Why is French television starting to classify everything

Cold sweat by Hitchcock is the best film of all time. ago Citizen Kane of Welles and Travel to Tokyo from Ozu. This is the British magazine ranking Sight and Sound who said that. The Stranger by Camus is the most important book of the 20th century. In Search of Lost Time by Proust and The test by Kafka is just behind, according to the list drawn up in 1999 by Fnac and The world. Respect by Aretha Franklin, she is the best song in the history of songs. Power Struggle of Public Enemy and A Change Is Coming by Sam Cooke also finds a place on the podium built by the magazine Rolling Stones

The written press has accustomed us to its annual tops and other “ultimate” rankings (until the next edition) of the works, established with the help of journalists, artists, personalities from the world of culture or their readers. . This new school year, it is the turn of television to be involved in the game of votes and plebiscite. At the end of August, M6 offers prime time to 500 favorite French songsgiving the title of the best love song to I promise you of Johnny Hallyday, while severe by Stromae was crowned the best song of the 2010s so far and Everyone is crying SOS by Daniel Balavoine, the best hit of the 1980s. This Friday night, at 9:10 p.m., it’s TF1’s turn to reveal to us what the French people’s favorite program is. Then, this autumn, France Télévisions will look at “favourite books” in French…

“We are in an era of nostalgia”

Nothing to do with style shows The 100 biggest laughs where the 30 Most Amazing Stories into a random hierarchy. The methodology here is more rigorous. M6 appealed to Ifop, the public service set up various rounds of internet voting and the first channel worked with Harris Interactive. “1,500 people aged 15 and over were interviewed,” explained Deborah Nahon, director of entertainment at TF1. We have pre-selected a hundred programs that have been broadcast over the past thirty years. The next two questions were: “To what extent do you like or did you like the following movies?”, then “Of the ones you liked, which of the ten would you like?” »

The question we ask ourselves is: why seek to establish such a classification? “We are in a period of nostalgia, we want to find the shows that mark us, that we saw with the family, that show a time in our lives”, Deborah Nahon said, promising that the show on Saturday the box of memories will open wide while allowing “to understand the taste of the French. »

“Classification is a simplified reading grid”

There are archive sequences – apart from the broadcasts of M6, which refused to provide the images – interspersed with testimonies from personalities (Jean-Pierre Foucault, Christophe Dechavanne, Sophie Davant, Cyril Féraud, Alessandra Sublet, and others) reacting to these quotes and positions in such and such a program. “Inexpensive to produce, easy and light looking, does not require concentration. We were on his phone at the same time and we raised our heads to see who the number 18 was,” estimated, down to earth, Laurent Moreau.

He is well versed in the subject as he is one of the creators of Topito, which specializes in the subject. “When we launched the site fifteen years ago, there was no idea of ​​a list anywhere,” he said. Classify, prioritize, put a little order, it is attractive because it is a relatively simplified reading grid, it allows you to enter the subject easily. »

“What’s interesting is the discussion”

The idea came to him while reading the High fidelity by Nick Hornby, where the characters establish their top 5 most appropriate songs for their funeral. “They are debating and that’s what’s interesting: it’s the discussion. We cannot judge rationally, continued Laurent Moreau. If I do the top 5 of my favorite series of the year, I am not sure that number 1 is better than number 3, but the exercise allowed me to get these five series from the hundred that I have seen. And then, in the cultural classification, there’s this idea of ​​showing what we love, there’s a little bit of self-improvement. »

It is a way of saying that any classification has limitations, because each individual has his own biases. We cannot be sure of the criteria that motivated such and such a choice. Do we designate as our favorite show, book or song, the program we follow with all diligence, the novel we read and re-read ten times or the song that appears in all our playlists? And it is not impossible that we evaluate our preferences by choosing the proposals that inspire us a little but that for us are more “respectable” or “necessary”.

The limitations of exercise

And then, these rankings are not obtained on the basis of spontaneous answers – for example, to the question “What are the five programs that have been broadcast in the last thirty years that you like the most or enjoy watching the most?” – but from predefined lists of a hundred titles. It is an exercise with its own rules and limitations.

In the columns of worldJosyane Savigneau thus analyzed in 1999 the list of “one hundred books of the century”: “The game is completely played by those who accept it, who choose a hundred titles from the two hundred offered to them, which mixed with ‘all they had read. , sure, – for example The Strangerby Albert Camus, title commonly cited, or The little Princeby Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (number 4) – and books of which they are sure of the importance, without having to read them, such as Being and Being Nothingness, by Jean-Paul Sartre (number 13). »

“We are drawn to the “revelation””

No ranking is definitive. “It’s not like the list Forbes billionaire based on numbers – the fortune of each person quoted -, does not bring the discussion,” pointed out the co-creator of Topito. These peaks are essentially a snapshot of voters’ preferences at one point in time. In five months or five years, the results may be very different. By the way Citizen Kane already, for decades, at the top of the ranking of Sight and Sound before being dethroned in 2012 by Cold sweat. Like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan topped the poll on Rolling Stones in 2004 and 2010, but gave way to Respect by Aretha Franklin – who climbed four places – last year.

So, the first place in the 50 favorite French programs to play on Saturday between Koh Lanta, The biggest cabaret in the world, No one else hope New star ? Or should we expect a surprise? It doesn’t matter, in the end, as long as it feeds the discussions and has a little suspense. “Even if we don’t care about the ranking, we are nervous about the idea of ​​seeing what will come out of the top three, said Laurent Moreau. This idea of revelation of [de la révélation spéctaculaire] exciting. ” And you know what? The number 15 will surprise us.

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