Koh-Lanta, “Island of a million eyes” in English, is based on a well-known success recipe: put a bunch of people with strong personalities together, leave them alone and turn on the cameras.
This French Survivor adaptation, named after the Thai island where its first season was set back in 2001, has become insanely popular since it first aired 19 years ago.
Since then, the format has largely stayed the same. It's sort of a modern-day reality-version of Lord of the Flies – every woman and man must fight for their own survival (ie not get voted home by their teammates) in a zero-sum game where only one person wins the big prize.
Of course, they also have to go through a series of physical and mental challenges, all the while knowing that their grandmother might be watching them later.
The French love it. Some 6.93 million people watched the 2020 finale back in March – more than in any year since 2013.
Sure, the number might have been boosted by the fact that France at the time was under a nationwide lockdown to halt the Covid-19 pandemic. But there is no doubt that Koh-Lanta has managed to cartonner (the French term used about shows, songs or movies that 'do exceedingly well').
Exactly why the show is so popular is somewhat of a mystery, but part of the reason is the anchor, Denis Brogniart, who has been the face of the show since 2002.
Brogniart's emblematic “Ah!” has even become a meme here in France:
This article is part of The Local France's 2020 virtual advent calendar – every day until Christmas we will be presenting you with a person or object that has a particular significance to life in France.