The Eye of INA: The time of friends, the ancestor of Friends

Each week, find the treasures of our archives with Madelen. Long before the birth of Jennifer Aniston, the French sitcom existed. The 117 episodes broadcast between 1961 and 1967 made Henri Tisot, Claude Rollet and Jacques Ruisseau the first stars of the emerging small screen.

Long before Jennifer Aniston and her gang were born, the Friends French existed: it was called Friends’ time. The 117 13-minute episodes broadcast, then rebroadcast between 1961 and 1967, made Henri Tisot, Claude Rollet and Jacques Ruisseau the first big stars of the emerging small screen.

The story begins in 1960 when the management of the RTF decided to retain the audience of the only channel, still in black and white, by offering a daily soap opera, before the 8 o’clock news. Different avenues were explored before a green light was given to Jean Canolle, whose series broadcast on Radio Luxembourg reached a large popular audience. He proposes to create “antihero “Whose universe and daily life would resemble those of”Mr. and Mrs. Everybody“. He imagines the trio taking inspiration from his own character traits: a shy, hardworking and southerner, since he himself is from Provence.

The choice of the actor who will play this role is proving particularly difficult. At the end of unsuccessful castings, Robert Guez, the director places an advertisement in France Evening: “ We are looking for a young southerner with an accent.“The next day, in the production offices in Saint-Cloud, a student from the Conservatory arrives and launches”Gonfaron, it’s me!“. His name is Henri Tisot. Canolle, who had imagined a tall, dark-haired curly man, discovers a plump young man, with plump hair, who wears glasses. A test in front of the camera is enough to convince Guez that he finally has, in front of him, the ideal interpreter.

The time of friends, a social phenomenon

The dissemination of Friends time begins October 16, 1961 at 7:40 pm The success is immediate. Countless families recognize themselves in this hymn to friendship between three students from Avignon, Lyon and Dijon. Reunited by the chance of a train trip, they will live together, in a caravan. Anxious to fully play the daily card, Canolle enters the adventures of his trio in the university calendar: the start of the school year, the Christmas holidays, then Easter and, finally, those of the summer. It draws up, in watermarks, the portrait of an era that Madelen invites you to discover, even to rediscover.
Friends’ time becomes a social phenomenon. At the end of the broadcast of the first 52 episodes, more than 300,000 letters reach the management of the RTF. All are calling for a sequel! Very quickly, the decision was made: 65 new episodes were ordered.
Tisot, Rollet and Ruisseau are living a dream but working a lot. Many scenes are shot in the streets of Paris, which poses problems when onlookers see them. The popularity of the three buddies is immense. They cannot go out on the streets without being approached by viewers of all ages. They kiss them calling them Gonfaron, Delabre or Chantournel “. In homes, parents even threaten children: “ If you are not wise, you will go to bed without seeing Friends’ time ! “. The actors, on the other hand, never fell asleep on their laurels.

Friends’ time by Robert Guez, with Claude Rollet, Henri Tisot, Jacques Ruisseau …


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