Fox is developing a U.S. version of “Les Guignols,” a satirical puppet show that ran for almost 30 years in France. Ben Silverman’s Propagate has teamed up with French media giant Vivendi on the project, with David Javerbaum (“The Daily Show With Jon Stewart”) tapped to write and executive produce.
“Les Guignols” was a fixture on French TV screens for almost three decades, and its Paris production team will make a pilot presentation for Fox in the French capital. Canal Plus’ recent decision to cancel the series made headlines in France; the final episode aired last Friday. It may now be resurrected as a half-hour series for Fox, which confirmed the project. The U.S. version does not yet have a name.
The deal means that there are rival puppet shows vying for U.S. airtime. “Spitting Image,” a hit series in the U.K. in the 1980s and 1990s, is being pitched to U.S. networks – including Silverman’s former employer, NBC – as well as to the streamers. Like “Les Guignols,” it skewered politicians and big-name stars with off-color sketches and songs.
Silverman has a track record of sourcing international shows for the U.S. market, having set up “Ugly Betty” and “Jane the Virgin.” Vivendi Entertainment also has international chops and has been selling formats around the world. Propagate, which Silverman runs with Howard T. Owens, will make “Les Guignols” with Vivendi Entertainment. Silverman, Owens, and Jay Weisleder will exec produce alongside Matthieu Porte and Arnaud Renard for Vivendi.
“‘Les Guignols’ became part of French television history, and we’re hoping we can make it as iconic in the U.S.,” Porte said. Renard added: “We feel that Propagate is the perfect partner for this challenge, considering Ben Silverman’s track record in adapting foreign formats in the U.S.”
While President Trump is an obvious target, the U.S version of “Les Guignols” would make fun of politicians on both sides of the aisle, as well as prominent cultural figures, the producers said. “There’s not a lot of sketch comedy [at the moment], or broad primetime comedy, variety, or puppet shows,” said Silverman. “This is a broad comedy show. It’s not just about politics; it’s pop culture.”
The recently wrapped French show has puppets of numerous contemporary figures ready to go and some new ones being made for the U.S. pilot. In Javerbaum, it has a writer who has won 13 Emmys, mostly for his work on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.” He also wrote the Broadway play “An Act of God.”