Saturday, September 09, 2006


When I lived in France, I used to say, "Oh, the television is so much better in America!" I watched my friends' copies of Sex in the City, caught every episode of CSI I could, and hardly ever watched a French series. When I got back to the US, I was excited about watching The Office, after managing to catch a few episodes from a friend's iPod, and seeing all my favorite crime shows in VO (the original language--that would be English).

Well. For all of those American expats still living under the delusion that "American TV is better," I'm here to set you straight. I'm not saying that French television series are better than American series. I didn't watch very many of them, and I didn't exactly like them (except for a few episodes of Les enfants de la tele, which I adored for the outtakes, Star Academy--of course!--Fort Boyard and all of the American reality series with French participants, like The Bachelor). But, I loved watching all of the American network series I'd missed, like CSI, Without a Trace, and Law and Order. All of that, for free!

You might be saying to yourself, "But those are free in the US, too! We have network television!" Hmmm . . . unless you live in the middle of a city and pull out the bunny ears, you don't really get many channels. I know this because I only have three right now (four, counting the infomercial channel), and I live pretty much in the middle of Norfolk. After 2 years in France, and counting on 5 very clear channels that didn't show exclusively soaps in the afternoons, American TV is a big, big shock.

What's more, there are tons and TONS of commercials! When I watch CSI, I'm not used to the 10 or so commercials. In France, there is only one commercial in the middle of the show, and afterwards I got another episode right away, with no break (and that's on TF1!). If I watched Without a Trace, which showed on France 2, there were no commercials at all. Besides that, I learned all kinds of French vocabulary I never would have otherwise, words like "coroner" and "q-tip."

As for the afternoons, in the US, all I can see are soap operas--until they start showing talk shows before the local news. In France, they also showed soap operas, but I could also catch some nature documentaries or interesting cultural programs on France 5. I suppose that PBS also broadcasts shows like that, but I can't tune it in on my television set. Now, I'm not saying that French TV is the best in the world--or even better than American cable (although then you'd have to compare French cable, of course, and I don't have any experience with that). But in the US, our network channels can't compare to the good quality of French reception and the low commercial time.

The worst, though, is that I can't get into my American shows as much, because they sound like they have the wrong voices!


Brooke said...

Commercials are like little deaths. We exclusively download (illegally) any show we want to watch. The kind people who rip the episodes onto the computer invariably cut the commercials out. Totally free, any show I want, and all commercial free and any time I want to watch them! It's great. (Go on, break the law, you know you want to.)

jennc said...

LOL. Love France for No Commercials. A 60 minute TV show like DHousewives has 20 minutes of commercials! Insane!