Sunday, May 10, 2009

Marseille soap and other fiction

I haven’t written anything for a while simply because I have horrendous stuff going on at home and my brain has just packed up its neurons and left.

So…I’ve been watching a lot of mindless television. I don’t watch telly usually – I don’t even own a set. However, I can get a few channels on the computer and for the past few weeks I’ve been sitting in front of various émissions with a glazed expression on my face (so I’m told).

One programme I admit to being fond of is Inspecteur Derrick. It’s not even French – it’s German. The title music is great – DER DER! DER DER! DER DER! DER DER!…di da di da di daa, da da da da, di da da – (hope you got that) and the seedy seventies’ atmosphere, all orange and brown geometric patterns, Formica and men in polo neck sweaters, stirs up memories of a simpler time. Derrick is a rather unattractive but charismatic policeman while his sidekick, Harry, has perfectly blow-dried hair. Together, in beige gabardine raincoats, they weed out the criminals of Munich with a mixture of psychology, meaningful facial expressions and a total lack of humour. I just love it…

Another programme (that I do not admit to watching) is Plus Belle La Vie. Set in a district of Marseille, this could be compared to Eastenders – except that it’s nothing like Eastenders. Everybody is beautifully dressed and coiffed and even the students live in luxury flats with designer furniture. The people who live in the quartier Mistral are prone to being kidnapped with alarming frequency and when they’re not being kidnapped, they’re committing adultery, taking drugs, discovering they’re gay, losing their memories and…oh, I can’t be bothered. You get the picture.

Yet in the midst of all this trauma, they still find time to pontificate on the issues of the day: homophobia, racism, religion, the environment, the recession - it’s all there. And even though the actors sound as if they’re reading aloud from a political manifesto, I suppose it does make a nice change from “Rickaaaaaaaay”!

Now I come to think of it, all the soap operas in France are unrealistic. I remember Hélène et les Garçons, a series from the early nineties about a group of students. These students also lived in luxury flats, wore designer clothes and spent most of their time drinking strangely fluorescent beverages in a café or going to the gym. I don’t remember ever seeing them revising for exams or having spots or hangovers. Sous le Soleil, however, was a soap opera set in St Tropez so you’d expect everybody to be rich – even if they were waitresses in a snack bar on the beach.

So why is there such a difference between the English soap operas and the French séries televisées? Perhaps it’s because the English are basically a nation of nosey-parkers and watching the lives of ordinary working-class people on television is akin to peeking through the net curtains at the neighbours. The French, on the other hand, are an altogether more gregarious bunch so other people’s lives hold no mystery for them. They prefer escapism, preferably with a designer dress and a yacht or two thrown in. It’s also something for them to aspire to…

That’s enough thinking for today. I’m exhausted.

Now, what’s on telly? Hmmmm. Le météo…great. I do love a good piece of fiction…