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Gottschalk jumps to ARD after Wetten, dass ..? accident

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Gottschalk jumps to ARD after Wetten, dass ..? accident
Photo: DPA
15:38 CEST+02:00
In the wake of an on-air accident that left a young man paralysed after a botched stunt, TV presenter Thomas Gottschalk has quit broadcaster ZDF to host a new chat show on rival public network ARD.

Gottschalk, who has already quit his long-running variety show Wetten, dass ..?, will present an evening show four nights a week on the ARD channel Das Erste.

The popular 61-year presenter, famed for his blond curls, occasional D'Artagnan beard and velvet suits, quit his former show in February after hosting the mix of music, interviews and challenges performed by members of the public since 1987.

Candidate Samuel Koch seriously injured his spine on the programme in December after falling badly while using spring boots to jump over moving cars. He remains paralysed from the neck down. Gottschalk's producers came under criticism in the wake of the accident for allegedly introducing increasingly dangerous stunts in a bid to secure ratings.

Starting January, the new half-hour live show running from Monday to Thursday on ARD will have guests from the entertainment and arts industries to discuss issues of the day. The show will be interactive, with viewers able to participate in the discussions via Twitter, Facebook and Skype, but there will be no studio audience.

“The serious side of life belongs on the news,” Gottschalk said in a statement posted by ARD. “But there is, thank God, as well as politics, epidemics and financial crisis, also still the whole everyday madness. I'll be responsible for those in the future.”

He was “absolutely ready for this challenge,” he said.

ZDF reacted to the announcement with equanimity.

“Thomas Gottschalk and ZDF were a successful symbiosis over decades,” boss Markus Schächter said. “We would have liked to continue.”

He added: “I wish him every luck and success.”

Gottschalk would nevertheless return in the autumn for three special episodes of Wetten, dass ..?

ZDF is meanwhile looking for a new host for the programme, which is to continue.

It remains unclear whether Gottschalk and his wife Thea will return to live in Germany. Since the early 1990s, the couple have lived with their two sons mainly in Malibu, nearly Los Angeles in the US.

An ARD spokesman said it was also yet to be determined whether the new show would be produced in Germany or the US – in which case many of the interviews would need to be done via satellite hook-up.

DAPD/The Local/djw

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