After 50 years of history, Numbers and letters is about to open a new chapter. Broadcast daily for decades, the France 3 program switches from September 3 to weekend programming. Viewers will be able to find the cult game every Saturday and Sunday at 5:15 p.m. For the occasion, some small changes and new features have been made, but the main change is on the side of the members of the show. If Laurent Romejko keeps his role in the animation, the two referees of the program will change. If Arielle Boulin-Prat and Bertrand Renard will be on the air during the first two weekends (the programs were already recorded), they will be replaced on the screen from September 17. In an interview with Télé 7 Jours, Patrice Laffont, producer of the program, reveals the identity of the new faces of the game and also discusses this new formula for the show.
How do you view this transition to weekend broadcasting for Numbers and Letters, after 50 years of daily presence?
The chain has made a decision. We will see what it will give. On Saturday and Sunday, it’s always more complicated. For our audience, which is a bit older, Saturday is often the day people get away from it all. I still think that after fifty years, the show had somewhere a reason to disappear. But France Télévisions wanted to keep the brand. I’m passionate enough about this show to go through with its life, and maybe mine for that matter! (laughs) So I thought of a way to make the show a bit different without touching the fundamentals. A 50-year-old game, you can’t turn it upside down anyway. It was also necessary to find how to replace Arielle Boulin-Prat and Bertrand Renard, who were two pillars and memories of the program. But we must go ahead and continue.
Who have you chosen to replace him as referees of the game?
The first is Stéphane Crosnier, who immediately imposed himself on me. He is a very charismatic former candidate, prodigious in numbers. He was brilliant in many tournaments of Numbers and letters. But he also has a very good sense of TV since he worked as a sports editor at BFM TV and RMC Sport. The second is Blandine Maire, who is a teacher in the small section. She has a big background, because she is a lawyer and has also worked on television as a journalist, working with Olivier Minne or on Fort Boyard. Funny little anecdote: she was in the mountains at the time of the casting, so she sent us a little video from her little studio! Everyone was packed.
How did they react when you asked them to join the program?
They jumped at the chance! (laughs) Now we brief them, we train them. They’re going to have to work, because there’s a lot of things to prepare for the “duels” part of the game. It’s time to explain a little more cultural things to viewers, so we have to prepare papers for each issue.
What changes have you made to the game for this new version?
We wanted to add a little more suspense. With the arrival of Blandine Maire and Stéphane Crosnier, the animation will perhaps be a little more threesome, in a less mechanical way, even if Laurent Romejko remains the master of the game. The mechanics of the game will remain the same. On the other hand, the rounds of the duels will evolve a little: now there will only be four duels instead of five, with a new point system which will make it possible to potentially witness reversals of the score. On the prize side, there is also an important change: at the end of the show, there will be two lists of words to find for the finalist. A first with words to discover which will each be worth 100 euros, and a second with an indicated theme, which will therefore help the candidate a little, where each word discovered will bring in 50 euros. After five wins in the game, the candidate can choose to leave with his winnings or try to get ten wins. If he chooses to continue, the gains during the final word will be greater. But if he loses before the tenth victory, he will only have 500 euros left and will lose the winnings he had accumulated. This money will go into a kitty, which will be won by a candidate who manages to line up ten victories on the show.
Is the game still as popular with candidates?
During confinement, there are people in their 20s or 30s who discovered the show. And they registered en masse for the selections! We have seen a huge difference on this side: now we have plenty of candidates, whether we take it or not, who are between 20 and 30 years old, whereas that did not exist a year ago. There is still a real attraction for this program.
Interview with Aurélien Gaucher
Numbers and letters, Saturday and Sunday at 5:15 p.m. on France 3 from September 3