Wooden plots, but beautiful bodies - and they're German

Imre Karacs in Bonn on the belated birth of the home-grown soap

Clemens tries to resolve the row between Barbara and Jorg, but he sides with Barbara. Jorg, distraught by this betrayal, is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Philip, meanwhile, distances himself from Fabian, because Fabian does not return his love. But Fabian is beginning to miss Philip, and is confused about his own feelings. To complicate matters further, Leon has come home with the wrong baby. How will Lea react to that?

You may not care but to millions of Germans hooked on Good Times, Bad Times this is what really matters; it is certainly a lot more captivating than pictures of the slow-moving floods in the east.

There is little evidence of good times in Germany's most popular soap, broadcast on the biggest commercial channel, RTL, at dinner time five nights a week. The protagonists, especially the males, are always weeping. Lovers are constantly jilted, triangles form and reform to no one's apparent satisfaction. But it is German.

Research shows that the world's second richest audience has had its fill of Americana and is clamouring for domestic soap. Dallas and its descendants, dubbed into German, have been dumped on the naffest stations, while the big networks are packing their schedules with home-grown stuff. The ratings are soaring, advertising revenue is pouring in. For one minute's coital interruption on Good Times, Bad Times, RTL rakes in DM132,000 (pounds 44,000).

From the television moguls' perspective this would be a healthy state of affairs were it not for a fatal shortage of home-grown talent. Whether this is why viewers never actually see Leon's howling baby must remain RTL's secret. But the fact is that, as in the Australian counterparts, there are too few actors and actresses to go around. The performances are therefore unbelievably wooden, although that might also have something to do with the plots.

A shortage of people to fill the screen is one thing, but there are also too few authors to dream up the meandering story lines. For too long, insiders complain, German television lived off the cut-price fare manufactured on the other side of the Atlantic. Now that the market has caught up with domestic demand, local scriptwriters are having to be sent on crash courses. Glacier-like plots, such as those in the infamous Black Forest Clinic, which British viewers switched off in droves when it was shown on Channel 4, are out.

Today's hospital dramas have plenty of blood and gore, just like their Chicago equivalents. Cops and robbers have also got rougher. Instead of Streets of San Francisco, the Germans get a far more violent Streets of Berlin. And the torsos in Bergwacht (Mountain Watch) are superior to the pneumatic beach bums coming from the US.

The only problem is that German soaps seem limp by international comparison. One can argue how much Neighbours reflects contemporary Australian society, but Good Times, Bad Times bears no resemblance to life in Germany today. Supposedly it takes place in Berlin, at least judging by the car number plates of the smarmy lawyer who spends all his time trying to impregnate women 20 years his junior. But the surroundings, homes and clothing hearken to another world. Young men sport ponytails, women wear skimpy, tight- fitting T-shirts on fabulously bronzed bodies. Nobody smokes. This ain't Germany, this is Australia.

It so happens that Good Times, Bad Times and some of the other successful soaps are produced by Ufa, a partner of Grundy, the begetter of Neighbours. Clearly, not all resemblance to antipodean characters, fictional or otherwise, is accidental. But until Germans learn to write German plots, the audience must put up with it.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'