Saturday 15 May 1999
It would be interesting to hear how the Channel 4 heads persuaded themselves that they could get away with broadcasting a job lot of series fronted by de Caunes. You can imagine them cajoling one another towards the belief that the shows are two completely different beasts. Clive James once essayed something similar - a low- brow chat show on BBC1 one night and a high-brow chat show on BBC2 the next, prompting one critic to describe him as television's first split personality. There's nothing so binary about de Caunes. Le Show is basically Eurotrash with an audience, and slightly more freedom in the format to pack the proceedings with phallic sight gags. "We'll be back next time with the same jokes," he said at the end of last night's spectacular, which was uncharacteristically coy of him. He'll be back twice next week with the same jokes.
Eurotrash has been instrumental over the last few years in persuading us that pornography is just another leisure pursuit and so the jokes are far more risque than anything in the Carry On locker, but they are essentially of the same order. The only advancement made by the new innuendo is that the jokes are as much about fluids as organs. "I am very proud that you came on my sausage," said de Caunes to the actress Julie Delphy, perched astride a large pink seesaw. When she saw herself on the monitor she was off that giant phallus in a jiffy.
There is also the problem of conducting a chat show entirely in a foreign language. The real star of Eurotrash is Maria McErlane, with her deliciously wry voiceovers; the programme's wit, in other words, is native. Le Show's guests are French, and the repartee just isn't there. There was a spine-tinglingly awful set-piece with Miss France, and it looked as if they had calculated in advance that the interview with David Ginola would be a dud, because they ushered on his greatest fan to share the sofa with him. She wore pigtails, pebble-lens glasses and smeared her face in ice cream - and made me feel less amused than uncomfortable. When Le Show does attempt something snappier in French, it rather predictably fails to take the audience with it. Julie Delphy traded French tongue-twisters with de Caunes, and you could hear a pin drop - the audience was that amused. With Ginola, de Caunes did some sort of gag about baguettes. I sat there guessing it was some sort of coded reference to fellatio, but no one apart from the two boys was sniggering.
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