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Amazon Studios France Sets ‘LOL’ Scary Spinoff as Season 3


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The blockbuster French cast of Amazon Prime Video’s third season of “LOL: Qui rit, qui sort” speaks volumes about the Japanese variety format’s tremendous popularity in France.

The Amazon Original series, adapted from the format “LOL: Last One Laughing,” scored its biggest launch to date on Prime Video in France since bowing on March 10. The show is one of the streamer’s first unscripted originals in France and has been a major coup as a brand exercise that’s succeeded with limited resources — certainly in comparison to scripted comedy. Adaptations of “LOL” have also thrived in Italy and Germany where they have ranked as the most watched local titles on the service, respectively. Local versions are also available in Spain, Canada, Mexico and Australia (hosted by Rebel Wilson).

On the heels of its milestone success with “LOL: Qui rit, qui sort,” the French teams at Amazon Studios are now developing a spinoff of the franchise that will mix comedy and horror. Like “LOL,” the untitled spinoff will bring together eight well-known actors who will have to be the last to scream, as well as laugh, in order to win the top prize.

Hosted by Philippe Lacheau (“Alibi.com 2”) in France and produced by Endemol France, “LOL” is a rare breed for an unscripted show because it features movie stars who are not necessarily known as comedy performers. Season 3’s cast boasts Virginie Efira, who’s just won a Cesar for “Revoir Paris,” Adèle Exarchopoulos (“Blue is the Warmest Color”), Leila Bekhti (“The Restless”) and Pierre Niney (“Yves Saint Laurent”). The stars are taking part alongside bankable comedy fixtures such as Jonathan Cohen (“Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom”), Géraldine Nakache, Gad Elmaleh, Paul Mirabel, Laura Felpin and François Damien.

Lacheau, a Californian-looking comedian-turned-helmer, is himself a local celebrity. His latest movie “Alibi.2” — which he directed and stars in — has sold over 3 million tickets since its Feb. 8 release, ranking as the second highest grossing French film.

Thomas Dubois, head of originals in France at Amazon Studios, says famed actors lined up to participate in “LOL” after Season 2, which marked a “turning point” for the franchse locally.

“It was so successful! We started getting calls from actors like Leila Bekhti and Jonathan Cohen and others followed suit, because they all know and like each other,” reminisces Dubois. “LOL” captures what goes on inside a mansion where actors are pitted against each other, armed with their best jokes, while cameras keep rolling. Filming takes roughly a day and a half.

Dubois admits the show is “quite a challenge for any actor, even those who are used to starring in comedies, but gives them the opportunity to show a more authentic and light-hearted facet of themselves.” He says “LOL” has been luring a “wide range of viewers, from young ones to older demos,” and has also been driving subscriptions.

James Farrell, head of international originals at Amazon Studios, has watched every adaptation around the world with delight since rolling out the original Japanese show produced by and starring comedian Hitoshi Matsumoto in 2016.

“When you’re watching the French version, you can tell that it’s the most authentic. It’s genuine and there’s a lightheartedness — just like seeing people are at a party trying to make each other laugh,” says Farrell, who had the idea of approaching Matsumoto to work with him on a new format.

“In some of the other countries, they start slapping each other. The Mexico one got quite violent, and the Japanese one, everyone gets naked at some point, they’re all like naked and chasing each other around the room,” quips Farrell. “But the French one, yeah, they’re definitely not naked and punching each other!”

Farrell says the German adaptation, meanwhile, “surprised everyone” when the host brought in a famous opera singer. “Everybody’s sitting there watching the opera singer and then he takes a suck of a helium balloon, so it was like opera with a helium voice!” says Farrell. “It’s just so creative, unexpected and strange.” Produced by Constantin Entertainment, “LOL” was nominated for an international Emmy Award last year.  “LOL” has one of the “strongest completion rate,” meaning that viewers actually watch it entirely, and the “number of viewers keeps going up, season after season.”

Although the French makeover looks more spontaneous than in other territories, Dubois says actors are matched with comedy writers who help them create jokes and rehearse. “We don’t throw actors on the show without preparation, and even if it’s not a scripted series there’s some brilliant writing involved,” says the French executive, adding that improvisation still provides some of the most enjoyable bits of the series.

Discussing the “LOL” spinoff, Dubois says it will start filming before the summer and will air ahead of Season 4. The idea for the spinoff came when the set of “LOL” Season 3 went dark. “When it happened, people got scared and we realized that fear was a great source of comedy,” says Dubois, who predicts the spinoff will further bolster the franchise.

Farrell says “everybody is very keen” to see the French spinoff travel to other countries. The anticipation has been high with Amazon Studios since “the word got out internally that France was doing this.” “They don’t have to wait for Halloween, they can just wait until the filming actually happens which will be very soon and watch the cuts of it and we’ll see how it turned out,” says Farrell.

Farrell also revealed that the success of another unscripted program from the French team, “Orelsan: montre jamais ça à personne,” has also inspired other countries. The docuseries delivered an intimate portrayal of French singer Orelsan and was shot across a number of decades by his brother.

“‘Orelsan’ was a huge success and it immediately [got] all the other countries scrambling, [and saying,] ‘Hey, that was really cool. How can we do that?’ So India is going to do one, a bunch of other countries are going to follow as well,” says Farrell.

Dubois says non-scripted content represents about 40% of Amazon Studios’ local productions slated this year. Alongside the second seasons of “LOL,” Amazon Studios is working on a documentary series, as well as a new season of “Celebrity Hunted.” The streamer is also aiming to roll out four French original movies this year, notably Franck Gastambide’s buzzed-about adventure film “Medellin,” which shot on location in Colombia.


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