I'm feeling unacountably kind to the French, so I'll put this a bit straight. Fort Boyard is based on a TV series which began in 1990 called (surprise) "Fort Boyard". It was created by a French bloke, the Dutch and Belgians also ran their own versions. I'm told they would actually have international programmes where the three countries ran teams against each other.
Anyway, The Crystal Maze began in 1990 as well, so it's kind of difficult to work out which series was the 'original'. I suspect that someone, probably a frenchman, had an idea and sold it to various production companies. I also suspect that The Crystal Maze is the low budget version made for Channel 4. However, I can't verify those. Either way, Fort Boyard is not a "rip-off" of The Crystal Maze.
My personal opinion of the programme is that it was probably just as enjoyable as The Crystal Maze back in 1990, but by the time a UK company took it up it was dated and pointless. I'm pretty sure the only reason it became popular was the sight of Messenger and the contestants running about in lycra, and the Eastenders fans tuning in for Leslie Grantham, who was just hamming up his "Dirty Den" role.
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