French figures: The desert island reality show France loves

Why is France so in love with a TV show that seems so fundamentally un-French?

French figures: The desert island reality show France loves
Last season of Koh-Lanta was held in Fiji in 2021. Photo: AFP

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. 


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French figures: The true spirit of France

This is the incredible story about the teenage girl who became a symbol of France for the ages.

French figures: The true spirit of France
Illustration photo: AFP

The story of Joan of Arc – Jeanne d'Arc in French – begun like many fairytales do: an unlikely hero is chosen to accomplish a dangerous task.

Born around 1412, Joan of Arc was an illiterate peasant girl convinced that divine powers had decided she would fight the English army in France. 

She then did exactly that. 

This was during the so-called Hundred Years’ War, when English troops battled for territory across the country that is now France.

Joan of Arc liberated Orléans city from English forces in a legendary and decisive battle that paved the way for the later French victory in 1453.

Joan of Arc paid for her heroism with her life. She was captured and sold her to the English army, who burned her at the stake in Rouen, northeast France, around 1431. She was approximately 19 years old at the time.

But her short life left a lasting mark on France and in 1920 she was made a Saint. Almost 600 years after her death she is still commemorated and celebrated in France and her spirit is invoked during difficult times for the country.

Known today as “the Maid of Orléans”, Joan of Arc's silhouette is all over the city, ingrained on medallions on the street, cast into sculptures and painted on the boxes of Cotignac, an Orléans culinary speciality.

READ ALSO: Ten reasons why you should visit the French city Orléans

This article is the final instalment of The Local France's 2020 virtual advent calendar – featuring every day a person or thing that has a special place in French culture. To see the whole calendar, click here.