Wooden plots, but beautiful bodies - and they're German
Imre Karacs in Bonn on the belated birth of the home-grown soap
Sunday 10 August 1997
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.
Actress sees off speculation about her face in an amazing way
Florida mother launched a petition to ban the sale of the dolls
Marvel has released first teaser trailer week early after it leaked online
- 1 Nokia no more: Microsoft drops once-ubiquitous mobile name – in favour of its Lumia brand
- 2 Renee Zellweger on plastic surgery: 'I'm living a fulfilling life and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows'
- 3 Banksy not arrested: Internet duped by fake report claiming artist's identity revealed
- 4 Australian café owner sparks debate after saying 'No' to having unruly children on premises
- 5 Paralysed man Darek Fidyka walks again after treatment by British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis
Ottawa shooting: Canadian soldier dies after being shot at National War Memorial – with one gunman killed inside parliament
Renee Zellweger on plastic surgery: 'I'm living a fulfilling life and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows'
Isis releases first video showing the stoning of woman accused of committing adultery as her father shouts 'don't call me Dad'
Banksy not arrested: Internet duped by fake report claiming artist's identity revealed
Diwali 2014: What is the festival of lights and how is it celebrated around the world?
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'
£250 - £300 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT** Our...
£90 - £140 per day + Mileage and Expenses: Randstad Education Leeds: Sixth for...
£95 - £105 per day: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Plymouth i...
£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits and bonus: Ashdown Group: SQL Developer -...