There were two instances of outrage when the satire Les Bougon aired in Quebec. The first involved the death of a cat. The second, when the character Junior, attempting to audition for the American TV show Jackass, made a small rodent disappear without using his mouth. But on Monday night, when Les Bougon debuted in France on public broadcaster M6, a lawsuit which had earlier been rejected was being readied for appeal.
"We feel we are being aggressed," says Catherine Bougon, head of a 100-member association of Bougons from across
France demanding that the name of the show be changed. "People are taking our telephone number from the phone book and saying, 'You're a Bougon! You're like the person from the show!' It's happening every day, there are jokes over the telephone and bad stories about our children in the schoolyard."
Les Bougons, first aired in Quebec in January, 2004, is about a family of disreputes ("bougon" means grumpy in French) who takes advantage of the welfare system. The sitcom, which ran for three seasons, eventually reached 2.26 million viewers. The show's producer Michel Trudeau, however, says it was originally a hard sell to the networks.
"Nobody in Quebec wanted to take a chance because it was too edgy," says Trudeau, currently in talks with the show's creator François Avard to create a Les Bougons feature film for Warners Bros. "It was exciting to produce something new."
Defending the Bougon families outside of Paris is André Meillassoux, who will ask for an urgent injunction if M6 orders new episodes of the series. (Only two have been shot, but the show's 3.6 million viewers on Monday night leads all to believe that more will be ordered. M6 would not respond to an interview request).
"The Bougons fear their surname will become a common name to designate frauds, vulgarity and corruption," says Meillassoux, adding his clients are most outraged at the many jingles on the show which make fun of their name.
Of course, producer Trudeau thinks the suit is only drumming up more publicity for the program. But Catherine Bougon remains undeterred.
"This has made us realize that we like our surname," says the retired 53-year-old mother of four. "We'll stand up for it, defend it — now more than ever today."
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