Just Above Sunset
April 17, 2005 - Runners-Up

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Received Monday, 11 April 2005 – a supplement to March 20, 2005 - France Picks Its Nose (Formerly 'French Baffled By Nose') - from Rick Erickson, editor and publisher of MetropoleParis -




PARIS - I must have missed a vital bit of information. I thought that the French knock-off of the 'Great Brits' TV-show, or popularity contest, was going to run over eight weeks. Instead, France-2's 'Le plus grand Français de tous les temps' seems to have occupied only two or three Monday evening prime-time slots.


Monday is when I pretend to bolt a weekly issue of Metropole together so I didn't consider watching it even if biographies of the ten top contestants could have been interesting. Apparently they were just little clip shows.


It is possible that the Pope dying scrambled the program schedule. A couple of times the evening news just went on and on forever and even the weather got spiked. Whole years can go by without the church being mentioned on the news, so it's easy to forget it exists. No churches here have neon signs either.


France-2 TV showed the winner on Monday night, and I didn't watch it.  To find out who won I had to dig around Web-news a bit on Tuesday, and there it was buried under the obscure 'media' news.


I don't imagine that the 'Great Brits' popularity contest caused much excitement with the bookies because the winner was Winston Churchill.  Here everybody guessed Charles de Gaulle would come out tops, so it couldn't have been a TV show full of high drama.


According to the report, the general's son, Admiral Philippe de Gaulle appeared on the show. He said all of the candidates were 'notorious,' 'of great value,' but in specific areas. The general won because he was 'more universal.'

Actual Size
Palais de l'Institut de France

Then, for padding, the report contains two biographical paragraphs.  With the Brits picking Churchill, it remains for the Americans to vote for Roosevelt as the 'greatest American of all time,' and then it will be the Russian's turn to do the same for Stalin.

The Germans, of course, should have voted for Willy Brandt, but chose Konrad Adenauer instead. The choices of Canada and Finland are eagerly awaited.


Whatever was originally planned, the 'greatest Frenchman' contest only yielded two TV broadcasts. A poll in September of 2004 selected the '100 greatest Frenchmen of all time,' and after the first broadcast 10 remained in the running. With no suspense for the top spot in France, the vote's real interest fell on the nine runner-ups.


The scientist Louis Pasteur was chosen as the number two 'greatest Frenchman of all time.' Pasteur developed pasteurization, vaccines, and invented the science of microbiology. Hardly a random choice, because Marie Curie landed in the fourth spot.


Born in Warsaw, she discovered radium and won Nobel prizes in 1903 and 1911.


Between the two, a very old but living Abbé Pierre was chosen for the third spot. Since the end of World War II he has been saying that some people are poorly housed in France. He is a popular and longstanding moral force even if people are still poorly housed.


It's a surprise to see the dead comedian Coluche edge out Victor Hugo, but not such a surprise to find the writer in the sixth place.  But the consistency holds with another comedian, Bourvil, in seventh spot, followed by Molière the playwright, who died during the fourth performance of 'Le Malade Imaginaire,' in 1673.


In ninth place it's back to science again with the selection of the undersea's Jacques-Yves Cousteau. In the tenth place, the list is completed with name of another entertainer, Edith Piaf.


This adds up to one statesman, three scientists, a moral leader, two comedians and a singer, one writer and one playwright - that the French have chosen to be the 'greatest Frenchmen of all time.' If they were all attending a party, it would probably be an interesting evening, French style.


France-2 TV invited viewers to vote on the Web for their favorites, but Metropole readers who tried were unable to find out how to sign up on the Web site. Myself, I glanced at it and gave up too.



Text and Photograph Copyright © 2005 – Ric Erickson, MetropoleParis




Regarding the photo – see Palais de l'Institut de France, siège des cinq Académies – and explore.


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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This issue updated and published on...

Paris readers add nine hours....