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Les Guignols de l'info ( ) is a satirical latex puppet show broadcast on Canal+, a Frenchmarker subscription-based television channel. Hosted by a puppet facsimile of TF1marker news anchor Patrick Poivre d'Arvor, Les Guignols is similar to the 1984–1996 British show Spitting Image. A segment appeared every weeknight on the Canal+ program Nulle part ailleurs, with a weekly recapitulation on Sundays ("La Semaine des Guignols", best of the week). While Nulle part ailleurs no longer runs, the Guignols are still running inside the Canal+ TV Show Le Grand Journal. Since the start of 2009 the show always begins with the line "Nous sommes en 2009 et vous regardez la télévision avec publicité, bonsoir." ("It's 2009 and you're watching television with advertising (a play on the recent elimination of advertisements on public channels), good evening.") Previously other lines have been used and changed roughly twice a year.

The show started in 1988 as Les Arènes de l'info (News Arena). It originally did not follow the news of the day and was not very popular. It was not until 1990–1991 and the first Gulf War that the show began to follow the news. It enjoyed a tremendous growth in popularity and quickly eclipsed its rival, Le Bébête Show.

Impact on popular culture

The Guignols have had a tremendous impact on French popular culture, in many case introducing or popularizing phrases. For instance, à l'insu de mon plein gré ("without the knowledge of my own free will"), repeated by the puppet representing Richard Virenque is now attributed in jest to people who hypocritically deny having willfully committed attributed acts. The impact of political caricature in the Guignols is unclear, but some polls have shown that they influence voters.

Chirac, running in the 1995 presidential election, was shown by the Guignols as unable to articulate a credible program beyond Eat apples!, the apple tree being the symbol of his campaign, but "sympa" (the nice, likable guy).

The show is known to be able to go further in challenging current popular figures and thought than many other forms of media. Some sketches displayed for example Raymond Barre, a former Prime Minister in a gonzo pornographic scene, President Jacques Chirac and his team in a Pulp Fiction–like destruction race to eliminate their competitors or the then Minister of Interior Department Nicolas Sarkozy as a flip-flopping politician.

The Guignols generally displays a left political outlook (although being tough on whoever is in power). While they generally focus on French politics, they occasionally parody international events, often concerning terrorism, including Osama Bin Laden, the Iraqmarker conflict and Saddam Hussein, and United States foreign policy in general. These spoofs on international events are usually presented in an anti-Bush manner, mocking the fact that grey eminences lead the politic, not the president himself. They also sometimes mock Canal+ and its staff as for their former football club.

Famous characters

The characters in the Guignols are either inspired by real personalities of the political, economic and artistic worlds (generally, by anybody who appears in the news) or else are fictional.

  • PPD is a caricature of Patrick Poivre d'Arvor (aka PPDA), a news anchor. He is depicted as a rather cowardly journalist who tries to get on with the mighty and the powerful, but who uses irony and sarcasm to get his point across. He also sports a variety of hairstyles, trying to mask his receding hairline. The impression of his voice by Yves Lecocq is close to perfection
  • Commandant Sylvestre, M. Sylvestre and Cardinal Sylvestre are fictional characters based on the American actor Sylvester Stallone (although when Sylvester Stallone himself is represented, or represented as Rambo he has a different appearance and a different voice). They are a parody of "an ugly American", or sometimes the archetype of greedy multinationals and superpowers. They always say "Beuuarhh" as a salute. During the first Gulf War, the Guignols had a character called Commandant Sylvestre. Cmdt Sylvestre would explain the war in broad terms ("Here's the good guys, that's us, and here are the ragheads, so we'll kill everybody there...") After the war, Cmdt Sylvestre was reintroduced as Mr Sylvestre, a ubiquitous executive from the military-industrial complex, the corporate world (all mixed into the fictional corporation World Company), and the CIA. Sylvestre is dressed in suit and tie and wears a security badge. He is assisted by clones of himself (some with greyish hair) all called "Bob", no matter what position he's holding. His appearance is a blend of Sylvester Stallone and Al Pacino (mainly the lower part of his face). Cardinal Sylvestre, joined with Reverend Sylvestre, Imam Sylvestre, Rabbi Sylvestre and other religious leaders, form the Church Company, twin sister of the World Company specialized in "religious business".
  • Jacques Chirac is depicted as a beer-guzzling, impulsive, incompetent liar who embezzles public money and yet comes off as charming, charismatic, and well-loved. The Guignols went as far as to introduce Super Menteur (Super-Liar), a super hero, into whom Jacques Chirac changes in times of need (see Clark Kent/Superman). Super Menteur is capable of uttering unbelievable lies without getting caught.
  • George W. Bush is depicted as a cretin along with his father. He shows a tendency to war and fights terrorism in his bedroom, defending himself with hand grenades (beer cans). His laptop password is "connard" (the French word for "dumbass").
  • Joey Starr and Doc Gynéco: The rapper Joey Starr, convicted of violence, is portrayed as a brutal individual. He is often coupled with rapper Doc Gynéco to discuss the consumption of cannabis.
  • Bernard Tapie is represented as a bully, speaking in a vulgar way.
  • Jean Marie Le Pen is the French FN political party leader (French far-right party). He is represented with a pitbull's head.


In recent political history, the Guignols have portrayed:
  • Former Prime Minister Lionel Jospin as competent and honest but boring. He's depicted as disappointed by France (he passes, time to time, to say "pays de merde", which can be translated roughly as "this country sucks");
  • The Minister of Health, Youth Affairs and Sports Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin as an incompetent airhead. She usually answers to questions with a "Ah booooooon ?" - "Vrraaaiiiiment ?" - as she's clueless about her own ministry ;
  • The current president Nicolas Sarkozy as overly ambitious and populist and short-tempered. He collects Rolex watches and keeps diverting attention to his wife, Carla Bruni, who's "so beautiful cause she's so talented cause she sings so well cause she's so his wife";
  • Former President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing as dogmatic and repetitive, usually seen wearing his green habit vert (ceremonial dress), as he is a member of the Académie Française. One running gag is that Giscard d'Estaing is dead but too stubborn to admit it;
  • Ségolène Royal, the Socialist Party candidate for the 2007 presidential election, as constantly following opinion polls and pretending to be a woman of the people.
  • François Bayrou, the centrist candidate for France's presidency who has delusions of grandeur. His huge-eared puppet is childish and whiny.


Criticism

The Guignols have been criticised for being leftist and populist and for presenting a cynical and over-simplified version of reality and politics. The show's authors have admitted leftist leanings. Some critics have accused the show of being anti-American. Others argue that treatment of Osama bin Laden makes him look nice.

After the departure of two of the original authors in the late 1990s, the show has been criticized as lacking wit and freshness and having become too overtly populist and partisan. Some critics that the show is in decline. It still has good ratings however. The show's treatment of Nicolas Sarkozy has been criticized as excessively biased, aggressive and humorless . Bruno Gaccio, prior to the French presidential election of 2007, was said to admitted that he meant the Guignols to openly campaign against Sarkozy, but later stated that he had been misquoted.

Elsewhere

Las noticias del guiñol is a show in Spanish Canal+ inspired by Les Guignols. It focuses on Spanish politics and football.

Programs of the Guignols family exchange latex moulds, and puppets representing foreign celebrities can be used as "normal people" in countries where the celebrity is not known.

References

  1. Bloomberg, Segolene Is Snow White, Nicolas a Dwarf as French Satire Blooms
  2. Media-Ratings : Les Guignols de l’Info devraient-ils être suspendus en période électorale ?
  3. Erik Svane: Stallone et les Guignols. Le Monde Télévision, September 23/24, 2001, page 39
  4. Ben Laden Sympathisant Des Guignols De L'Info - Boycottyes
  5. Nouvelle page 1
  6. Les Guignols de l'Info, les bien nommés, actualité Confidentiels : Le Point
  7. Vive tension entre les auteurs des Guignols de l'info !


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