Terrifying German Culture Hour — Shows!

TV Shows, what a grande theme. The thing you have to realize at this point, is that when germans hear „show“, they don’t think of Law and Order or Baywatch — those are Serials in our lingo. A show is a grandiose affair, usually reserved for saturday evenings.

On top of that, there is a very german variant of the talk show, which invariably has a group of at least 5 to 6 people sitting around a table and, well, talk.

So, shows. If you’re american, you now probably think of either Rat-Pack-style entertainment or at the very least Larry King or David Letterman. Well, no. We instead got a guy licking pencils but more on that later.

So, to give you an idea how these talk shows looked, and to confirm all your suspicions on how perverse sexually liberated germans are, here’s Nina Hagen demonstrating how women can masturbate. During prime time TV.

There were also small-scale talk shows for the regional programming. Things were a bit rougher there:

(no, this was not staged. Yes, the guy with the axe is a musician)

But the big saturday evening shows reigned supreme. You could safely expect a large live audience, some well-known band or musician performing and, this is inevitable, a small band of text running at the bottom at some point, informing you that they are already over their allotted time-slot, meaning that the news that were scheduled for 10pm will now be shown at 10:30pm or even later. and most of the time, the entertainment involved ordinary citizens being either skilled, talented or at least clever. They were the precursor to todays game shows, but apart from five minutes of fame, there wasn’t much to win. Still, the intros got imprinted into the brains of those who grew up at that time:

(You might want to hold on to the image of the cartoon at the beginning. Those two were made by Loriot, and he will figure in a later installment!) Still, if a german suddenly makes a spooky voice at you, intoning „Risiiikooo“(Riiiisk) at you, then that’s where it’s from.

Another thing in terms of intros was that some shows were deemed to be big enough that they were aired via Eurovision, meaning that they were broadcast to not only germany, but also into the neighbour countries! Such a momentous affair usually got announced with an extra fanfare:

And now we’re finally at Wetten Dass — the german game show that Will Arnett waxed forth about mightily in US TV already. This is a show where ordinary people made claims about being able to do extraordinary things. Pull a truck by pure muscle mass. Have all lottery numbers from the past 20 years memorized. Have a dog that can destroy 100 balloons in under 60 seconds. Then celebrities were invited to bet on the outcome of the attempt. Wetten Dass was the holy mountain of all saturday evening shows, and the cases where the host was switched out were subject to a major national crisis and debate.

Wetten Dass was such an important show that the premier german pop duo used it to announce it’s reunion (in a fake Blind Date format):

Anyway: Here’s a guy who can tell you the colour of a pencil by licking it:

The Great Saturday Evening Show died somewhere around the turn of the century, got briefly revived by a former butcher and is now consigned to the graveyard of memory.

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