Guignols celebrate 20 years with special

Puppet series a Canal Plus ratings juggernaut

PARIS -- The muppets got a run for their money Monday night as France's most famous puppets, the Guignols, celebrated their 20th birthday.

The Guignols, which air on pay TV network Canal Plus, have been an integral part of French popular culture since they were created in 1988. Hosted by a satirical latex version of recently-ousted veteran TF1 news anchor Patrick Poivre d'Arvor -- the real anchor was replaced, but his puppet version is still going strong -- the Guignols continue to give Canal Plus its highest average nightly ratings.

Canal Plus featured a Guignols special complete with a live broadcast of the puppets on hit nightly talk show "Le Grand Journal," a behind-the-scenes look at how the show is made, four consecutive hours of Guignols programming and celebrity appearances including Patrick Poivre d'Arvor, Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe and politicians Francois Hollande and Francois Bayrou.

"Les Guignols" has had a 4,000 episode run and attracts between 2.5 and 3 million viewers every night in its 7:55 p.m. slot, airing unencrypted on the pay TV channel for all audiences.