And so I was introduced to Fort Boyard, apparently THE show to watch over the summer. It's a French series but even popular here in Switzerland, where I live.
I've only watched two episodes so for the purposes of this blogpost, I had to do a bit more research. Wikipedia tells me that Fort Boyard was first created in 1990 (which makes it seriously old and seriously successful!) and airs year after year. It is always filmed and aired during the summer (for obvious reasons if you know anything about European seasons and weather).
It reminds me of and has elements of tv shows such as: Survivor, Fear Factor, The Mole, Gladiators, and It's a Knockout.
If you're too young you probably won't have heard of It's a Knockout as it's a show I watched during my childhood in the 80s. Surprisingly, a Wikipedia search tells me the show that I watched (Australian version) was based on a British version which first aired in 1966 and that was based on a(nother) French show called Intervilles, created in 1962. Interesting, n'est-ce pas ?
Perhaps I'm seeing a pattern (or rather, a cultural phenomenon) here.... That French people are good at creating and like to watch these wacky tv adventure game shows!
The series is filmed and set on the real Fort Boyard (French link). I created a map (above) to help you get a better idea where it is in France. It is on its own tiny island on the east coast, near the city of La Rochelle. I have been to La Rochelle and Ile de Ré (the larger island to the north of Fort Boyard) and it's just beautiful there.
From what I can tell from the tv series, Fort Boyard is a beautiful, HUGE old fort (built in 1857), full of nooks and crannies. It is an amazing setting for such a tv show. It seems a bit like the French version of Alcatraz.
The presenter is Olivier Minne
Unlike other game shows (mentioned above) there is only ONE team. Therefore they are not competing against another team and there is none of that nasty backstabbing type stuff that you had with Survivor. The only thing they are racing against is the clock as each challenge has a time limit.
In each team there are 6 people, with 2-4 of each sex.
Apparently, before, they were teams of families or friends but now they all seem to be celebrities who play for a charity of their choice. This is the team I watched last night:
Vincent Mc DOOM, animateur et acteur
Patrick PUYDEBAT, comédien et scénariste
Hélène ROLLES, chanteuse et comédienne
Juliette CHAPPEY, comédienne (Les vacances de Ducobu)
François VIETTE, comédien (Les vacances de Ducobu)
Jade HANDI, organisatrice de voyages aventures et aventurière de Koh-Lanta
(more info on the team here)
I thought they did really well compared to the previous team/episode I watched.
Then you have the characters who help or hinder them:
• Le Père Fouras (whom I affectionately like to call "the old dude"). His name is based on a coastal port in the region. He's been played by Yann le Gac since 2003.
• Passe-Partout. The English translation of passe-partout is passkey, a skeleton key, or a master key, but the literal translation is "goes everywhere". Thus, he is someone who can go anywhere. He is played by André Bouchet (right in photo).
• Passe-Muraille. Someone who can go through walls. Played by Anthony Laborde (left in photo).
(they are both featured in the team photo above, wearing blue and white striped French-style shirts).
Much like any tv series, as time goes on, new characters are created and old characters disappear. Admittedly, I've never watched an entire series and I don't pay attention to every little thing (and to be honest I don't understand everything!) so those are the three main characters IMHO.
If you would like to find out more about the characters since 1990 (and can read French) please check out this awesome Fans de Fort Boyard site here, created by some fans of the show.
You can also go to the Wikipedia link to read about the 3 phases and the challenges as I could not begin to describe everything myself given how little I know about the show. Suffice to say, I do find the show very interesting (and I am someone who never watches tv these days).
You have your:
• dare/phobia type tasks which usually involve: heights, depths (water), insects and reptiles, and darkness.
• physical endurance/strength/skill/balance type tasks
• and those mentally challenging tasks, brain teasers, etc.
In that aspect, the show ALSO reminds me of The Amazing Race.
I really like that even though these people are celebrities, they are not arrogant or annoying and attention-seeking like you get on many of the above-mentioned tv game shows. They really come together and cheer each other on and it's great to see the team spirit. I was particularly impressed by the two kids (Juliette and François) last night who had to do balancing act where they were each standing on a tightrope many metres above the ground and had to face each other and walk across it in a synchronized fashion. There were were also funny moments where Vincent (who I assume is a guy, but who dressed in the girls' uniform and acted like a girl) was screaming when the giant bugs fell on him (her) during one of the tasks.. Gosh it was so funny.
Another thing I like about the show is that the whole thing is over by the end of each episode. None of this waiting weeks or months to find out who the winner is at the end. Also, I watched it on the France 2 channel and there were no ads at all - bonus!
All I can say is, if you get the opportunity to watch this, do it! It's good wholesome family fun, perfect for any age and any kind of tv viewer (even those who never watch tv, like me)! :)
Here is a teaser of last night's episode: