Guy Lux

Creator of the television game show 'Jeux Sans Frontiÿres'
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Maurice Guy (Guy Lux), television presenter and producer: born Paris 21 June 1919; married (one son, and one daughter deceased); died Neuilly-sur-Seine, France 13 June 2003.

The populist and popular presenter and producer Guy Lux dominated French television throughout the Sixties and Seventies.

In 1962, he launched Intervilles, a television game show which pitted neighbouring towns and cities against each other in a series of bizarre competitions. Three years later, Lux created a pan-European version of the programme originally called Internations but better known as Jeux Sans Frontières. It's a Knockout, the UK version of the show, made household names of its presenters David Vine, Katie Boyle, Eddie Waring and Stuart Hall, inspired a hit single by Peter Gabriel ("Games Without Frontiers") and enjoyed an unlikely spin-off in 1987 with It's a Royal Knockout.

Lux also created radio quiz shows such as Le Schmilblick ("The Thingumajig") and TV variety programmes like Le Palmarès Des Chansons, a proto-version of Pop Idol, in 1965. An inveterate gambler and a keen lover of horses, in 1993 Lux was fined by the French courts for promoting and advertising a supposedly surefire system for winning at the lottery and at the race tracks and in 1996 was also prosecuted for tax evasion.

He was born Maurice Guy in 1919 and went to art school in Paris before embarking on a mostly unsuccessful career as a poet and songwriter. "I wanted to write for Charles Trenet and Tino Rossi, but failed miserably," he said. Adopting the pseudonym Guy Lux, he also began producing and presenting radio quiz shows, and made the switch to television in the late Fifties.

In 1962, he borrowed elements of the Italian game show Campanile A Serra - including local rivalry and a last-round quiz - and added his own surreal array of physical challenges involving inflatable objects, water buckets, soapy ropes and obstacle courses to create the slapstick and slapdash Intervilles. With its slipping and sliding contestants and its bickering live hosts - Lux himself, partnered by the girl-next-door Simone Garnier and the pompous Léon Zitrone, with whom Lux recorded a comedy duet "Le Tango d'Intervilles" - the programme became compulsive viewing for all France. General Charles de Gaulle famously interrupted a meeting in 1963 with the West German Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, in order to watch "a show I absolutely adore".

Nudged by the president, who made the assumption that former warring countries involved in such shenanigans were unlikely to take arms against each other ever again, Lux adapted the Intervilles concept and, in 1965, the first European edition of the game show featured teams from France, Belgium, Italy and Germany. Within two years, Switzerland and Great Britain had joined in the fun and frolics.

A perennial of summer television schedules, with its staple of relay races and silly costumes, It's A Knockout lasted until 1982 on the BBC. At its peak in 1980, Jeux Sans Frontières drew a pan- European audience of 110 million viewers and soldiered on until 1999. That year, it was briefly revived in the UK by Channel 5.

By then, Lux had retired from presenting, having left an indelible mark on French broadcasting. He had also adapted the format of Intervilles to come up with Interneiges (high jinks in the snow) and Intercontinents (the international version) and created or fronted another 40 television shows.

The veteran TV producer made headlines when he criticised the current state of French television. He said,

It's all about money nowadays. Looking back on the shows I did, compared to what now passes for entertainment, I feel I was an aesthete. In my prime, I walked the tightrope and I was a bit of an acrobat at times. The more successful my shows were, the more the critics hated them, but I always identified with the average man. I always did my best to entertain.

Pierre Perrone

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