Lionel Abbo, or the abolition of boundaries in storytelling

Lionel Abbo
Lionel Abbo

A subtle and enigmatic presence, television producer Lionel Abbo made his way into our venerable Anglophone studies building one beautiful autumn day. He projected visual representations of his experiences, describing television programs reminiscent of Foucault’s heterotopias that have been recorded, embellished, and presented to an audience. We watched, we listened, we ‘recorded’ with our minds.

The TV programs that Lionel presented are more than simple productions; they are brands. Master Chef, Baby Boom and The Voice have made waves in the French television market. Originally produced in other countries, these programs are being re-conceived by Shine France, where Lionel works as development director. Tracing his career path, we find that Lionel studied law, public affairs, and journalism before receiving an award for a script that propelled him into the world of advertising giants.We can already sense the unique shape of our guest’s biography; this beautiful, enchanting mixture of reality and fiction. Time for a little panic: it is very possible that we are also part of Mr. Abbo’s script. Maybe he has set up cameras – maybe we are also being recorded. I wonder what kind of show we would be on…

The intermingling of facts and fiction in Lionel’s biography echoes, in a way, his company’s production of reality television. Among the reproducible audiovisual creations called formats, there is a definite trend: programs that are shot around the clock in hospitals, schools, households – and the list goes on. The production formula adds a trick: a voice-over recounts a story as if it were fiction. It appears that this innovation is to become a true social trend. Nevertheless, we cannot help associating the cameras with Foucault’s surveillance system. We detect a possible ethical issue. Unsurprisingly, Lionel answers ’no ’: nothing to be worried about, since all the participants in this game do it willingly.

I begin to understand another dimension of this audiovisual game: the producers, as well as the heroes of these stories are creating a new role for audiovisual media: a somewhat ‘democratic’ world that invites anyone and everyone to sign up and change his or her life. Magicians, dancers, singers, Jewish mums of the year – there seems to be no limit to the opportunities people are given to write their own stories. Additionally, stories are often ‘borrowed’ from other media sources. For instance, a story from the internet can ‘travel’ to the television and then be printed in a book. Multiplication, adaptation, and creativity seem to be the keys to success in this new world, in which the French television industry is expanded and everyone has the chance to create his or her own story.

Lionel Abbo est une personne discrète. Au-delà des apparences cependant, on devine un faiseur d’histoires, un stratège de l’adaptation des formats audiovisuels. Son intervention suscite des débats sur les formes contemporaines de loisirs et de culture, parmi lesquelles la télé-réalité. Je me permets une petite prédiction : le succès de son entreprise.

by Carmen Anghel

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