‘Alllo, Jean-Paul…’ One of the more unlikely prospects for review in 2022 is this boxed 20-disc set of the complete Eurotrash, a tv show which lasted for a jaw-dropping nine seasons on Channel 4, but hasn’t been much seen in any media since. Initially presented by Antoine De Caunes and Jean-Paul Gaultier, Eurotrash was a ratings success, but there are reasons why it’s been gathering dust in the dustiest oubliette in television history. When even the press release mentions that it’s a show which ‘will be remembered with fondness and horror by young and old alike’, you know that this is a blast of both sweet and foul air from the dim and distant past that was the 90’s.
Some context may help; with no meaningful magic-porridge-pot of porn via the internet as yet in the 90’s, sex was something that was hard to see; Channel 4’s remit for alternative programming allowed it to break that puritan stranglehold, even broadcasting a series of films with a Red Triangle symbol to confirm the bona-fides of each screening as potentially objectionable, getting huge ratings. So Eurotrash, broadcast late on Friday nights, provided an outlet for the nation’s voyeurs by featuring at least one mandatory burst of full-frontal nudity per show.
So why bother to exhume something as disposable as Eurotrash, and why rate it positively? While there was clearly a quota to fulfil in terms of breasts, buttocks and genitals, Eurotrash actually took a deliberately wide view of human sexuality, objectifying with a broad brush, and that progressive approach probably was a good thing all things being told. Whether watching a man juggling with fluorescent dildos or an interview with Tinto Brass, Eurotrash enlisted a bevy of British comedy talent (including Graham Norton, plus VO masters Maria McElrane and Davina McColl) to provide silly foreigner-mocking voices that provide some genuine comedy that still works today.
And there’s no shame at laughing at foreigners when they come in the shape of Antoine and Jean Paul. While the latter’s ability to show off his admittedly impressive pins and read a cue card was his main appeal, Antoine de Cannes was a born presenter who never saw a funny costume or Cossack dance that wasn’t grist to his mill. And despite how you remember it, Eurotrash really wasn’t cheap clip tv, but was expensively filmed in a studio with actual location work.
Watching individual shows requires regular use of the fast-forward function; obsessions with nudism, surgery and breasts get fairly exhausting when viewed back to back. But there is gold in these hills, and student of comedy will be delighted to see these old shows in higher definition than was dreamed possible in the 90’s. It would be a brave critic who embraced the entire Eurotrash hedonistic doctrine, but this collection demonstrates that, as sexy, late-night romps go, Eurotrash was smarter and more progressive than most.
Network presents Eurotrash on DVD and digital 26 September 2022. Links below.