Ger­mans love Ta­tort

A look at Ger­many’s four­decade weekly TV date with mur­der.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TV -

ANOTHER Sun­day evening, another crime. More than 10 mil­lion Ger­mans reg­u­larly tune in for the hit TV who­dun­nit Ta­tort (Crime Scene), whose pop­u­lar­ity with its down-to-earth plots span­ning the coun­try has en­dured for more than four decades.

Un­like many an Amer­i­can cop show, Ta­tort does not go in for story lines packed with blood and gore, un­fea­si­ble high-speed chases, or one cen­tral, sexy but tor­tured char­ac­ter.

Nor, un­usu­ally, has the weekly 90-minute show up­dated its open­ing se­quence – a dated blue and white tar­get set to a hal­ter­ing theme tune – since its Novem­ber 1970 launch.

But its suc­cess in Ger­many is un­ri­valled; its for­mu­laic ap­proach beloved.

“It’s a great Sun­day evening ac­tiv­ity,” en­thuses 22-year-old Jan Buel­ter­mann, tak­ing a chair up­front at Volks­bar, one of dozens of spots in Ber­lin where fans con­gre­gate on Sun­days at 8:15pm to watch what many con­sider a cult show.

As a child, he had lit­tle choice but to fall in with his fam­ily’s tra­di­tion of watch­ing the se­ries on its only tele­vi­sion set. Nowa­days, the ap­pren­tice watches it of his own free will.

Marita Gelbe-Kruse, 55, who has taken time out from vis­it­ing Ber­lin to watch the 887th episode of Ta­tort at the bar with her 25-year-old son, Si­mon, agrees that it’s a rit­ual that brings fam­ily to­gether.

“It’s a mother-son point in com­mon, a thing we can do to­gether,” she told AFP.

Pro­duced by Ger­many’s pub­lic ARD TV chan­nel and its re­gional branches, Ta­tort al­ter­nately por­trays about 20 po­lice chiefs or their teams from dif­fer­ent Ger­man cities, as well as from Ger­man-speak­ing Switzer­land and Aus­tria, in their hunt for the per­pe­tra­tors of a crime.

With cities such as Mu­nich, Bre­men, Leipzig or Stuttgart tak­ing turns to set the stage and even re­gional ac­cents play­ing a role, the show holds back on vi­o­lence, doesn’t much pon­der on the pri­vate lives of its hero investigators and aims for re­al­ism.

“The se­ries is forged on Ger­many’s fed­er­al­ism,” Ste­fan Scherer, lit­er­a­ture pro­fes­sor at the Karl­sruhe In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy said.

While some of the show’s po­lice in­spec­tors have been cat­a­pulted into cul­tural icons, such as Horst Schi­man­ski, played by ac­tor Goetz Ge­orge, Scherer said the prin­ci­ple be­hind Ta­tort was the abil­ity to re­place age­ing po­lice in­spec­tors and switch cities.

“One can al­ways cre­ate new episodes,” he said.

The Ta­tort phe­nom­e­non has also been the sub­ject of a study.

Po­lit­i­cal monthly mag­a­zine Cicero last year quoted Den­nis Graef from Pas­sau Univer­sity in south­ern Ger­many, who pub­lished a study on Ta­tort, as de­scrib­ing it as a “sec­u­lar mass”.

Cer­tainly, as the open­ing cred­its be­gin to roll in the Volks­bar, the hush that de­scends has a veil of re­li­gios­ity – beer is rel­e­gated to sec­ond-fid­dle, ban­ter fades and all eyes turn to the mys­te­ri­ous on-screen death, which this week is set on the windswept shores of a North Sea is­land.

Like a mir­ror of Ger­many

If the scenery and char­ac­ters change each week, the for­mat re­mains tried and tested – an open­ing scene, the dis­cov­ery of a body, investigators ar­riv­ing, the ob­vi­ous sus­pect turn­ing out not to be guilty, and a last-minute ar­rest.

Next morn­ing comes the verdict. Some 10.7 mil­lion view­ers, or around one in eight Ger­mans, watched the Novem­ber 24 episode.

Au­di­ences of Ta­tort and its for­mer East Ger­man equiv­a­lent Polizeiruf 110, which still some­times takes a turn in the same time slot, can reach up to 12 mil­lion when Til Sch­weiger – an ac­tor known to in­ter­na­tional au­di­ences from Quentin Tarantino’s In­glo­ri­ous Bas­terds – as­sumes his po­lice in­spec­tor’s role in the north­ern port city of Ham­burg.

For Ber­liner An­dreas Klaf­fke, 54, the show is more than just a rou­tine.

“It’s a bit like a mir­ror of Ger­many, a mir­ror of so­ci­ety and that speaks to peo­ple,” he com­mented.

It re­flects cur­rent and so­cial af­fairs too, delv­ing into is­sues such as the trauma of re­turn­ing sol­diers from Afghanistan, ris­ing rents, or se­cret bank ac­counts in Switzer­land. The se­ries ri­vals the weather for Mon­day morn­ing small talk at the of­fice cof­fee ma­chine.

But, while Ger­man crime drama Der­rick has been broad­cast in sev­eral other coun­tries, Ta­tort has made fewer in­roads abroad.

“It must be very Ger­man some­how,” Buel­ter­mann said. – AFP Re­laxnews

Ta­tort al­ter­nately por­trays about 20 po­lice chiefs or their teams from dif­fer­ent Ger­man cities, as well as from Ger­man-speak­ing Switzer­land and aus­tria, in their hunt for the per­pe­tra­tors of a crime. – aFP

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