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Series / Les Filles d'à côté

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The central characters: top to bottom, Daniel, Marc, Gérard; Fanny, Claire (à droite), Magalie (à gauche)
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Les Filles d'à côté note  was a sitcom that screened on French television till January 1995. In its original format with its first cast it ran for a total of 170 episodes. The format was revived later in 1995 with a largely new cast under the title of Les Nouvelles Filles d'à Côté, and ran for a further 156 episodes. Re-runs still appear to be popular today on French TV channels.

The show followed a tried and trusted TV sitcom formula, following the lives of two groups of unattached thirtysomethings who rent neighbouring apartments in a communal shared block. Daniel and Marc are already flat-sharing; they get as neighbours three old friends, all divorcées or separated from partners, who have decided to pool their resources and share a place together. The three "girls" (all are in their middle thirties) duly move in next door. They introduce themselves as Fanny, Magalie and Claire. Hilarity Ensues. Marc is immediately smitten and can't decide which of the three girls he wants to pursue (he finally settles on Magalie, who wants nothing to do with him). Meanwhile the girls (ignoring or avoiding Marc) are all taken with the debonair and sophisticated American photographer Daniel. Who politely turns down their interest as he has a girlfriend elsewhere. And downstairs in the basement is a gym and health club for which all residents are automatically members. A key person here is Gérard, who practically runs the place. A likeable Camp Gay, he becomes a sort of best friend and confidant to the girls. Secondary characters include Vincent (brattish teenage son of Claire) and Wendy (precocious six-year-old daughter of Fanny). And upstairs there is Georgette, who is in love with Marc.

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Des tropes qui suintent de cette sitcom comme du Brie réchauffé:

  • The '90s: the show is an advert for everything thought chic or fashionable or stylish in France in the 1990s. Even though it looks vaguely dated today, the show and the people in it are still easy on the eye.
  • Absentee Actor:
    • The heavy and unrelenting production schedule - 170 episodes were made and broadcast in a fifteen month period - took its toll on the actors. Hélène Le Moignic (Magalie) couldn't stand it any more; after 135 episodes and acrimonious backstage rows with Cécile Auclert (Fanny) she simply quit and walked out. A sucession of newcomers were trialled to replace her and notoriously autocratic producer Jean-Luc Azoulay took revenge by having it written in to the series that in a moment of madness Magalie had robbed the safe at the gym - and had an affair with the execrable Marc. The character had then fled to South America, overcome with shame over both misdemeanours.
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    • At around the same time, Cécile Auclert was excluded from the show after she pleaded for the murderous and intense production schedule to be slowed down a little. What amounted to three shows a week for over a year was taking a toll on her. It is very possible that the autocratic Azoulay did this to both actresses in order to Make an Example of Them. In-Universe, Fanny's absence was explained on an attempt to patch things up with her husband. She leaves the show pretty much for good after 133 episodes; (Le Moignic quit definitively after 135) and returnes briefly for three episodes shortly before the show's ending. During a period where only Christianne Jean (Claire) remained of the original three, other Girls were trialled, one of whom, Karen Cheryl, became a core character in the sucessor series. Similarly, Thierry Redler (Marc) left the show for a while, being replaced for a while by the Manchild and appaling Fat Slob Charly Chemouny.
  • Abhorrent Admirer: Marc to Magalie; Marc to any of the girls; Georgette to Marc.
  • Adorably Precocious Child: Wendy, the six year old daughter of central character Fanny, whose role in the series is to be precocious, adorable, and to Lampshade where Maman and her two adoptive tantes get it wrong.
  • Always Identical Twins: Gérard Vives plays Gérard. he also plays the occassional character of Gérard's identical twin brother Berny. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Ax-Crazy: In her final appearance on the show, housemate Magalie receives an unexpected bequest from a relative: Red Indian regalia. Apparently she is part-Apache and these belonged to an ancestor. She considers the abominable Marc whilst weighing the tomahawk thoughtfully. Just for a moment you wonder if Magalie is contemplating a crime passionelle with the axe. French courts tend to treat these things with sympathy, and her Abhorrent Admirer has been pursuing her for a year. And now she has an axe in her hand...
  • Bottle Episode: More of a bottle series. Only four sets are used — all of them indoors. The fact there is an entire country called France out there is another Informed Attribute.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Done in the opening credits where the girls put on smiles for the camera while waving at the viewers as if perfectly aware they are present.
  • Butt-Monkey: Marc, whose immature and strident personality combined with Casanova Wannabe leads to frequent humiliation. Two Butt Monkeys collide when he interacts with Georgette, who is also Ground Zero for all the standard Fat Girl jokes. Georgette's pursuit of Marc is played heavily for laughs.
  • Camp Gay: Gérard is a stereotypical gay man taken Up to Eleven.
  • Canada, Eh?: Cécile Auclert (Fanny) is a French-Canadian born in Montreal. Apparently her Quebecois accent isn't all that noticeable in-show and In-Universe she is French.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Georgette Bellefeuille, with her obsessions with strange animal welfare charities, such as a league for the protection of baby pigeons, and her eccentric Good Works. Also Marc, with his unrealistic desire to make his money as a writer and novellist - his novel hardly gets past the first chapter. He is frequently called out on this, even by the long-suffering Daniel.
  • Elevator Failure: Magalie would love to be stuck in the lift with her neighbour Daniel for an indefinite period before they are discovered and rescued. This is something of a fantasy for her. Unfortunately what has caused the lift to jam is the third person in there, the vastly obese Madame Georgette Bellefeuille. She is simply too fat for the lift. And makes it too small for three people to wait patiently.
  • Everyone Looks Sexier If French: The only regular character who is not a walking exemplar of The '90s French chic, style and attractiveness is Georgette. note  Otherwise everyone is either handsome or drop-dead beautiful, even the slobby Marc.
  • Expository Theme Tune:
    • An Instrumental Theme Tune that also acts as an Info Dump, explaining with captions and brief extracts from the show who the characters are. It is also a a jaunty little Ear Worm, the sort of jaunty horn-driven piece that tells you you are about to watch a sitcom, which once stuck in the head is impossible to remove.
    • It is reworked and upgraded into something less horrible and more musically competent for the sucessor series Les Nouvelles Filles d'à Côté
  • Fan Disservice: Georgette, who is fat, frumpy, middle-aged and hopelessly in love with Marc. For Rule of Funny she is seen in the gym settings in workout gear.
  • Fat Comic Relief: Georgette, middle-aged, obese, and resident Abhorrent Admirer to Marc, whose role is to be the Butt-Monkey for all the stereotypes associated with fat women: a deliberate foil to all the stylish and attractive characters around her. She is so fat the lift cannot cope with her weight, for instance, and this causes Elevator Failure. A Spear Counterpart called Charly is introduced from episode 150 onwards, a stereotypically fat, balding, jolly, middle-aged man: he remains an occassional character, however.
    • Evidence exists that this is not accidental or merely playing to a trope for comic effect: a critical analysis quoting Dan Simkovich (Georgette) and Charly Chemouney (Charly) describes the "culture of thin-ness" in AB Productions, and describes the agressive way in which fat people were portrayed in AB's output as perverse, disgusting, diseased and something to be shunned, to be treated as a sort of social leper.
  • Fat Girl: Georgette Bellefeuille, the only regular cast member who does not fit the desired image of young and beautiful.
  • Fat Slob: Charly, who for instance, when answering the door to Daniel's fastidious lady boss, is in his underwear and halfway through shaving. He apologises to her and wipes the shaving cream off his face - using a suit jacket which is hanging in the door.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: The apartments look too expensive for the people in them to be able to afford to live there.
  • Gay Best Friend; Gérard is the GBF to the three girls who share the apartment. He also manages to be this to Daniel and Marc in the flat next door.
  • Girlfriend in Canada: Daniel's explanation about his American model girlfriend, who is never seen. Suspicion is raised by her being called Cindy. It is suggested that as Daniel is a model photographer, this could be a Line-of-Sight Name.
  • Guys Are Slobs: Marc. Although his slobbishness - more of an Informed Attribute - is taken Up to Eleven by the arrival, towards the end of the series run, of genuine Fat Slob Charly.
  • I Kiss Your Foot: Fan sites refer simply to Episode Twenty-Two, a strangely large proportion of which is taken up with the three girls sitting on the sofa and arguing, at length, as to which of the three has the sexiest feet. As always the camera angle is low, and the focus of attention is on their bare feet. For quite some time. Daniel and Marc are called in to arbitrate. Suggestions have been made that this focus on the female foot is a dictate on the part of the producer, and is not un-known in other AB productions.
  • It's Probably Nothing: Marc's response to the alarm siren alerting people to the fact the block's lift has jammed with people inside it. He ignores the noise, even trying to shut the annoyance out by sticking his fingers in his ears and demands to know how a creative writer can work with all that bloody noise going on.
  • Jerkass: Marc. Even Daniel acknowledges his friend has socially undesirable qualities. There is his freeloading, and the fact that while he is pursuing Magalie, he isn't above chasing Fanny and Claire as well. During an electricity blackout, he "accidentally" grabs Fanny in the dark, for instance.
  • Kavorka Man: Marc. his attempts to get off with one of the girls - beginning with Magalie, but he considers the other two to be acceptable back-up targets - drives a lot of the humour, especially when he fails miserably or gets put down. Incredibly, by the end of the show's run he has suceeded with both Magalie and Claire, although neither relationship lasts very long. Magalie, apparently, realises what a blunder she has made and apparently flees to Peru to get away from him.
  • Last Minute Hookup; at the end of the show's first incarnation, before the reboot with a pretty much brand new cast, it is strongly hinted Marc gets off with Claire and they depart as a couple, possibly to Brussels. Apparently Claire was worn down and couldn't be bothered to say "non!" any more.
  • Long-Runner Cast Turnover: This show only lasted three years in both its formats. But an insane production schedule meant this sitcom (which verged on a comic Soap Opera) meant 336 episodes were created. It kept its full original cast for the first 130 episodes. But Cécile Auclert (Fanny) dropped out first, exhausted by the workload, and was followed very quickly by Hélène le Moignic (Magalie) for broadly the same reason. Later in the series, Thierry Redler (Marc) dropped out of the show. With half the original core cast gone, the prducers experimented with new Girls Next Door and a new flatmate for Daniel, but eventually conceded the best thing to do was to reboot it entirely with a pretty much brand new cast as Les Nouvelles Filles D'à Coté. In the second run, only Claire (Christianne Jean) and Gérard (Gérard Vives) remained from the original cast. note .
  • Mr. Fanservice: the three male leads are above-averagely good looking and the gym setting allows opportunities for them to be seen in workout clothing.
  • Ms. Fanservice:
    • Shamelessly played. Right from the opening credits where the girls smile and wave at the camera while in bathing costumes. The gym setting allows many further opportunities for the girls to wear skimpy workout clothing; and none of the troop of extras in the background are less than averagely good-looking either. One episode has the girls in lingerie.
    • In the reboot show Les Nouvelles Filles d'à Côté, full-body massages are introduced in the Health Club and sure enough, there is at least one brief moment of toplessness involving one of the second-generation Girls Next Door.
  • Not Me This Time: when Fanny's new microwave oven crashes the electricity supply to the whole apartment block leaving everyone in darkness, this is Marc's instant response.
  • Oblivious to Love: during a period where he believes Magalie has hooked up with somebody else, Marc retreats into himself and becomes subdued and preoccupied with her; a Running Gag here involves the sheer number of women, usually the attractive LivingProps normally in the background in the gym, who express their interest in him - which he simply does not notice, so hung up is he on Magalie... his friend Daniel despairs.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Barkeeping: Gérard's version of this tic: he is often seen folding and stacking towels behind the reception desk at the gym.
  • The Odd Couple: Daniel and Marc. He's tidy, well-presented, mature, debonair, sophisticated... and then there's Marc.
  • Put On The Bus: Practically all the original cast departed this way in between the end of the original series and the start of the reboot. In-Universe they all went their seperate ways and moved to other parts of France and in one case to Peru. People started getting on the bus, in fact, towards the end of the original run and various stories were devised to explain this, as well as offering an opportunity for the producers to trial newcomers to see if they worked out.
  • Mrs. Robinson: Georgette would love to be this to Marc. If he'd let her.
  • Social Semi-Circle: The sofa is the indispensible prop in the girls' apartment. The three girls and others are often seen interacting or having in-depth conversation while sitting on the sofa, with the camera angle directly in front and shot from a suspiciously low angle. Of course, this is also an aspect of Ms. Fanservice, as The '90s fashions tended towards short skirts and bare legs. The occassional Panty Shot was not edited out of the final show. One wonders why this was not spotted in editing. Discussions in the boys' apartment tended to be around the dining table and shot from a higher angle - but also stuck to this principle.
  • Standardized Sitcom Housing: The apartments inhabited by the "girls next door" and their male neighbours are a French version of standardized sitcom housing: stylish and visually attractive split-level spacious apartments reflecting a stylised version of French chic and impeccable interior design, or at least what was fashionable for the 1990's but looks vaguely out of date now. Of course, Everything Looks Sexier In France...
  • Technology Marches On: A big pointer to this show dating from the middle 1990's is the unbelievably massive size of the mobile phones used by the characters. Fanny is seen to reach intro her bag and bring out a massive brick with an extending aerial, reminiscent of a World War II walkie-talkie. If nothing else reminds you this is 1994-95... this does.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: Marc, who is shamelessly freeloading on the generosity of his old friend Daniel, and who is deaf to all hints that he should either be contributing more or moving out.
  • Transatlantic Equivalent: It's tempting to see this as a French copy of Friends with less stellar scripts. Fanny = Phoebe; Magalie = Monica; Claire = Rachel. Marc = Joey.
  • Triang Relations: lots of them. Described in the show description above.

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