20 years on, Germans flock to Cold War 'Dallas' show

The first television series about everyday life in communist East Germany is creating a sensation 20 years after national unification, with the soap opera dubbed as entertaining as a Cold War "Dallas".

As Germany prepares on Sunday to mark the day East and West Germany merged into one nation after four decades of division, the programme "Weissensee" on ARD public television has become a runaway hit.

A kind of East German "Romeo and Juliet", the show is serving as a powerful - if melodramatic - reminder of the awful choices faced by citizens of a repressive state and the courageous ways they manage to carve their own paths.

Drawing around five million viewers or about 16 percent of the television audience each week, the show was launched this month for a six-week run but its producers have already won an extension.

"Weissensee", named after a district of East Berlin, has drawn comparisons in the press to "Dallas", the smash 1980s US family saga set in oil-rich Texas, with its breathless portrayal of good guys and bad guys, high drama and low comedy, an alcoholic mother and even a love-struck American.

At the heart of the action are two families: the Kupfers and the Hausmanns, living in the year 1980, nine long years before the Berlin Wall fell.

The former is an ambitious clan of Stasi secret police officers and their enablers, some of whom begin bearing the psychological scars of their duplicitous work.

Meanwhile the matriarch of the second family, Dunja Hausmann, is a bohemian dissident cabaret singer, an enemy of the state who is linked to the Kupfers by an illicit love affair.

The two clans become further entangled when the prodigal son of the Kupfers, who has opted to remain a humble cop on the beat instead of pursuing his family calling, falls in love with Hausmann's beautiful daughter Julia.

Julia has been dating Robert, a flashy half-German with a US passport whom she sees as her ticket out of the country. But she abandons her plans of escaping the East when she meets the charming, big-hearted Martin Kupfer.

The two families try to little avail to keep the lovers apart, with the Kupfers deploying the nefarious machinery of the Stalinist state.

The Kupfers enjoy all the privileges of the Stasi network including a plush villa with a garden and three Trabant cars. They see Julia Hausmann as a threat to their future in the apparatus.

They prevent the couple from gaining official approval to rent an apartment together, and Martin's conniving brother even tries to use his young daughter as a weapon against him.

"Weissensee" has won critical praise for authenticity, from the suffocating atmosphere of suspicion and treachery to the pitch-perfect Orwellian language of the Stasi officers and the scarcity of consumer goods.

"It is balanced and without a doubt quality television," wrote the daily Thueringer Allgemeine in east Germany.

"Twenty years after German unity, the series is finally here that grants some 'Ossis' their dignity," wrote the influential weekly Die Zeit, referring to east Germans.

It noted it was the first series to show "the other Germany" entirely from the inside, with a sympathetic look at the joys and struggles of its citizens.

Many of the actors taking part grew up in the German Democratic Republic, as the communist rulers called their state, and suffered repression.

Katrin Sass, who played the mother in the international hit "Goodbye, Lenin!", appears as Dunja Hausmann. In real life, she was spied on and betrayed by several people close to her including her purported best friend.

Another actress in the series spent time in a Stasi jail while a co-star fled for the West at the age of 17.

"It is a kind of credibility guarantee," the daily Hamburger Abendblatt said of the actors' real-life experiences.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week