Was läuft am Fernsehen?
June 2, 2012 8:02 PM   Subscribe

I'm moving to Berlin next month. What should I watch on German tv? I'm looking for something, preferably weekly primetime, with a storyline that will pull me in, and language that's hopefully not too obscuredly regional or slangy or jargony. I could be happy with any genre. I'm looking to improve my German. Currently my German is clunky but functional. I will also of course be out and about, taking courses, finding my way around, speaking with people. Also, just, what's good on tv in Germany?
posted by dmvs to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Unfortunately the answer to your question, "what's good on German TV?" is, "pretty much nothing." OK, there's "Tatort" most Sunday nights, that's a police procedural that is set in a different part of Germany each week, standing cast for each region (people like or dont like particular ones, "Ech, it's Müchen this week, I hate München") but revolving directors/writers, hence the unreliable quality. Lots of regional dialects mixed with 'hoch Deutsch'.
Then there's "Die Ludolfs" which I thought was amazing when I first got here. They're a family (two brothers and a cousin, I think) that own an automotive junkyard. They have 'projects' they do each week and generally just hang out. They seem like really nice, obese, bachelor, live in the house they grew up in next to the junkyard guys. A little like reality tv but without being absolutely driven by conflict.
Dubbed movies as well which, honestly, I find painful.
posted by From Bklyn at 9:46 PM on June 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, just, what's good on tv in Germany?

German television is not very good. Most shows are either overdubbed US imports, "reality TV", musical competitions, or terrible dating shows like Bauer Sucht Frau and Schwiegertochter gesucht that are made with the sole purpose of mocking people. News and documentaries are usually excellent, but it's mostly a wasteland outside of that.

Anyway, shows that aren't totally terrible, in my opinion:

* I personally find Tatort, on ARD, rather boring, but it's sometimes well made and worth a try to see if you like it.
* Schillerstraße, on Sat 1 - One of the few German shows to actually be exported to other markets, and one of the few German comedies that are actually funny. I haven't seen it in a while, so I'm not sure it's still being broadcast.
* I don't know if ARD will ever broadcast it again, but the Weissensee mini-series was top-notch. It may be a difficult show for someone with intermediate German to understand, though, since it was set in the DDR and IIRC several characters spoke with a pretty thick dialect.
* Schlag den Raab - One member of the public competes with Television Personality Stephan Raab in various contests. It's entertaining, at least.
* The quiz shows are good, if you're into quiz shows. They're usually licensed versions of international ones: Wer Wird Millionär, Rette Die Millionen and Drei bei Kai come immediately to mind.
* Goodbye Deutschland is a documentary series about Germans who have emigrated elsewhere. I think it's on Vox. As an immigrant to Germany, it's fun to see the experience in the opposite direction.
* heuteshow, on ZDF, is the German version of the Daily Show. Not as good as the Daily Show, of course, but they try their best.
* There are plenty of soap operas that I've never been able to get into, like Lindenstrasse, but if you're into that sort of thing, you could give it a try.
* I don't usually admit this in public, but when Achtung Kontrolle is on, I can't help but watch it. It gives a bit of a background look into what police and customs officers do in Germany.
posted by cmonkey at 10:10 PM on June 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

I kind of like Tatort too and in Berlin there are a few pubs which show it on a Sunday evening which is odd enough that it's worth experiencing.

Not weekly primetime by any means but I love Sachgeschichten! They are little 5 or 10 minute episodes explaining everyday things. I find them pretty fascinating and they are a good way of expanding vocabulary. It's made by WDR (Westdeutscher Rundfunk) so I don't know if you'll be able to get it on TV in Berlin.
posted by neilb449 at 11:37 PM on June 2, 2012

When I was in Germany, I loved watching Achtung Kontrolle! It was really great practice for hearing conversational German in a variety of situations. It was usually pretty obvious what they were kontrolling, so I didn't have too much trouble figuring out what was going on. Plus some of it is hilarious - weights and measurements, white glove examinations of hotel rooms, catching people bringing smokes across the border.....

I also liked Das perfekte Dinner for the same reason. It is a reality competition show where every week night one person in a group hosts dinner for all of the others and they score each other. At the end of the week, the one with the highest score wins. You get to know the contestants over the course of the week and can hear people having normal-ish conversations.
posted by munichmaiden at 12:00 AM on June 3, 2012

Thanks, people. I've heard good things about Tatort, and I love the idea of watching it in a pub in Berlin. I see that my fave, 30 Rock, airs on German TNT. I'm sure the dubbing will be horrible, but, having seen each episode 2 or 3 times in English, I could certainly follow the storyline.
posted by dmvs at 3:25 AM on June 3, 2012

I was in Germany two years ago for a few weeks and when in Berlin, I found a TV show that was a game show that was hysterical. It involved putting every content into some sort of device (catapult, standing over a trap door, etc.) and asking them all a question and listing possible answers. All of the answers are right except one. Once a contestant selects an answer, the next must pick a different one. After all the answers are in (and a commercial break for dramatic effect) the contestant who picked the wrong answer has the device, whatever it is, triggered.

I'm sorry I forget the name (I'm sure one of the above posters here could chime in) but as someone who spoke practically no German, this show was pretty funny and allowed me to start picking up some conversation phrases.
posted by Brian Puccio at 6:14 AM on June 3, 2012

Strange that nobody has mentioned arte yet, a joint Franco-German public broadcaster that fills very much the same highbrow niche as PBS in the US. Sometimes boring, occasionally pretentious, but usually quite high-quality programming, especially documentaries and movies.
posted by Skeptic at 1:35 PM on June 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

This isn't t.v., per se, but Deutsche Welle started two telenovela series which I've heard good things about. I think I first saw it mentioned in this Slate article which describes the series -- Radio D might be good for your purposes since you already have a functional command of the language.
posted by stellaluna at 1:34 PM on June 4, 2012

Cmonkey makes some really good suggestions above. I'm seconding all of the following...

Tatort. It's a very popular crime drama in Germany among people I know, both Germans and foreigners. It's too advanced language-wise for me, so I find it boring, but you may be at the level where you may enjoy it.

Goodbye Deutschland. My personal favourite German show, as a beginner level German speaker. It's a TLC-type reality show following the lives of German expats in various countries. I find it amusing to see things in reverse of my own experience. It's interesting to me because there's the shared experience of a stranger in another land. Language-wise, it's a mix of proper German from the narrator, and dialect/accents from the participants. Any language that's too slangy or unclear is subtitled, which is helpful.

Heuteshow. Quite good if you want to work on your German politics and humour and current events. He's kind of a like a young German David Letterman. The language is slightly beyond my grasp but I think it'll be a staple once my Deutsch has gotten better.
posted by exquisite_deluxe at 2:47 PM on June 5, 2012

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