Jean-Pierre Descombes, the super star of “Jeux de 20 Heures” and television of yesteryear

Jean-Pierre Descombes, the super star of “Jeux de 20 Heures” and television of yesteryear
Jean-Pierre Descombes, the super star of “Jeux de 20 Heures” and television of yesteryear

With the death of Jean-Pierre Descombes, a page in the history of French television is turning. A chapter is closing. The presenter who made the heyday of France 3 when the channel was still called FR3 suffered from Parkinson’s disease. He died on Sunday at the age of 76.

If you’re not 40, his name probably doesn’t mean much to you. Maybe you’ve heard of him without realizing what he represents for French television. Because Jean-Pierre Descombes was a star of the small screen in the 70s and 80s. A superstar even when he was in charge of 8 p.m. gamesthe reference that has always stuck to his skin.

Farewell Master Capelo!

He hosted the show from 1976, the year of its creation, to 1987, with at his side, in particular, the famous Master Capelo alias Jacques Capelovici, a well of knowledge. At the time, in front of the small skylight, we learned while having fun, whether with “Neither yes nor no” or the “Dico game”, two of the challenges offered to participants in the 8 p.m. games…

A show ahead of its time

At the time, television had nothing in common with what we have known for three decades. The programs did not run 24 hours a day. In the 70s, they were still rare, very rare. In 1973, there were only three hours of broadcasts per day on FR3. And like today, the prime time of the day was the 8 p.m. news.

Based on a concept evolved for the time and imagined by the ultra creative Jacques Antoine, with general knowledge questions asked to celebrities on set and ordinary people joined in duplex in the provinces, the 20 hour games changed the situation. It was one of the first times that TV cameras came to meet people. The FR3 recording van, which traveled from town to town (349 were visited!), had become as popular as the show itself. And people finally saw themselves in the post! This is the birth of what we call proximity.

Serious competition for the 8pm news

The 8 p.m. Games immediately emerged as the only alternative for viewers who did not wish to follow the news. Because at the time, remember, there were still only three channels in France: TF1, Antenne 2 and FR3.

TV’s Great Hours: The 8pm Games

The popular success of the event was immediate. With an average of three million viewers (up to twelve million during the best audiences), The 8pm Games have done more than nibble away at the loyal viewers of the news on the other two channels.

A success that crossed borders since Jean-Pierre Descombes and his band also hit the mark in Belgium in 1977.

Room attendant and supermarket host

Even if his name is forever associated with this game show, Jean-Pierre Descombes didn’t just do that on television. The man who started on Télé Monte-Carlo as an assistant director was also a room driver for Fa Si La Chanter (France 3) and Sacred Evening (TF1). He was above all the recognizable voice-over of other major French television events. We think of Right price and to A gold familyon TF1.

By the 2000s, however, he had almost disappeared from the radar screens. To see him, you had to go to the trade fairs, galas or supermarkets where he was performing.

He also briefly revived the 20 hour games on France 3 in 1996, under the name of The memory box. He also resurfaced on screen on C8, in the ninth season of Do not touch My TV and in The big laugh.

The day a “Schmilblic” candidate was almost lynched for cheating

We will not forget to mention that Jean-Pierre Descombes also gave voice to Europe 1 for whom he hosted the Europe 1 podium which followed the Tour de France.

A handful of 45s

His last appearance on screen dates back to April 25, 2023, in an issue ofA family in gold dedicated to the 90s. He was the voice-over for this special on TF1. He already knew he was sick. In 2021, he announced that he was suffering from Parkinson’s disease which ended up winning him this Sunday, June 30.

Apart from television and hosting trade shows and galas, Jean-Pierre Descombes, who is less well known or has been forgotten, also sang. He is credited with a handful of 45s, all released in the 80s. There was “Le Balabin” (1984) and “Super 20 Heures” which is a reference to the show of the same name, of course. In 1988, he also released “Qu’est-ce qu’elles ont toutes” and the following year, “À la foire du Trône”.

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