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Series / Fort Boyard

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"Monique, the tiger's head if you please."
"Félindra, tête de tigre!"

Fort Boyard is a summer Game Show, originating in France in 1990 and, so far, running for 30 seasons (as of 2019) in the French version, but several foreign versions have been made. As of 2012, the French, Swedish, Dutch, Finnish, Russian and Algerian versions remain in production, along with a joint venture between the United States and the UK featuring teenagers.

All the shows take place on Fort Boyard, a 19th century fortress off La Rochelle on the west coast of France.

Depending on the version, four to six contestants take part in physical and mental challenges under time limits to firstly acquire keys to a treasure room and then to acquire clues to a password that, inside the treasure room, will release a load of coins. All against some sort of countdown clock. Some versions have contestants playing to win actual money, but the French version features teams of celebrities playing for charity since the mid-nineties.


In the UK version, these challenges were set by Boyard, master of the fort (played by Leslie Grantham in the first UK version). Whether or not he's evil seems to vary according to the version.

In the current French version, the challenges are set by the Père Fouras, an old, bald intellectual, and the show itself is hosted by Olivier Minne since 2003 (it was hosted by Patrice Laffont from 1990 to 1999 and Jean-Pierre Castaldi in 2000-2002). Three dwarves, "Passe-Partout", "Passe-Temps" and "Passe-Muraille" (since 2004), are frequently present to assist the master of the fort by escorting the team, bringing information about the next challenge, and holding on to what the team's won. The actor playing "Passe-Temps" was fired in 2010.

When Channel 4 wanted to make a UK version, the filming schedule of the French original meant they couldn't use the fort, so they went and built The Crystal Maze instead. Many years later there was indeed a British series of Fort Boyard, but by that time it was viewed as a poor man's The Crystal Maze.


Fort Boyard provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Villainy: Downplayed with the Père Fouras. In earlier seasons, he simply was a member of the Fort who rewarded the contestants with a key or a clue if they successfully answered his riddles. In the latest seasons, he's presented in the plot as the main antagonist: The man who created the game in order to prevent the contenders from "stealing" his money. (It's worth noting here that the aforementioned contenders play for charitable associations). He also sometimes enjoys trolling the contestants. Of course, he's still fair-play enough to create games that are winnable and to reward the winners.
  • Agent Peacock: Narcisse, especially in the 2018 season. He even recorded theme music for the show and all of its characters.
  • Arrowgram: This is how Rouge signals the start of (out-of-chrono) challenge, by shooting an arrow on fire with a scroll on the next cell door.
  • Ascended Extra: Père Fouras. While he's always been one of the symbols of the Fort, he used to be a mere Trialmaster in earlier seasons, appearing two or three times an episode to ask a riddle. Later seasons turned him into the master of the Fort and the closest thing the game has for an antagonist, giving him plenty more appearances, as he is the one giving each new trials and presiding the challenges with the Masters of Darkness.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Francis Lalanne was a contestant on the show in 2005. He was such an enthusiastic candidate and the episode in which he appeared grew so famous that they simply had to hire him as a Trialmaster. Thus "Narcisse" was born, and became the sole professor at "Boyard Academy" in 2018.
  • Cain and Abel: The backstory of Blanche, the ruler of the fort in the story, and her sister Rouge. Rouge is Cain, Blanche is Abel. Rouge tried to fight her sister for the throne but lost and ended locked up.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Parodied with the "Willymix", a torture chamber run by a fort-devouring Willy Rovelli, who ties up a contestant and sprays them with mayonnaise and ketchup if they fail his trivia questions.
  • Cool Helmet: The Masters' tiger helmets.
  • Cool Old Guy: Père Fouras is a wise old man sporting a nice Wizard Beard.
  • Cordon Bleugh Chef: Since 2013, Willy Rovelli defies contestants to eat his horrendous cooking for a key or a clue.
  • Creepy Doll: The "Doll House" challenge is full of them. They're not the worst part of the challenge, though: that's the Spiders.
  • Dwindling Party: While this isn't a Deadly Game and contestants are imprisoned rather than killed, they can be eliminated for the rest of the episode (with occasional shots of them in their cells). It is uncommon for just a single team member to reach the treasure, but such things happen from time to time, especially when the team aren't in best physical condition and don't pay attention to water clocks. In later seasons, they have the opportunity to escape near the end, but it will cost their team time in the treasure room if they are too slow.
  • The Eponymous Show: For the Spa challenge, the questions are asked as part of the "Père Fouras Show".
  • Evil Laugh:
    • Willy Rovelli easily indulges in evil laughter, betraying his sadistic tendencies.
    • Magik the Genie is no slouch either, his laugh ending with a Distant Reaction Shot in orbit.
  • Excalibur in the Stone: One challenge is to pull a sword out of a wooden stump, and use it to chop a rope holding the key in place. It is named "Excalibur".
  • The Faceless: Before entering the treasure hall, the team goes to the Council and they must face four challenges in order to gain more time. They play games with Masters of Darkness (also called Masters of Games or Masters of Time depending on season) who all wear a metal tiger mask. They look very intimidating and often try to make the contestants nervous. Though a person without a face is creepy enough already.
  • Face Your Fears: A contestant doesn't like heights? Chances are good that said contestant will find themselves walking a tightrope or performing another challenge at a high altitude. Also present in several challenges and ordeals involving mice, snakes, spiders, insects...
  • Fanservice:
    • The cylinders. They always pick a girl to straddle that thing, and the camera always seems to point right down her shirt.
    • The mud Cat Fight.
    • One clue challenge involved finding the word written somewhere on a topless woman.
    • Blanche (played by Delphine Wespiser, who was Miss France 2012), whose outfits have grown increasingly revealing over the seasons. Lampshaded by Narcisse during her intro, complete with Male Gaze.
  • Friend to All Children: Rouge, of all people, in order to humanize her and make her seem less like an outright villain. During the 2018 season, she "adopted" a bunch of kids who also happen to be professional athletes to serve as her champions during her challenges. They have a much better record than her previous champions.
  • Game of Nim: One of the challenges against the Masters of Time involves one.
  • Genie in a Bottle: The 2019 edition introduces Magik (Magloire), the genie whose lamp derived on the ocean until it reached Fort Boyard. Freed by Passe-Murailles rubbing his lamp, the genie pledges obedience to Père Fouras in gratitude, and offers him an Elixir of Youth (or a haircut). Instead, Père Fouras asks Magik to protect a key in a new challenge, "The Fakir".
  • Gratuitous Latin:
    • "Dura Lex Sed Lex", emblazoned above Blanche's room. It means, "The law is tough, but it's the law." Doubles as her Pre-Mortem One-Liner, delivered right before a contestant who failed her challenge is sent to jail.
  • "In Tigris Fauces Te Jetare" ("Throw yourselves in the tigers' jaws") is emblazoned above the entrance of the council chamber (which is shaped like a tiger's head).
  • The High Queen: Blanche is presented as the graceful ruler of the Fort.
  • Large Ham: The second host of the French version from 2000 to 2002, actor Jean-Pierre Castaldi (who led a team of contestants in 1999), reprised some of his hammy comedic antics from his role in the first live-action Asterix movie, Asterix & Obelix Take on Caesar. And he had No Indoor Voice during the 2002 season.
  • Laser Hallway: The 2012 French edition features a laser hallway challenge, though involving wires rather than actual lasers. Played straight with the bank-robbing challenge in the 2018 season.
  • Little People Are Surreal: Passe-Partout, Passe-Temps and Passe-Muraille are silent dwarf assistants because of this trope.
  • Lock and Key Puzzle: Literally, keys are required to open the treasure room, clues to retrieve the gold. Also, some challenges and ordeals fall under this category, with keys or other items required to retrieve the prize... or, in several cases, to exit the cell in which the challenge takes place.
  • Losing Horns: If a team loses in the Treasure Room, a sad version of the show's theme tune is played. There's no falling off at the end, so it's a partial type A.
  • Ms. Fanservice: The Naked Woman (Arianne in France), and many other female characters throughout the years.
  • Mud Wrestling: One challenge involves a female contestant (with one exception) fighting a strongwoman in a pit of mud. As of 2013, though, the challenge now can feature a pair facing the strongwoman (called Lady Boo as of 2011) and the newly-introduced strongman, Mister Boo. The latter, though, can also fight against two female contestants trying to get the key in a box where he sits (2013, 2014 and 2016), or, as of 2017, against a male contestant.
  • Nice Hat: Narcisse's steampunk-inspired tophat.
  • Pinned to the Wall: Willy Rovelli once gets pinned to a cell door by his cook uniform's sleeve, from the Arrowgram shot by Rouge.
  • Pure Is Not Good: Blanche is said to be pure (or purer than her sister), but the narration also heavily implies that she is either a case of Good Is Not Nice or Above Good and Evil. Not to mention she has a snake motif.
  • The Quiet One: A lot of the members of the Fort didn't talk at all in earlier seasons, with the exception of Père Fouras and the host, and Rouge and Blanche. In the later seasons, they're joined by the professors at Boyard Academy, Willy Rovelli, Megagaf, Rouge's kids, and the Bodins, to the point where the only really silent people in the show are the Père Fouras' assistants, Mr. and Mrs. Boo, and the Masters.
  • Race Against the Clock: Each challenge, ordeal, or puzzle is like this, with varying consequences for running out of time ranging from being locked in the challenge cell to watching a clue word burn up to losing all the money earned in the Treasure Room.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Rouge has red eyes and is one of the most antagonistic persons in the Fort.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Snakes and lizards are among the various creepy-crawlies you can expect to deal with in certain challenges, such as the Spa, the Zoo, and some of Narcisse's challenges.
  • Riddle Me This: Many of the challenges, most of them are provided by the Père Fouras. In some cases, degenerating to "Only the dumb may not pass".
  • Saw a Woman in Half:
    • The Halloween 2012 here had a key on the box covering the upper part of the Woman's body, which had to undo a manacle that had the main Key the contestant needed. The trick was, you had to saw her in half, then move the upper half of her body (the table she was on had wheels, though) to the manacle to get the Key.
    • This 1990 episode had the Key the contestant needed IN a compartment on the top the box covering the upper part of the Woman's body, so you needed to still had to saw her in half to get to it. This time, though, no extra lugging a part of a woman's body was needed.
  • Self-Deprecation: The character of Narcisse is a caricature of his Real Life actor, singer and songwriter Francis Lalanne.
  • Sexy Soaked Shirt: One of the challenges is to fill a container with water that is kept in buckets hanging from the ceiling. The person has to move on a running belt. They usually end up soaking wet.
  • Shell Game: One of the oldest challenge is a shell game (called "bonneteau" in French). Performed by Serge Avril, a stage magician, it consists of finding a little key under the cups; 3 keys (hence, 3 successes) in a limited time are necessary to win the challenge. Very, very few contestants ever made it through, 'cause the gambler is really good.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Between her bow, her braid and her clothes, Rouge brings in mind Katniss Everdeen.
    • In 2018, a new character called 'Megagaf' is introduced. He's a superhero parody, but wears a costume rather similar to Bob Parr.
    • Narcisse is both a self-parody of Francis Lalanne, and a reference (in terms of his outfit) to Gilderoy Lockheart.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: The two princesses of the Fort, Blanche and Rouge. Blanche is a graceful ruler, wears white robes and is the purer of the two. Rouge is said to be evil, dresses like a fighter in black and red clothes and wields a bow.
  • Spiders Are Scary: The "Doll House" challenge involves picking up live tarantulas and removing small notes tied to their undersides to decipher a code.
  • Sticky Situation: A 2015 challenge involves crawling underneath a bionic spider to steal its eggs, while struggling against its extremely sticky webbing. Latter evolution of the game involves prying out the eggs glued to the floor while wearing a Spider-Man-like suite, and throwing them toward a target (which is very hard since they still stick to the gloves).
  • Tempting Fate: Out yourself as an arachnophobe and you will be given "Doll House". Say that you hate bugs and you will be given the Telephone Booth. Fear of heights? There's a bungee cord and safety harness with your name on it. Admit to having a weak stomach, and you've just booked a reservation at Chez Willy. Basically, just keep your mouth shut about your phobias if you're on this show.
  • Theme Naming: The three dwarves, "Passe-Partout", "Passe-Temps" and "Passe-Muraille".note 
  • Then Let Me Be Evil: Parodied with Willy Rovelli. He got tired of people throwing up after eating his food starting in 2017, so he intentionally started serving even more disgusting concoctions, and then became an outright Torture Technician in 2018 after constructing the "Willymix."
  • Thing-O-Meter: Some of the second-part challenges have a "Trouillomètre" ("chicken-o-meter") measuring how scared the contestants are based on their screams.
  • Troll: The Père Fouras in the latest seasons sometimes trolls the contenders. One of his gems:
    Père Fouras: [after a duel in the Council] I have a good news and a bad news. The good news is, the duel has been won.
    Contenders: [cheers]
    Père Fouras: The bad news is, it was won by the Master.
    Contenders: [audible noises of frustration]
  • White Void Room: The throne room where Blanche challenges the candidates is bathed in white light with no walls visible.
  • Wizard Beard: The Père Fouras sports a long white beard and he looks like a mysterious sorcerer.


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