France is Distorting my Childhood Memories

I don’t watch much TV in France, and I certainly don’t like to watch American shows dubbed in French, but since Michelle and I were both sick last week we often returned to the hotel early and watched The A-Team. In French it’s called L’Agence Tous Risques and it’s like a completely different show because the theme song that every child of the 80’s instantly recognizes is missing.

In case you need to be reminded of the awesomeness of the original theme song, here it is:

And here is the French version, which is not awesome:

Why, France, why??

Plus the names of the characters are different: Face became Futé, B.A. changed to Barracuda, and Murdock was called Looping. At least they left Hannibal alone (though without the initial /h/ sound, of course).

The theme song for The Dukes of Hazzard (Shérif, fais-moi peur ! in French) is also completely different. No love for Waylon Jennings and The Good Ol’ Boys. Instead we get this:

I do have to admit that the French intro for Dallas is slightly better than the instrumental American one. It’s kind of catchy and it is actually the most famous TV theme song in France:

You can find lyrics and other theme songs at Génériques TV. Sometimes they have both the original and French versions and other times it’s just the French one, but of course, you need to know the French translation of names of the shows too. You can always just use Wikipedia and “Languages” in the left column to figure them out.

I am not a fan of dubbing at all and I wish the translations of titles were more direct (The Avengers is Chapeau Melon et Bottes de Cuir! ::sigh::), but I don’t understand why new theme songs are written in French, especially when the original version has no English lyrics anyway. Why can’t they just stick to the original as closely as possible? As with dubbing, it diminishes the authenticity of the work. Subtitles cannot convey this entirely either since they are merely translations, but it’s better than adding something new as if the original writers had created it.

And now the L’Agence Tous Risques song keeps getting stuck in my head and I instantly think Barracuda instead of B.A. when I picture Mr. T. I still understand pop culture references to classic American shows and movies, but I can’t make them anymore because the French names or titles come out of my mouth first so Americans have no idea what I’m talking about. Thanks France for distorting my memories of the 80’s!

  • Kim: Kiwi in France

    I know what you mean – its really odd when they change things like that, its like what's the point?! I had something similar recently when I found out my favourite NZ Tv series Outrageous Fortune is coming out this summer in the US as Scoundrels, nearly the exact same script except with American actors and locations! And it had also been done as a show called Honest with British actors and locations – it's just odd and also somewhat disappointing that they couldn't buy our show as it was. Someone said the humour may not be transferrable which is true I guess but I thought the show was absolutely brilliant as is and being the same language it would be enjoyed in the states and UK too.

  • 😆 That is so funny, I had *no idea* the A-Team was the Agence tout risque, and I watched both, one when I was a kid and the other one at the movie theatre.

    It's the same for Days of Our Lives – you know, they always make fun of it in Friends but it is translated as “les jours de notre vie” whereas it is actually “Amour, gloire et beauté” in French I believe.

    Same goes for a lot of old shows… I always have the “ah AH!” moment when I match the two.

  • ielanguages

    I definitely don't see the point of remaking other Anglophone series. The US always does that with British shows, and it's probably because they hope to make more money with their own version. I wish they would just show the original though. At least Flight of the Conchords was left alone and that was pretty popular in the US.

  • I'm really happy that my Cable provider lets me switch to English on some new Tv shows. I tried to watch Ugly Betty in French and the dubbing is HORRIBLE and unfortunately I cannot switch to Englis on that one :/

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  • Julie

    err.. God knows I love the US but really, what’s wrong with adaptation, guys?
    OK, I don’t know about British-English or NZ-English to Amreican-English adaptation. Beats me.

    But about the French/English business… my god! you all seem sooo serious about this! Please tell me I missed the code and didn’t get this right.
    The details you find so agggravating are just the small ways in which 90% of the world can convince themselves they still exist, culturally I mean, while they keep gorgeing themselves on American popular culture and will most likely die of indigestion…

    Isn’t that precisely the point of living abroad? I mean enjoying the small diffferences as well as the big ones? That is the way cultural exchanges work. Distorsion is always part of the picture.

    And yeah… re-arranging the A-team theme song is definitely not my definition of cultural crime, especially when you keep the melody.
    So why on earth did they have to re-write the lyrics in French?
    Well…if you were paranoïd, you’d say it’s because they just hate America and cannot admit to watching American TV shows.
    Even though one may very well consider the serial (which I also watched and really loved when I was a kid) as a cultural crime in itself !
    As you’re just sensible, of course you’ll see it’s obvious they did it so that people might understand those lyrics?
    Just like dubbing – why on earth should they want to “diminish the authenticity of the work”??
    — Well, so that they can watch it without being totally lost, maybe?

    OK, maybe I should first tell you something that will come as a shock:
    Not everybody speaks English, you know…
    (especially not the French !!!)
    see Montesquieu , you know : “Mais comment peut-on être Persan?”

    Oh… and “Chapeau Melon et Bottes de Cuir” is an amazingly good find of a title – I mean it IS great! it totally reflects the way the French public perceives the program.
    In short, I’m totally for adaptation, distortion, appropriation – and never bore Hollywood any grudge for slaughtering such a masterpiece as “Trois hommes et un couffin” 🙂