Love is the name of the game in French reality TV show


Saturday, May 5th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6



PARIS (AP) _ Take a swimming pool, add a go-go dancer, throw in a handsome male student and what do you get?

The first reality TV show in France and a ratings blockbuster.

``Loft Story'' is ``Big Brother'' with a French twist, where winning depends on a candidate's ability to pair off with a complete stranger.

Six men and five women, aged 20 to 29, are filmed 24-hours-a-day sharing a house north of Paris and courting for money's sake.

The prize, a house worth $400,000, goes to the man and woman left after the nine other contestants have been voted out by fellow roommates and TV viewers over a 70-day period. The winners will then have to spend six months living together in their dream house.

The show started last week, and now all France is talking about the Loft.

Or more precisely about blonde temptress and go-go dancer Loana.

Ratings soared after she and young Jean-Edouard were shown cavorting semi-naked in the pool only a few days after moving into the house and severing ties with the outside world.

The fling lasted one night and the breakup was filmed for the benefit of an estimated 4 million viewers, or 32 percent of the French TV market _ a record for the show's broadcaster M6.

``Men are all the same. There are exceptions, but you're not one of them,'' the disappointed Loana told her former beau after being dumped.

Confirming her suspicions, Jean-Edouard later confided to fellow contestants that he had indeed only been after one thing.

The daily roundups shown on M6 are tame, but contestants can be viewed round-the-clock on satellite TV channel TPS. On a paying section of the ``Loft Story'' Web site, www.loftstory.com, Net surfers can access the two bedrooms.

Judging by its high viewing figures, the reckless exhibitionism of ``Loft Story'' is a welcome change in the staid world of French television.

Prime-time here is dominated by entertainment shows that have not changed format in decades. A watered-down French version of controversial U.S. talk shows last year sparked an outcry over declining standards in broadcasting.

But despite its emphasis on titillation, ``Loft Story'' has prompted more intellectual debate than criticism.

Heavyweight French daily Le Monde devoted a full page at the end of the show's first week to a discussion of ``the ideology of television'' and the meaning of ``voyeurism''.

The French Broadcasting Authority has warned M6 about showing excessive consumption of alcohol and tobacco on the show _ but not about its sex-oriented content.

In a rare display of moral outrage, the Roman Catholic Church slammed ``Loft Story'' for treating contestants like the ``laboratory rats of a mad scientist.''

``What will become of them when they go back to their real lives?'' the Conference of Bishops of France said in a statement.

One of the contestants is about to find out. David _ M6 refuses to reveal the challengers' last names _ quit ``Loft Story'' after only six days, saying he had been ``acting all along.'' He was replaced by Fabrice.