Appreciating the Particular in Format Television: The Case of Le Banquier
by Ira Wagman — Communication Studies, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada
May 15, 2007 – 03:00
I present this clip of Le Banquier, Quebec’s wildly popular take on Deal or no Deal, to draw attention to the cultural particularities of “global television formats.” For as much as we deride format television it is not a new development. Game shows have been adapted for local audiences for some time. The shows themselves are not particularly original; Deal is in many ways a variation of one of the oldest games around — the one with the three shells and a pea. So the local components of “format television” are not simply add-ons; they reflect cultural points of reference, circuits of celebrity, and regulatory dynamics that are in play when they are adapted for local audiences. Consider the following: The appearance of Sheldon Souray from the Montreal Canadiens points to the legendary status of the historic franchise within Quebec’s popular imaginary. The show’s host, Julie Snyder, is a major figure within Quebec’s star system. Then there are the models. Unlike the American Deal (which restricted male models to “Ladies Night” episodes), the male and female models are fixtures on Le Banquier. Might this be reflective of Quebec’s sexual openness? And don’t forget that Le Banquier fulfills content requirements imposed on broadcasters by Canada’s broadcast regulator. Even if they draw inspiration from somewhere else, an appreciation of the processes of particularization involved in translating global formats for local markets helps us understand what gives shows like Le Banquier their distinctive élan.