French word of the week: La télé (7/9/2022)

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So I thought of a rather fun and random topic today, because I thought that it was the sort of thing that even if you visited France a dozen times, you may not necessarily get into French pop culture.

The other day I was browsing through Twitter in French when I saw that the name “Stéphane Bern” was trending. It is probably a name you’ve never heard of but if you are French, it is a name you will recognize instantly.

Monsieur Bern is a slightly geeky TV presenter here in France, but more notably, he is a historian. And a highly decorated and published historian at that. He has won several awards including the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (France), the Order of the British Empire (United Kingdom), and various other awards from European royalty.

And I’m not kidding when I say that any French person will instantly be able to pick him out of a lineup. What did he do to get all these awards and become so famous?

Well, for the past 30 years he has been producing tv documentaries mostly on French and European royalty, from the French Marie-Antoinette to the British Queen Elizabeth II. (Yes, the French do enjoy a good Royal TV series, as long as no one has to curtsy to anyone.)

He is also the perennial host to the 14 Juillet Bastille day festivities in Paris and the New Year’s eve countdown on French state television. He has been hosting both for more years than I can count, like a cuckoo clock that is always on time.

But since it was neither 14 July or 31 December, this would not explain why Bern was trending. It turns out he was trending the other day because he was actually acting in a rather campy trying-to-be-serious crime drama on tv called “Pour l’honneur d’un fils” (meaning “For the honor of a son”).You can watch a 30-second clip of the movie below:

Watching a clip of the movie, you are perhaps less than blown by. However, in France, so great is the star power of the “Stephane Bern”, the movie broadcast on France 3 television won 22% market share. (There are no other big names in this movie.)

At 22% market share, it actually beat out Harry Potter, Princess Diana, Fast and furious 4, and even the Top 500 songs of all-time.

tv ratings

That’s the power of “Stéphane Bern”, dare we say: superstar? Anyway, now you too can pick him out of a lineup 😉

(Next newsletter, get ready for another ubiquitously famous French “Stéphane”, who is giving Monsieur Bern a run for his money!)

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