That makes me afraid. Am I going to end up as the next Sacha Distel?"

The new series of `Eurotrash' begins on Friday at 10.30pm on Channel 4

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