Sunday, 2 August 2009


Minuit, le soir, a Quebecer TV series shown from 2005 to 2007 in the Canadian province on Radio-Canada, is one of the best dramas ever produced. Quebecers speak French, but certainly not the French language talked in France, and probably not the French talked by French television execs. So in France Minuit, le soir is dubbed... from French to French.

Quebec produces top notch shows, like the hilarious sitcom Catherine (1998-2003), the cult Dans une Galaxie près de chez vous (1998-2001) - a spoof of Star Trek (1) which spawn two feature films, Les hauts et les bas de Sophie Paquin - shown since 2006 and remade as Sophie with Canadian English-speaking actors. Or even the effective Haute Surveillance (2000), which unfortunately bombed locally but which can be considered as a kind of prototype of Spooks in many respects.

Created by screenwriter Pierre-Yves Bernard and actor/screenwriter Claude Legault, creators of Dans une Galaxie près de chez vous, Minuit, le soir is about three bar bouncers - doormen, as they're called in Joual (2) - at The Manhattan, a bar in downtown Montreal: Marc Forest (Claude Legault), Gaétan Langlois (popular comedian and actor Julien Poulin, known in Quebec for his character of Bob "Elvis" Gratton) and Louis Bergeron (Louis Champagne). When Fanny Campagnolo (Julie Perreault), an ambitious young woman of Italian origins, buys the bar and transforms it as Le Sas, the cultural clash begins for the three men.

Critically acclaimed and very popular amongst viewers, Minuit, le soir won 17 Gémeaux awards (3) during its two-year run (37 22-minute episodes) - including one for its soundtrack, as music is very important on the show because many sequences are without dialogues. Preceded by a prestigious reputation earned in festivals, Minuit, le soir caught the attention of French public channel France 2 in 2007 (when F2 also bought Les hauts et les bas de Sophie Paquin).

But the Minuit, le soir shown since July 5 by France 2 at 11.55 pm (!) is not the series shown on Radio-Canada. Because the channel shows a version dubbed in what is called International French, a French meant to be understandable in all the Francophone zone but which is practically a "Parisian French". In France even people from some provinces are subtitled on news bulletins, imagine Susan Boyle subtitled for Londoners during her audition of Britain's Got Talent.

With its indeniable quality and a common language (even with local differences) you could believe that there's a lot of television series from Quebec on mainstream French channels and that France is a major export territory for the Quebecer television industry, but it would be a mistake. Until recently many productions from Quebec - like Haute surveillance, Catherine, or Rumeurs (2002-2008) - were only shown on TV5, the cable and satellite global network broadcasting French-speaking programmes. TV5 shows the funny Un gars, une fille (1997-2003), but it's the French adaptation (1999-2003) which became a rating hit on France 2.

Cable and digital channel TMC regularly (re)runs Fortier a drama from Quebec about a female profiler psychologist (2000-2004) but the stars of the show have been asked to dub their parts in Parisian French, which is a pity. And in the case of Minuit, le soir, a French dubbing with French dubbing actors is more than a pity, it's an heresy. Culture and language are consubstantial elements of the characterization and plots, we're watching the tribulations of three Doormen in Montreal and not three videurs de la rive gauche.

Actually France 2 is not the first channel to show Minuit, le soir in France, as cable and satellite channel CinéCinéma Culte presented the series with subtitles in 2007. Subtitles are a common practice for Quebecer series on TV5 and the choice of CinéCinéma had at least the merit to be more clever and respectful than a dubbing. The argument of a necessary dubbing would perhaps be conceivable for primetime but Minuit, le soir is not precisely a show suitable for French primetime on a mainstream channel, regarding its 22-minute format and its content. Not to mention the fact that its Montreal setting is the calling card of the show.

Quebecer hit Buddy movie Bon Cop, Bad Cop (2006) was a brilliant bilingual film about the relationships between Quebec and English-Speaking Canada. But when it comes to Quebec shows on mainstream French channels, it's Bon flic, Bon flic... Parisian style.

(1) Read The Romano Fafard vs. the Enterprise or How Québec Beat Star Trek, an excellent article by Caroline-Isabelle Caron (
(2) Popular French from Quebec.
(3) The local equivalent of the Emmys.

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