Germany: Home of the world’s worst TV

Wednesday, 2 October, 2013

No, this is not a post about the high-end TV maker Loewe AG, which filed for insolvency yesterday. Its dilemma was that it failed to keep up with innovative rivals such as Samsung and LG Electronics, and could not cope with the drop in the average price of TVs. The problem is not with the German TV; it’s with German television, which churns out endless hours of unwatchable bilge at enormous cost to the taxpayer. What these costs involve was revealed last month by Bild when it published figures associated with the pension entitlements of Monika Piel (62), who spent 36 years at WDR, the largest branch of ARD, the German association of public broadcasters. Bild reported that €3.18 million had been set aside for the departing bureaucrat’s retirement and that this would amount to monthly pension payments of up to €14,500.

Tonight in Cologne, the makers of the world’s most unwatchable television will meet to award each other the German Television Prize. The insolvency of Loewe is an evil omen for the event, but that won’t trouble the talentless, tasteless cadre in charge of producing 24/7 trash TV as much as two words from across the Atlantic: Breaking Bad. The US series has generated huge interest in Germany and those watching it are asking awkward questions: Who is responsible for the awful domestic output? What is all the money being spent on? Why can’t we do something like Mad Men? Where is our House of Cards? When will this billion-euro budgeted TV industry create something original?

While people wait for the answers, they should take a look at this opening scene from The Newsroom. Given an infinite amount of time, the infinite apparatchiks typing at ARD, ZDF and RTL would never create a minute of this kind of dialogue, and the unimaginative producers at ARTE or Sat.1 would never in their lifetimes deliver the collage of shots, lighting, angles and social critique we see here. This is as about as un-German as television can be.

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