• Germany edition
 
Opinion
'Germany can't produce a Breaking Bad'
Photo: DPA

'Germany can't produce a Breaking Bad'

Published: 15 Oct 2013 16:18 GMT+02:00
Updated: 15 Oct 2013 16:18 GMT+02:00

In a roundup of 12 of the world's best TV series, Germany's top-selling daily newspaper the Bild did not place a single home-grown series in its list.

All but one spot went to American and British shows such as Homeland, Downton Abbey and, of course, Breaking Bad.

Critics and viewers have enjoyed a glut of high quality programmes in recent years, not just from the US and UK but from around Europe, among them gritty crime dramas Spiral from France, Sweden's Wallander, and The Killing from Denmark.

So how is it that Germany, Europe's most powerful economy and a country renowned for its cultural prowess, has not exported a successful TV series for a quarter of a century?

Their last truly internationally successful programme could shed some light on the answer.

The last taste of global success German TV had was the cop drama Derrick, which ran 281 episodes from 1973 to 1998 and was exported to over 100 countries.

But despite its success, Derrick was hardly renowned for its outstanding dramatic quality. Thinker and critic Umberto Eco used the series for a book called Derrick or a Passion for Mediocrity in 2000.

And the series which do well in the country now are not breaking any new ground in terms of dramatic merit, with the ratings dominated by Germany's perennial cheap soap operas and police action shows.

The "mediocrity" that Eco saw in Derrick is still plaguing the industry, it seems.

Uwe Mantel, from the media magazine DWDL, told The Local that the dominance of the two state-financed TV networks contributed to the dearth of high-quality programming in Germany.

"When you look at the German market, it's basically just ARD and ZDF that make the programmes," he said, "ZDF mostly just make crime shows, and the ARD have a lot of low budget programmes."

"RTL and Sat1 make a few," Mantel added, mentioning the popular RTL action series "Alarm for Cobra 11: The Motorway Police", whose own web page summarizes it as "full of action and fast cars."

But the most popular German shows are all made by the "big two" networks.

According to DWDL's ratings report for 2012, the top ten most-watched series were all produced by either ARD or ZDF. The list was topped by ARD's For Heaven's Sake, a series about Bavarian nuns trying to stop their monastery being demolished.

And soap operas, such as the infamous Good Times, Bad Times, consistently score highly in the ratings. "They have a big audience, but mostly it's a very old audience," said Mantel.

But Germany has a big problem with selling its shows abroad. "The TV series culture here is not working. There's not much that's exportable, because there isn't much that can even stand on its own two feet here in Germany,” Mantel said.

There are exceptions to the low-quality norm, however. ARD's Weissensee, a family drama set in communist East Berlin in the 1980s, has straddled the border between critical success and viewing figures better than most.

The first episode of the second series was watched by 5.24 million viewers, a result that would make Weissensee a competitor with the top ten series, if the high-budget, high-quality drama can keep up its ratings.

Despite a long absence from screens and the confusing release of the second series on DVD before it was even broadcast, the series' "superb cast and fresh dramatic style" does it credit, according to TV critic website Serienjunkies.de.

The website hailed the first series as "evidence that it pays to invest in the quality of German series."

But watching one episode of Good Times, Bad Times should rid anyone of the belief in the website's 2010 claim that Weissensee heralded a "minor renaissance" in German television.

READ MORE: British family goes native in Germany for TV show

Alex Evans

Follow us on Twitter @thelocalgermany

Like The Local Germany on Facebook

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
German hospitals ready for Ebola patients
Hamburg's UKE isolation ward is ready to take patients. Photo: DPA

German hospitals ready for Ebola patients

Germany's high-tech isolation wards remained on alert on Friday, ready to receive Ebola patients should they be required to. German airports seemed less prepared for the potential dangers of the viral epidemic, however. READ  

Two die in Bremen plane crash
The fire caused by the crash. Photo: DPA

Two die in Bremen plane crash

UPDATE: Two men died on Friday afternoon when a plane crashed in Bremen, causing a fire and a series of explosions in a warehouse near the city's airport. READ  

Merkel's party mutinies over tax cuts
Merkel in Münster last year at a meeting of her party's workers' wing. Photo: DPA

Merkel's party mutinies over tax cuts

Chancellor Angela Merkel faced a rebellion from within her own party on Friday after an unlikely coalition formed in favour of tax cuts for workers on lower incomes. READ  

Expat Dispatches
'Look at those German shanty towns!'
Kleingärten in Leipzig. Photo: DPA

'Look at those German shanty towns!'

Visitors to Germany can sometimes be confused by the country's love of allotments in cities, known as a Kleingarten. Teacher and blogger Kathleen Ralf tells us what it's all about. READ  

Lightning rods further delay Berlin Airport
Closed until further notice: Berlin's troubled new airport. Photo: DPA

Lightning rods further delay Berlin Airport

Too few lightning rods and an undersized emergency generator have prevented part of Berlin's new airport from opening. Safety inspectors refused to sign off on the airport's north pier, thwarting progress on the massively delayed construction project. READ  

Two thirds of Berlin's tourist flats now illegal
Photo: DPA

Two thirds of Berlin's tourist flats now illegal

Two thirds of Berlin's 12,000 tourist apartments advertised on sites such as Airbnb were being run illegally from Friday following a law change, leaving hosts open to potential punishment. READ  

Lost goat halts Munich Airport trains
Fritzi underneath the train. Photo: Freiwillige Feuerwehr Unterschließheim/DPA

Lost goat halts Munich Airport trains

A lost pet goat called Fritzi halted trains to Munich Airport and had to be rescued from the tracks after suffering a concussion. READ  

Germany crowned U19 European Champions
Photo: EPA/Tibor Illyes HUNGARY OUT

Germany crowned U19 European Champions

Germany’s U19 football team added to a glorious summer of sport for the country by winning the European Championships in Budapest on Thursday night. READ  

World War I anniversary
100 years ago, Germans celebrated war's outbreak
August 1914. German soldiers march off to war in France. Photo: DPA

100 years ago, Germans celebrated war's outbreak

A hundred years ago on Friday Germany declared war on Russia and was preparing for an attack on France in the hope that Britain would stay neutral. Four years on, famine was ravaging the country and two million soldiers had been killed on the battlefield. READ  

Environment Agency urges fast fracking ban
Photo: DPA

Environment Agency urges fast fracking ban

Germany's Federal Environment Agency (UBA) is encouraging lawmakers to hurry up and ban fracking in all but name, saying the process is too dangerous to even consider allowing. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Society
Meet the man allowed to grow his own cannabis
Photo: DPA
Society
Your lottery numbers are 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13...
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Five reasons to visit Oktoberfest (and five not to)
Photo: DPA
Society
Huge Bavarian crop circle puzzles crowds
Photo: DPA
Analysis & Opinion
Have Your Say: Should Germany legalize cannabis?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Hamburg harbour lit up in blue
Business & Money
JobTalk: 'Application process is failing'
Photo: DPA
Society
This man wants to give all of us €12,000 a year
Photo: DPA
Education
Top university switches master's courses to English
Travel
Plans unveiled for bike trail along former Iron Curtain
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Education
Raising the bar for law & business in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
Photo: DPA
Features
The Local List Archive - Your guide to all things German
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Sponsored Article
Bilingual school turning education on its head
Sponsored Article
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,290
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd