Sera, a short-lived game show transmitted by RAI in Italy, should be
recognised as the true progenitor of Jeux Sans Frontières.
Despite claims from the late It's A Knockout producer, Barney Colehan,
which seem to mark out his earlier project,
as the primary influence on Guy Lux's Intervilles (from which Jeux Sans
Frontières was born), there is considerably more in the format of Campanile Sera that is instantly recognisable to those familiar with
Intervilles and it's subsequent off-shoots than there is in Top Town.
Whereas Top Town was a talent contest, fought each week by teams from
two towns, Campanile Sera pitted two teams against each other once a
week, much in the style that would become familiar to JSF audiences. The series name,
which translates as 'Bell Tower Evening', was inspired by the town square
settings, where events would be staged in the evening beneath the bell tower.
Competitions were both intellectual (in the form of a quiz) and athletic (in
the form of physical tests). There can be no doubt that RAI's series had the
greatest influence on what became Jeux Sans Frontières.
series debuted on RAI on Thursday 5th November 1959 and was presented in its
first year by Mike Bongiorno, Enzo Tortora and Renato Tagliani, who is
pictured (right), presenting a 1960 edition of the series. Enza Sampò joined
the series some time later, replacing Tagliani. Sampò himself was not retained
for the final series in 1962, his role being taken by Walter Marcheselli. Enzo Tortora would, of course,
go on to become one of main Italian presenters in the early days of Jeux
Sans Frontières (1965-1968). The format of the show was like this: a town
in the north of Italy would challenge another in the south (or vice-versa) and
the winners of that event would stay on to contest the following week's
competition. The winning team would only leave the series when defeated, and
would then be replaced by another team from its own half of the country.
The programme was hosted from three locations - the first would be a
television studio, where representatives of both towns would be subjected to a
quiz and the programme links between locations would take place, and then the second and third would be the town squares of each town,
where the physical contests were staged.
Sera became quite a hit in Italy, garnering audiences of 15 million
viewers at the height of its success. It is also credited with being the
world's first television programme of its type, something for which it should
be celebrated and remembered. The series legacy extends beyond the obvious,
particularly in Laveno Mombello in Italy's Varese Province. Laveno (pictured,
top and left) were a small town who performed remarkably in Campanile Sera
in 1961, winning five weeks' competitions in a row
before being overturned by a team from Salò. As part of their transmissions,
Laveno had to organise an illuminated parade of boats on their Piedmontese
shoreline. This has become a tradition there, and continues to this day.
longest winning sequences was in fact eight weeks, recorded by the team of
Monreale in 1960 - although one of these victories was disputed.
series drew to a close on the evening of Tuesday 2nd October 1962, after
several hundred editions. It had made a significant impact in Italy, but
ultimately an even more significant one with a group of producers from French
with thanks to Mauro Tozzi
and Christos Moustakas