This one might be called "ER, or how the French
discovered that some Americans
do have a brain after all."
Okay, so before to downvote me to abyss
al levels, sit back and relax
, and read on.
First, let me describe the background: we're somewhere around the mid-90s, and French tv
programmes are filled with American crap
of the 80s. When I say crap, I really mean crap - at that time, Johnny Depp
's character in "21 Jump Street
" was the most prominent intellectual
figure I can think of. Our natural conclusion went along the lines of "dirty yankees ruining our magnificient culture with their stupid, dumbing shit, what else would you expect from cultureless cow boys
" (but here this is the most frequent conclusion of about any debate in
which the US
Needless to say, those "crappy tv series" that everybody hated so much reached Himalaya
n audience levels among our oh-so-brilliant-and-cultivated fellow citizens (how do you think I know that Johnny Depp played in 21 Jump Street ?).
Of course, some of us already knew that American tv programmes might be very good indeed (because they had been able to see Seinfeld
, Twin Peaks
, etc. on cable
, which was quite rare at the time), and that only the greed
of our own TV networks had led to that situation. But all in all, the result was the same : to 95% of the French population, "american tv series" was synonymous to "commercial piece of shit", and was used as such in everyday conversation.
And then there was ER
! For the first time, the majority of us were able to see an american tv show where real characters, with real stories, real personalities and real feelings, led real lives in an (almost) realistic environment. The complex psychological
descriptions were especially surprising for us - many of us were sincerely convinced than only in a french film
could such a thing be found, and Hollywood
had done little to change our minds on that subject.
All in all, the broadcasting of ER
on a (state-owned !) french television channel has done more against stereotype
s anc cliche
s on this side of the atlantic ocean
than any other documentary/fiction/whatever tv programme. This contribution to transatlantic
mutual understanding may be an unexpected effect, but will certainly not be the least important one.