Germany's 'West Wing' paints a rosy picture of Schröder's problems

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Germany may be crippled by its worst unemployment since the 1930s. Its government may be on course for defeat at the next general election. But you wouldn't know it from watching the country's latest television soap, which seeks to give viewers a dramatic look behind the scenes at Berlin's Chancellery.

Germany may be crippled by its worst unemployment since the 1930s. Its government may be on course for defeat at the next general election. But you wouldn't know it from watching the country's latest television soap, which seeks to give viewers a dramatic look behind the scenes at Berlin's Chancellery.

Das Kanzleramt, or The Chancellery, is a 12-part series that aims to emulate America's West Wing. But it was panned by senior politicians and critics yesterday for being unrealistic after its first episode was shown on Wednesday night, watched by around 4.9 million viewers.

The programme-makers spent more than €60,000 (£40,000) on building a realistic mock up of Gerhard Schröder's Chancellery in the centre of the capital. They even reproduced the view from his office.

The debut programme kicked off with the minister for research and development portrayed as a drug-taking hysteric who denounces his own government in public and the administration plunged into crisis by Peruvian guerrillas who kidnap a group of German tourists.

The Chancellor, a figure not dissimilar to MrSchröder, played by the 49-year-old actor Andreas Weyer, was shown stripped to the waist and being wrapped in bandages by his physician after suffering whiplash on a flight back from New Zealand. "Cut out sex and rock'n'roll for six weeks and you'll be OK," his doctor tells him. The spicy dialogue and melodrama failed to amuse MPs with first-hand experience of life in the front line of politics.

Horst Ehmke, who was a top aide to chancellor Willy Brandt, said he was shocked by its lack of realism. "The Chancellor appeared to be an American president and the characters all behaved as if they where in the White House. Even in a television series, events should not be portrayed in a way that they could never happen," he said.

Wolfgang Nowak, who was a senior aide in Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's office from 1999 until 2002, was equally dismissive, particularly of the friendly concern shown by the Chancellery staff to the drug-taking minister. "The show wants to tell us that everything will turn out well in the end. But politics is a cruel business, particularly for the politicians. There is no room for friendship," he said.

Martin Süskind, a former newspaper editor who wrote the series, defended his programme. "Everything is made up, truncated and also simplified. But this is fiction, we are not making a documentary," he insisted.

Chancellor Schröder's office was not prepared to comment although Der Spiegel magazine's television critic suggested that the he should be "grateful". He wrote: "A documentary about the goings on in Berlin's real political power house would probably shock most viewers."

Comments