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Series / Le Bébête Show

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Imagine Spitting Image with some of the characters having animal bodies resembling those of The Muppet Show, and it's about French politics of The '80s. You'll have a good idea of what you're in for.

Le Bébête Show is a French puppet show that satirized national politics in the form of parodic news. It was created by writers, journalists and comedians Jean Amadou, Stéphane Collaro and Jean Roucas, who frequently appeared in it as human guests, and the puppets were made by Alain Duverne and his workshop. The word "bébête" aptly translates as both "silly" and "beastie".

It aired on TF1 from 1982 to 1995. Minus one year, that was the entirety of the two presidencies of François Mitterrand, of which the show became a symbol of sorts, the same way Spitting Image was one for the Margaret Thatcher era in the UK. The main host, Kermitterrand, was precisely based on him, basically Kermit with his face. Other characters from The Muppet Show got turned into French politicians, while an increasing number of other politicians got turned into animals that have nothing to do with The Muppet Show whatsoever.

The show's golden years were clearly the 1980s, when it was the most well known source of political satire on French television. When entering The '90s, it faced another political satire puppet show, Canal+'s Les Guignols de l'Info, which started in 1988, also had puppets by Alain Duverne, and gradually replaced it. While the quality and ratings of the Guignols increased, those of the Bébête Show declined. After a revamp titled Le Bar du Bébête Show that dropped the animal caricatures failed to improve audience ratings, the show ended in 1995, right after the presidential election that Jacques Chirac won and about six months before the death of François Mitterrand in January 1996.

Le Bébête Show provides examples of:

  • The '80s: The show originated in that decade, which was undoubtedly its political satire's golden years.
  • The '90s: The show ended around the 1995 French presidential election, the first one that Jacques Chirac won.
  • The Cameo: Several years after the show ceased to exist in 1995, Black Jack showed up in Les Guignols de l'Info in 2003, at the time of the war in Iraq, when (then-president) Jacques Chirac refused to have France join the war. Upon entering the scene, Black Jack said "C'est moi, Jacques Irak!" ("It's me, Jacques Iraq!").
  • Character Catchphrase:
    • Kermitterrand has "Je suis Dieu!" ("I am God!") and "Appelez-moi Dieu!" ("Call me God!").
    • Black Jack has "Crac crac!" or simply "Crac!".
    • Rocroa (Michel Rocard) has "Je le hais!" ("I hate him!"), most often talking about Kermitterrand.
  • A God Am I: Kermitterrand had delusions of godhood, telling the other characters to call him God.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Kermitterrand doesn't live up to his own advices or proclaimed standards. For instance, he pretends he's not a Sir Swears-a-Lot, but he actually is one.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Jean-Marie Le Pen was first caricatured as a vampire with fangs and a World War II German helmet, and the puppet was named "Frankenpen". Le Pen went to court against the show's producers, and won his trial. His character still appeared later on, but the puppet was redone, as "Pencassine". Basically Bécassine (as Le Pen has Breton origins) with his face. And fangs, again.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Twofold for most of the main cast, as the best known characters parodied both French politics and The Muppet Show.
    • Kermitterrand the Frog was based on both Kermit and François Mitterrand.
    • Marchie the Pig caricatured Georges Marchais (then-president of the French Communist party) and was the show's Miss Piggy.
    • Black Jack the Eagle caricatured Jacques Chirac with the body of Sam Eagle.
    • Barzy the Bear was based on Raymond Barre (a former Prime Minister) and Fozzie Bear.
    • Sarcosette the Dog caricatured Nicolas Sarkozy with a body resembling that of Rowlf the Dog.
    • Valy and Gaston caricatured former president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing and minister Gaston Defferre, and they were the Statler and Waldorf of the show. They ceased to be a duo when Defferre died, and Valy became a monkey.
  • Puns: Tons and tons of puns made a good part of the show's humor. It was the specialty of Jean Amadou, Stéphane Collaro and Jean Roucas.
  • Satire: No party or prominent political personality of the time escaped caricature in the show.
  • The Starscream: Black Jack wants Kermitterrand's place and does everything to ridicule him and cause his downfall. It never happened, and when Jacques Chirac became president in 1995, the show had already dropped the use of animals to caricature politicians.
  • Take That!: Again, no-one of note in the French political world at the time was spared by the show. For instance, the least flattering caricature was Jean-Marie Le Pen, then-president of the National Front (far-right).
  • Voice Clip Song: A song mixed Kermitterrand's Character Catchphrase "Appelez-moi Dieu!", repeating it a number of times along with Black Jack's "Crack!" and Rocroa's "Je le hais!" And it was sold as records, no less.
  • Yes-Man: Minister of Culture Jack Lang was turned into a goat who blindly follows Kermitterrand, bleats out his constant approval of what his boss says and has a raspy tongue for being so much of a Professional Butt-Kisser.