Wednesday, August 12, 2009

La Carte au Trésor

My only must-see TV show is La Carte au Trésor. It's a reality show very similar in premise to the Amazing Race. Teams run around the French countryside looking for clues, solving riddles and enduring physical challenges. Although the show is of course exclusively in French, this format makes it easier to follow than say a legal drama.

The real star of the show is la campagne francaise. In between tasks, the contestants are escorted around the given region by helicopters. This results in some fantastic areal shots of chateaux, gorges, forests and quaint villages. On this past week's show, they even explored a Nazi bunker and rocket launching pad, la Coupole. The architecture is, I think, best described as retro-futuristic-concrete-military-monolith.

We believe the show is heavily sponsored by travel bureaus. It lasts at least 2 hours, without commercial interruption and must be wildly expensive to produce given the use of at least three helicopters and sometimes remote filming locations. The only paid TV personalities are the show's hosts, but the random villagers that are encountered on the streets give the best performances. Frequently a gaggle of children and pets will start running with the contestants, and it's usually the mayor's responsibility to explain the locally inspired riddles.

The contests only stand to win a grand prize of 10,000€ for their efforts. The runners-up only go home with the Nintendo DS home game. Still, they all seem elated at these prospects.

I can understand the enthusiasm. I've recently been on my own quest for Maps of Treasures. Located nearby some local monoliths are artfully crafted stone tables bearing an inlaid map of the region on their surface. They remind me of the kind of maps at the beginning of a fantasy novel or found within a video game instruction book. I was fascinated by my first discovery but have since found two more - le chateau de gicon, Laudun and the Rhône hydro-electric plant. I know there are more out there. The quest is on.

carte au tresor laudun.JPGcarte au tresor le chateau de gicon.JPGcarte au tresor usine hydroelectrique.JPG

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