television cynicism

Reality show

by Aurélien Bellanger

Gallimard, 256 p., € 19

Finally, a novelist, and one of the sharpest of his time, attacks television when it switches, at the turn of the century, to become the weapon of cynicism and obscenity. Aurélien Bellanger sets out to describe and dismantle the springs of an industry of credulity in a novel in which each character is recognizable, which begins and ends with images of disaster.

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Sébastien Bitereau, son of a plumber and heating engineer, climbs the social ladder to become an accountant in his native Drôme. A formidable television celebrity on vacation takes this provincial whipper to Paris to amaze him. He will be her mentor, showing her, with boastfulness, the dubious methods of an environment which reveres money. From the back of the store, Sébastien discovers the practices of producers, men in the shadows who propel animators, cannon fodder of cathodic warfare, who enjoy unparalleled notoriety, although ephemeral, into full light. It accompanies the pathetic old-fashionedness of a few returning horses, unbearable and adored. Observing him, he learns this profession of puppeteer with a shadow play, with its symbolic part of human sacrifices. Charles Trenet, whom he met in the wake of Pascal Sevran, told him that television, a new and irresistible art, “Remains the only contemporary equivalent of opera”.

“The gold rush” of the great clearance sale

Ambitious, Sébastien Bitereau takes off at the right time, in the middle of a clearance sale. When the state sells family jewels, offers La Cinq and M6 to political friends, brings the wolf Berlusconi into the fold. When he delivers TF1, the jewel of the kingdom, to the Bouygues group, he seals a miracle scam, under the guise of a laughable “Cultural best bidder”. The lucky beneficiaries of this hold-up in broad daylight are going to stuff themselves. Overbilling, explosion of “operating margins”, exorbitant rates of return, golden age of production companies and the absolute reign of “animator-producers”, ridiculed as vulgar “Potato thieves”. It is ” the gold Rush “. Sébastien rushes in and becomes the respected godfather of this vast casino.

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Reality TV, the invention of the century, comes from a Dutch group that exports it all over the world. Sébastien Bitereau jumps on the train in time to join forces with the Batavian mogul. From now on, we come to eat from his hand. After the triumph of Loft Story on M6 which inaugurates the XXIe century, TF1 wraps itself in an untraceable “Quest for meaning” so as not to eat this bread, before putting it all the way.

A change of civilization before our eyes

Recipe ? Keep an eye on and punish. Lock up laboratory rats, excite their impulses, harpoon voyeurism, against a background of humiliations and eliminations, under the magnifying glass of Big Brother. Flatter the worst instincts, wrapped in garish ugliness, enslave the audience to the show and advertise everything. The cathodic loft, a model apartment of the new century, confused in brutality and sentimentalism which led to the advent of a Cyril Hanouna. We hit rock bottom …

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A change of civilization is taking place before our eyes, insists Aurélien Bellanger who analyzes the dark springs of this world of Entertainment where his character sits. Towards the end of the novel, a priest, enlisted in the ” ethics committee “ from this gambling den, leads Sébastien into a series of theological meditations on the deep meaning of this collective drift. His questions will not be without consequence.

With the rise of this contemporary Rastignac, Aurélien Bellanger continues his Balzacian work on the human comedy of our time and holds up the illuminating mirror of a very current form of voluntary servitude.

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