NY Times features German “Tatort” TV series

by Bill Dawson on 27 August 2009

As the show’s biggest American fan (I hereby claim that title), I was very pleased to see that the New York Times Television section contains an article about Tatort, the weekly German police drama.  The series, as the article points out, is almost 40 years old.  I’ve been watching it religiously for probably about 8 years, and not just the new episodes, but also the several and frequent repeats of older episodes which are broadcast on ARD (Germany’s primary public television network) regional divisions.   Though I live in Austria, our cable service luckily includes seven of the regional German stations: from the North (NDR), West (WDR), Middle (MDR), Hessen (HR), Southwest (SWR), Bavaria (BR), and Berlin/Brandenburg (RBB).  On any given night, you have a pretty good chance of finding a Tatort re-run on one of those stations.  Then on several Sundays during the year at 20:15 the newest episode comes on ARD itself.  I confess to getting a little excited each time I see that a new episode is coming on.

The most important point about Tatort made in the Times article is the regional nature of the episodes themselves:

There are 15 versions of “Tatort” produced by the various regional divisions of ARD, the German public broadcasting system. So this means there’s a Leipzig “Tatort,” a Frankfurt “Tatort,” a Bremen “Tatort,” a Kiel “Tatort,” a Stuttgart “Tatort” and even a Vienna one, made by Austrian television, all of which take turns sharing the Sunday time slot with “Polizeiruf 110,” the former East German knockoff of the show, still producing new episodes occasionally.

Consider the show a kind of microcosm of the German Federal Republic. Its producers proudly tout it that way. Each “Tatort” makes something of its regional roots, with actors speaking in local accents, solving crimes based on local imbroglios. [my emphasis, just to point out that there is an Austrian one too.]

This regional flair is the feature of the show that really helped me learn to understand German. The different accents and local dialect lead you to pay close attention to what’s being said; that makes for great practice.

Anyway it’s quite nice to see it mentioned in a major US paper, since I can never share my own enjoyment of the show with friends back home — they just don’t “get it!”

bill November 8, 2009 at 1:18 am

Hi Ann,
Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. That’s really interesting that they only showed the Cologne team! It’s too bad they took it off the air. I’m not sure if you follow it, but that team is still current in Cologne: Klaus Behrendt and Dietmar Bär.

Here’s a good link for you: you can write and ask for Behrendt’s autograph. 😉

Again thanks for stopping by,

Ann November 8, 2009 at 1:03 am

Tatort (the Cologne version) used to be shown in the Washington DC area on one of the MhZ public TV channels, but they have taken it off the air (along with Water Rats, an Australian police show I also enjoyed).

I think that Klaus Behrendt is like a Germanic Tommy Lee Jones … he is just the best!

bill September 17, 2009 at 12:58 pm

Hi Alan,

Are you the Alan from back in “Billspricht.net” days? If so, nice to see you again! If not, welcome!

Speaking of Otti Fischer, he’s in the news today … http://bit.ly/igk28. Poor son of a gun.

I’d never heard of Kinoplus — just checked it out. Looks good! Hope you get it.

Take care,

Alan September 17, 2009 at 1:40 am

I grind my teeth in envy waiting for when the Canadian government regulators let German KinoPlus broadcast into Canada. I’d pay a lot for Tatort. I am paying now for Der Bulle von Toelz, but Tatort would be the cream!

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