As a child of the nineties, the news of the release of Channel 4’s seminal magazine show Eurotrash on DVD was met with a sense of nostalgic excitement. Memories of the racy, bizarre, rancid, and illuminating segments watched and hastily switched off at the footsteps of approaching parents flooded back, yet this writer was delighted to reconnect with this microcosm of European eccentricity and pop culture thanks to Network’s comprehensive 20-disc set of all sixteen series.
Hosts Antoine de Caunes and Jean Paul Gaultier present amidst sets which evoke the most sordid school play you have ever seen, packed with flamboyant pop art colours and animal sidekicks including Gaultier’s giraffe sidekicks Pipi and Popo. This exuberant canvas makes a madcap hub for the playful exchanges between de Caunes and Gaultier, debating language that can and cannot be used on British TV and also picking apart stereotypes of both British and European audiences complete with amusing broken English.
What struck me about revisiting Eurotrash was just how many pieces of European popular culture it had enlighted me to; with cinema, music and key Eurocelebs introduced through Channel 4’s magazine format. Series 1 alone connects us with musical figures such as Army of Lovers, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Boy George, Malcolm McLaren and of course, Eurotrash icon and cuddly Belgian crooner Eddy Wally. In its snapshot of European culture, the show found humour yet a light amount of factual reporting that leaves us to pursue our own areas of interest. Cultural artefacts such as Tom of Finland artwork, Jean Luc Goddard and Cannon Film’s ill-fated King Lear adaptation, Paul Verhoeven’s early teen coming of age comedies, the work of Tinto Brass, and Bjorn Borg underwear, all get the Eurotrash treatment giving us a snapshot into some curiosities from nineties pop culture.
Of course much of Eurotrash’s appeal for its core audience was not in its exploration of Europop and arthouse cinema, but its glimpse into the racier world of European adult entertainment. The heightened sexual naughtiness of Eurotrash still has a dated charm with much of its segments prompting the ‘You would never get away with that now,’ response. Surgically enhanced European ladies, stories of geese interrupting the work on a nearby French porn set, titillating exposes on models such as Naomi Campbell and Helena Christensen, and Melinda Messenger delving into fetish modelling, were undoubtedly fond memories in the hearts of many a teenage boy.
There is nothing quite like Eurotrash these days. This playful celebration of music and pop culture – and of course, its selection of truly bizarre stories feels like a subsequently untapped world. The curio stories in particular flit between the bizarre and dated, and the surprisingly progressive (see a Dutch weed delivery service). There is a humour in watching besotted geriatric British tourists recreating scenes from El Dorado, whilst skits involving a man dressed as a Smurf being chased around Disneyland Paris feel like a pre-cursor to the likes of Trigger Happy TV and Da Ali G show. Playing with off-beat stereotypes such as naked Croatian beaches, botched Navarre tourist films, Volopuk language, and Swedish toilet restaurants, presents a world that only Eurotrash could – what other platform could have explored such off-kilter strangeness?
Revisiting Eurotrash has been a delightful experience and one that this writer would heartily recommend. Immersing yourself in European pop culture, high camp strangeness, and racy over-sexualised silliness showcases the carefree and escapist charm that this seminal Channel 4 classic brought to the world. From the second the poppy sounds of Brigitte Bardot’s Saint Tropez plays, the garish titles appear, and we see Antoine de Caunes and Jean Paul Gaultier, it is like being reconnected with a best friend from the past.