Friday, 10 April 2009

Hallelujah für die Fernbedienung...Zap

All right already. The headline's in German.

But if you're at all interested in what that country's telly has to offer on one particular evening - read on.

If not - do as I do and. Zap...

Yep it's part three in this rather off-the-wall look at the silver screen in different countries.

I've already "done" the US and France, now it's time for Germany - because I was all cultured-out after having dragged my 13-year-old Godson around the fabulous chateau de Fontainebleau for the afternoon and because satellite is a wonderful thing.

Actually I was supposed to be "researching" for this Autumn's general election when Germany's chancellor, Angela Merkel, is hoping for an outright win and to wave "bye bye" to the Grand Coalition.

But that's for a future date.

For now, join me while I grab what really is Man's Best Friend (forget all that nonsense about dogs) settle back on the sofa and happily zap my way through an evening's viewing - German style.

Ah satellite TV.

Here in France, I have access to all the national German channels, although for some reason there's no sound on either of the public broadcasters, ARD and ZDF.

Still to make up for that there's a slew of commercial stations offering more-or-less the same sort of thing, RTL, VOX, Sat1, Prosieben and so on and so forth.

Plus there's the all-news N-TV - a sort of German CNN and a dozen or so regional variations of public telly.

First up was Vox's Das Perfekte Dinner, based on the British programme Come Dine With Me.

Each week five "hobby cooks" compete by playing host to one another and serving up their version of what makes the ideal meal.

They don't know each other at the start of the week, but by Friday they've sampled the cooking skills and hospitality of one another and awarded points - in secret of course.

I'm addicted and always try to catch it if I'm home in time, following with almost slavish devotion in the hope that I'll learn something.

This week's "motley crew" are from the northern German city of Bremen and there are only four of them because Friday is of course Karfreitag (Good Friday) and there'll be special holiday programming.

It's not a very inspiring bunch and there seems to be more alcohol flowing than food on the table so. And besides there's about to be a break for commercials, so. Zap...

Over to RTL and the long-running soap Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten, GZSZ (Good Times, Bad Times).

It's wooden-top acting par excellence blended of course with the most improbable of plots.

It doesn't really matter if you've missed it for a couple of months and don't know who two-thirds of the cast are.

The stalwarts seem to stick around forever even if there's also a huge turnover of characters who have been "killed off" "moved" or disappeared".

Do soap operas have an unusually high mortality rate in comparison with real life? I'm sure someone, somewhere is busy compiling the statistics. Perhaps as part of a University degree course. Zap....

Back to Vox and more cooking this time in the form of Unter Volldampf.

Past winners of Das Perfekte Dinner pit their culinary skills against each other in a professional restaurant environment over the course of the week.

The "guinea pigs" are the clientele, who mark each of the five courses. There's a bottle of bubbly for the winner each day and €3,000 for the overall victor at the end of the week.

Is there no end to cooking on German telly? Zap...

News - well it had to make its appearance in the evening schedule somewhere didn't it?

This time it's on N-TV - a sort of German version of CNN except that the presenters are somewhat "stiffer" and there's little of that fast-paced delivery that characterises US broadcasts.

The big international story of course is still Italy - and the earthquake and the after-tremors.

The number of dead has risen, there's a preview of the state funeral being organised for Friday, and I'm transfixed and wondering what it must be like to lose everything in such as short space of time as I watch the the report of rescue workers still picking through the debris.

It's really where television news and in particular the pictures it can relay come into their own. But sometimes, I have to admit, it just seems a little too voyeuristic.

After 10 minutes I feel in need of the inevitable. Zap...

Over to Sat 1. There should be one of those US imports on. I never really understand them as I don't tune in often enough to keep up with the characters.

Instead it's football and the Uefa Cup quarterfinal first leg between Hamburg and Manchester City.

Oh dear - 90 minutes of teams that aren't quite good enough to make the Champions League. No thank you. Zap...

Now this is more like it. Prosieben. - another commercial station and hey it's Germany's version of America's Next Top Model - only of course it's not called that.

No Tyra Banks though as Germany has its very own supermodel in the shape of Heidi Klum and two rather camp guys who coach the girls how to walk the walk and talk the talk.

There are still 10 girls left in the competition (one will be kicked out tonight) so it looks set to drag on for a while yet, and of course the talons are out and there's the one "everyone loves to hate" being given more than her fair share of airtime - or so it seems - as the show hopes to push up the ratings with some wannabe-supermodel bitchiness.

Tonight's challenge is to look "glamourous" while POLE DANCING in a studio in New York's Meatpacking district.


Ah Reality TV - dontcha just love it? Zap...

It's getting late but I'm convinced there must be something requiring the use of the odd neurone or two to watch and sure enough there it is on Arte.

This is a Franco-German station, available on good old terrestrial TV in both countries and of course in both languages.

It's very worthy, often highbrow and bills itself as a European culture channel and aiming to promote quality programming.

In other words as it's not in the battle for ratings, its schedule isn't dominated by what might be described as the "lowest common denominator".

The only downside of that concept it that very few people in either Germany or France actually watch.

Tonight it's offering an interesting debate on malnutrition in Europe, and apparently 10 per cent of the continent's population suffers from it.

Although it's a compelling programme, it's already a little late when it starts (almost 10;30 pm) and it'll last for an hour.

Why, I wonder, aren't these things scheduled when people are still awake enough to watch and listen properly.

Rhetorical question really I guess as then they would have to go head-to-head with more popular programmes on the other channels.

It's fast approaching 11 pm and I'm clearly not going to make it to the end.

Plus I have an early start tomorrow (Good Friday isn't a public holiday here in France) so one final. Zap...

And the box is off.

Have to admit an evening's viewing of German telly isn't nearly as entertaining even with the remote control as it is in the US.

But for the moment, that's your lot.

Gute Nacht.

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