El Gran Juego de las Provincias

Latin America had been exposed to the knockabout fun of friendly European inter-town rivalry by a surprising route. Whereas one might expect the biggest and most lavish European series, Jeux Sans Frontières, to be the one that travelled well overseas, Argentina and its South American neighbours were instead treated to the West German qualifiers Spiel Ohne Grenzen (repackaged as Telematch). The makers of Telematch had been very enterprising and had produced versions of their series dubbed into five different languages (in addition to the native German) including Spanish. There are Telematch fans all over the world to this day, and the series success lead to television companies looking for more of the same. The result was that Australian It's A Knockout programmes were purchased and aired from 1992 on Telefé, rebranded as Supermatch, as a tip of the hat to the German series that these broadcasts were replacing. Again, these were very popular with audiences, and Supermatch is still being shown from time to time in Argentina. Unfortunately, from 1998 the tapes were re-edited to add jokey comments and computer animation and it is these butchered versions that run on Telefé today. Despite this rather unfortunate situation, the influence of Supermatch and Telematch before it has now lead to a homegrown Argentinian version, El Gran Juego de las Provincias (also referred to simply as EGJ).

Dady Brieva and Diego PérezEl Gran Juego de las Provincias (The Great Game of the Provinces) was a television series that aired on Canal Trece (Channel 13) of Buenos Aires in 2006. Produced by Marcelo Tinelli's Ideas del Sur company and presented by popular Argentinian comedy actors, Dady Brieva and Diego Pérez (pictured, right), the series took a novel approach to the familiar format. In a diversion from the norm of staging the events at exterior locations, EGJ was recorded in a controlled environment - a large television studio. Rather than towns or cities, this series elected to pit Argentinian provinces - included Buenos Aires, Chaco, Córdoba, Neuquén, Río Negro and San Luis among others - against one another in a series of challenging, colourful and amusing games. The game format was pretty much a clone of the Australian series, with four teams contesting each match, the inclusion of Jokers and even the team colours chosen were the same. The series lead to a grand final, which Río Negro won, beating teams from Córdoba, San Luis and Buenos Aires. Later in 2006, a celebrity version of the show was produced, with well-known local television personalities joining each of the four teams.

Unfortunately, ratings and general popularity of the series were not particularly good, despite the interest shown for it in the inner provinces of Argentina. Consequently, Canal Trece did not recommission EGJ for 2007. Battered but unbowed, Ideas del Sur went on to produce a version of the series for Columbian television.

by Alan Hayes
with grateful thanks to
Nicolás E. Korzan