Weaver's Week 2022-06-26

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This week, a dive into a piece of French culture.


Douze ans de Les 12 coups de midi

Formidooble (un company Endemol, ou quel que soit le nom qu'ils se donnent cette semaine) pour TF1, depuis juin 2010

About twenty years ago, France 2 had a good idea. "Let's put a bright and shiny quiz in our lunchtime schedule." The resulting programme, Tout le monde veut prendre sa place, was an instant ratings winner. It's still running.

Their commercial rival, TF1, wanted a piece of this action. They wanted a brighter and shinier quiz for lunchtime, something warm and sunny to go out ahead of the news. To scratch this itch, they bought in El Legado, a popular show in Argentina, and adapted it for the local culture.

What happens in the game part of this game show?

Le coup d'envoi (The kickoff)

The reigning champion with their star-shaped trophy.

Four contenders arrive on the studio floor: along with host Jean-Luc Reichmann, they'll stand at the points of a star that's not quite even. One of the contestants is the returning champion, the «Maitre du midi», hoping to add even more money to their winnings. They always start play.

For the first round, the contestant is asked a general knowledge question. For instance,

"In which card game with an English name do you add up points without passing 21?"

And the contestant is given two options: "Le black-jack" or something else that they don't see.

Basically, this round comes down to "is the option right or wrong?" If you remember Endemol's Take It or Leave It, it's the same mechanism only with an even more chatty and amiable host.

Host Jean-Luc Reichmann enjoys this question.

The show has a voice-off, an announcer out of sight. This voice might explain why the right answer is right, or the wrong one is wrong. Whether you get the question right or wrong, the game passes to the next contestant clockwise.

Questions can be of a short form: "true" or "false", "more" or "less", "before" or "after".

A wrong answer changes your colour: from green to yellow to red. And if you are the first to drop into the red, you are in deep trouble.

Scores are shown on the studio floor.

Le duel (The duel)

The studio lights go down, and Jean-Luc's tone drops from jovial to serious. The music takes a darker tone.

Whoever drops into red chooses an opponent for the duel. The nominated opponent picks one of two categories, and sees four possible answers.

Which of these phrases is the title of a long-running radio show?

The challenged opponent then selects which answer matches a clue. Get it right, and the opponent stays in the game, and takes the prize money from their challenger. Get the question wrong, and the opponent is out, and gives their money to the challenger. All they leave with is a Les 12 coups du midi watch.

Le coup par coup (The blow-for-blow)

A bit of Early Instalment Weirdness in this middle round. For the three surviving contestants, another series of trivia questions, this time with three options – and you see all of them at the same time. Again, an incorrect answer will move you from green to orange to red, and eventually another duel. This time, you're able to challenge another player to answer the question; if they get it right, you go to the next colour.

Which of these is a US National Park?

After a short while, this second round changed to "Le coup par coup" – seven possible answers, one lie amongst them. In turn, players are to name correct answers without finding the intruder.

Eventually, someone gives two false answers, and they're in the second duel. Pick an opponent, and hope they get the question wrong.

Le coup fatal (The final match)

The player out of play has their visual brightness turned down. Makes it easier to follow, especially if you're not paying full attention.

It's a chess-clock final round. Sixty seconds each, first player to run out of time runs out of game. The clock stops once a player's got a question right, Jean-Luc might make a comment, and then we're back into the game. Get a question wrong and the clock continues – so does the quizzing.

All too soon, this round is over. The loser takes the watch, and a short holiday. The maître du midi – the master of midday – is found. And we're into the show's one and only commercial break.

Le coup du maître (The match of the master)

The maître takes a coveted 12 coups du midi trophy, and perhaps some cash. This show is played for money. Everyone is spotted 10 000€ at the start of the game. If you beat a player in the Duel, you inherit the money they had, so could amass 20 or 30 000€ by the Coup Fatal.

Half of the money won on the show goes to the home game: call in and you could win 50€, or maybe more. Premium-rate call-and-lose games are still a massive moneymaker for TF1.

One wrong already, so just 1000€ in the pot.

The winner takes their prize into the final round. How much of it will they win?

Five questions are asked, with two known answers and one mystery answer. Is the right answer shown, or is it something else?

Each wrong answer knocks a digit off their prize money. It's like One and Six Zeros, but played as just one round in a show.

The winner needs three correct answers to win anything, the first three digits of their prize fund – 100€ to 300€. Each extra answer wins an extra digit, potentially up to 30 000€ or even more. Five correct answers makes a proper "coup du maître".

But wait! There's more!

L'etoile mystérieuse (the mystery star)

Est qu'il y a Garou, le chanteur?

A large grid of squares is shown. A few of the squares are uncovered, to reveal a fraction of a picture of a celebrity. If our winner can name the celebrity, they'll win a prize – a new car, and some other gifts from the show's sponsors. Get it wrong, and the same picture will come back the next day, along with the car, and a new sponsor's gift. When the celeb's eventually named – perhaps once a fortnight – all of the prizes are swept up at once.

Not only will the final puzzle come back tomorrow, but so will the champion. Yesterday's maître du midi will return to defend their title. Someone can win game after game after game. Just like they do on F2's Tout le monde veut prendre sa place, the returning champion is a format point, someone we come to know and appreciate and grow fond of.

We must talk about Bruno.

Prolonged runs are a feature, not a bug. They keep people coming back – will this be the day that Christophe is defeated? Can Lucia solve the picture puzzle today?

The longest runner of all was Bruno. He arrived on 20 January 2021, and took up residence for the summer. By the time he was eliminated in October, he'd amassed 252 daily wins, 92 coups de maître, 9 bonus boards swept, and a total prize of 1 026 107€.

There are Maître contre Maître championships, the best against the best. There are primetime spinoffs for charity, often with celebs – and they usually earn a few euro per correct answer.

Bruno with a massive cheque.

That's the game, what of the show?

Le 12 coups du midi is a very French show. It starts with the returning player walking down through the audience to her podium, clutching a coveted 12 coups du midi star. The other players have their own walk-on moment, past the big pile of prizes from the endgame. All will get a chat with the host and a chance to mention their friends in the audience.

Yes, there's a studio audience, who will laugh at the host's jokes and funny things that happen.

Audience! What mark would you give today's show?

And there are a lot of funny things. Not funny in the "what the blazes are they doing?" way, but funny in the "entertaining, sweet, pleasant to watch" way.

From time to time, Jean-Luc will banter with the players, ask about their animal impressions, or the relatives they've got in the audience. There might be ballroom dancing, there could be impromptu singing, the host might engage in some planking on the studio floor.

Er, quite.

Children's drawings are put on the front of the host's podium, le mur des badges knows no boundaries. There's a singalong whenever they can, and much else besides. You literally never know what will happen on today's show, only that it will put a smile on your face. And that's why it becomes a habit.

Stripped to its essentials, Le 12 coups du midi could easily fit into 25 minutes. It would be a dour, procedural show, full of rules and with little fun. It would be lucky to have lasted 12 weeks, never mind 12 years. The show we get is relaxed and with a lot of chatting. From time to time, they'll throw in a question about music, just so they can put the song on and everyone can dance a little. Don't catch them doing that on The Chase.

Jean-Luc dances with a contestant. Ben Shepherd never does this.

Every so often, they'll put together a "Best-of" compilation, all the bits of the show to fill the usual timeslot. It means they don't have to air a new show on Christmas Day, and have something on standby in case an episode can't be shown for some reason.

Popion Productions wrote the music for Les 12 coups du midi, a tinkly and sparkling suite suggesting there's magic in the air. The set is bright and colourful, and there are props to mark the season – greenery for episodes shown in the summer, presents near Christmas, Easter bunnies, whatever's right.

The studio's dressed for autumn.

Most importantly, Le 12 coups du midi gets the balance right. If you're watching for the silly bits, you're never too far away from one. If you're watching for the game, that's always just around the corner. It is both a game and an entertainment show, and the production team makes it look an effortless combination.

The closest analogy in the anglophone world? Another Endemol show, Pointless. It's an amiable programme, they work through a competition element on each episode, but there's plenty of the fun in the banter between Xander and Richard and the contestants. Le 12 coups du midi relies much more on the audience frivolity, and has far less game. People don't watch formats, they watch shows, and this is a show much more than a format.

Even the consolation prizes are cute.

Watch more

There's plenty of episodes online, from the first to this year. If you're interested in the show more than the game, here's a best-of from 2014.

If they were to try the show here, who would host? We'd need someone who can keep control of the show but let people off their leash as much as they dare. Someone who is very quick to improvise, doesn't stick to a script. Someone who is able to make a fool of themselves on network telly. Basically, anyone who has worked on children's television – take your pick from Neil Buchanan, Phillippa Forrester, Chris Jarvis, Ant and Dec, Cat Deeley, Konnie Huq, and Lauren Layfield.

But somehow, we don't think it would work. Just as Pointless understands the British audience and dies whenever it tries to cross La Manche, Le 12 coups du midi understands the French audience: lots of messing about, plenty of smiles and unpredictability. They couldn't mark their tenth anniversary two years ago, so have gone all-in for this summer's 12th birthday.

Jean-Luc with the birthday cake.

Where is Upper Bublington?

As we mentioned last week, the EBU has decided that the next Eurovision Song Contest will not be held in Ukraine. The honour of organising therefore falls on the next broadcaster in line.

(checks result)

Eurovision Song Contest WHAT IS HAPPENING?

That's still the BBC.

So, where would the BBC hold it? The host city / town / village needs a large hall, needs to be close to an international airport, and have plenty of affordable hotel rooms. London would like to think that it could host the contest, it's certainly got enough halls (a marquee in North Greenwich is just the right sort of big), and a choice of airports, but falls down on having any affordable hotel rooms. And London has hosted the contest quite a bit, most recently a disaster-prone event in 1977.

Manchester has so much to answer for. They're building a brand new arena next to the City of Manchester Stadium, and there's already a large arena just north of the city centre. Manchester has an airport, and plenty of affordable hotels, and it's never hosted before. It's a very strong candidate.

Manchester: bring your own umbrella.

Glasgow has a strong call, too. The SECC is on the north bank of the Clyde, about 2km downstream of the city centre. There's a hotel on-site, and many more just a short trip on the train. Glasgow airport is close at hand, and so is the BBC's studio at Pacific Quay, just across the river. The city's never hosted before, but was used in the recent Eurovision The Movie as a suitable venue. Would life dare imitate art?

When the BBC last hosted, their then-head of delegation wanted to host the contest in Belfast, but was overruled by top brass. The city now has the Waterfront Hall, the Titanic development, masses of hotels and a pair of airports. Nobody would bat an eyelid if it were the chosen location.

Mastermind The most famous seat in Belfast.

Birmingham got the gig in 1998. They've put in another idea – this time at the NEC, about 10km outside the city centre – but would we really go to the same area twice in succession?

Cardiff seems to have a lot of fans, but we're going to have to rule it out. There isn't a hall large enough for Senior Eurovision – Neuadd Dewi Sant holds just 1500 people, perhaps too small for the Junior contest. Cardiff does have the Millennium Stadium, but that's too large – Eurovision's previous experiences in a stadium (Copenhagen 2001, Dusseldorf 2011) were not good – and its roof cannot support heavy loads. Cardiff also lacks hotels, and its transport infrastructure is abysmal, as any Cardiffian will tell you on rugby match day.

Cardiff Bay, nos da.

A lot of other places have thrown their hat into the ring – Aberdeen, Leeds, Norwich, Upper Bublington, Bristol, Portsmouth, and many many more. We're not going to discuss each in detail.

There has been some animadversion from other commentators. Alexander Johnson, a peddler of feel-good jingoism, said he saw no reason why UA:PBC couldn't host the event next year. Anyone who's given this situation a moment's thought can find one good reason: there's a chuffin' war on. The threat of an air-raid hitting the venue and causing 30,000 deaths live on international television? That's enough reason for anyone who cares about human life, like the EBU.

Johnson's friend, "Pretty" Patel, is quite the party pooper. Patel used threats of violence to stop MKRTV's singer Andrea making her planned performance at the London Eurovision preview show in April. Can we trust Johnson and his friends to let all the competitors and delegations arrive? Or is the "live on tape" option to cover both illness and outside interference?

Junior Eurovision Song Contest CGI magic at its most magical.

Let's think about the mechanics of a contest. In these days of fibre links and holograms, is it possible to have the presenters in front of a green screen in Kyiv or Lviv, and project them onto the stage in Glasgow? They tried to do this trick at the 2020 Junior Eurovision, when Duncan Laurence's hologram was projected to fill the gap between Roksana Weigel and Viki Gabor. Some very careful camerawork disguised the join.

Or they could try a slightly lower-tech version of this: have the presenters in one room, and the performances in another. Just because the rooms are a few thousand kilometres apart, neither here nor there. Again, there's some prior art on this: it's often claimed that the performances in one of the 1960s contests were recorded ahead of time, and linked live on stage.

The interval act will, of course, be an entire regiment of bagpipers blowing out the eardrums of everyone in the hall. Then half of them drop the pipes and start breakdancing; the other half rip off their costumes and reveal themselves to be Wombles.

Eurovision Song Contest

Who will host? Stars of Ukranian-language television. It's a UA:PBC/BBC Studios co-production, the BBC's providing the arena and logistics and technical gubbins, UA:PBC the content.

And here's a thought. If the BBC organises the contest, will they insist that all performances meet their high standards against flashing lights? Too many of this year's songs featured aggressive flickering, and didn't help us appreciate the work. Just for one year, can we do away with the Wrong Sort of Shiny Warning?

In other news


Lightning has struck Sad news from Belfast, as Lightning is not going to be recommissioned. After two series of great fun and middling ratings, BBC2 has decided to give other shows a chance. Still, it leaves Zoe free to be the Cool And Unflappable Host at next year's Eurovision Song Contest. Until then, it is goodbye, G-O-O-D-B-Y-E.

Pointless capital cities came up this week. One contestant offered "Paramaribo", and said they were referring back to a classic Pointless moment. It's the time in 2019 when someone said the capital of Surinam was "ParamariMbo", putting an extra "M" in there. That's wrong, and another contestant swooped in with the right pronunciation. Three years later, that little moment's been enshrined in the show's own history.

Channel 5 has a new daytime show. The Great Auction Showdown with Paul Martin sees the titular Mr. Showdown go head-to-head by flogging old tat at auctions. It's described as a "fun and competitive new format", which is just asking for trouble.

Answers to the questions in the main review: Emile Zola was actually born after Victor Hugo; "Salut les copains" is the title of a pop music show; "Wood Buffalo" is not a US national park, it's in Canada; the capital of Tajikistan is Dushanbe; and yes, "la coude" is affected by tennis elbow.

We're not publishing next week, so go and listen to the Show and Telly podcast with Aaron Solomon. He's the producer of shows including Mental Samurai, (The) Weakest Link, and $100,000 Pyramid. Expect a review of Channel 4's One Question when we do return.

Coming up this week: Come Dine with Me The Professionals (C4, weekdays). Wednesday is Finals Night: last in the present series of Flipping Fast and The Bridge (C4), Sewing Bee (BBC1), and Glow Up (BBC3). But it's mostly coverage of the Wimbledon Rainwear and Umbrella Exposition, so big they even take Pointless off for it. And just when that's winding down, football presents Euro 2021.

Pictures: Formidooble (un company Endemol), EBU / Corinne Cumming, public domain photos, Hat Trick / Hindsight, EBU / TVP, BBC, Fizz / Nice One.

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