Assi TV – Germany’s Jersey Shore

Bad Girls Club?  No way.  It's "Böse Mädchen" for Germany.Rethink your classy connotations of society, its time to bring on EuroTrash. Welcome to RTL, Germany’s quasi-copy-cat-less-relevant version of VH1 minus all the “Behind the Music” substance.  We’re looking at straight daytime television here, folks and all predictions point to trash.

RTL is infamous throughout Germany, France, Luxembourg, England and most Western European countries for it’ mixture of talkshows, reality TV, but most importantly, what the Germans fondly term, “Assi Fernsehen.”  Don’t know what Assi means?  Let’s get you the basics.

Assi is a combination of what Germans coined “Asozial,” directly translating to Anti-Social.  However, Germans (notorious for their love of word play and dubious double meanings) play up the spelling of this abbreviation, toying with the word “ass.”  Which literally translates… to ass.  And the vulgarity only goes deeper.

So, let me spell this one out for you just one more time to be certain you get it.

Get it?  Good.

Okay?  Okay.  Moving forward…

Now, there are many subcategories of Assi TV.  Just like on that American boob tube, you’ll find your overly dramatic, life changing talk-show,  your typical video-cameras-in-the-faces-of-dysfunctional-families-who-need-counseling documentaries, and the famous German-termed “Doku-Soap” (the bottom of the abyss where documentation and soap operas swirl ominously).

So,  Let’s discuss.

Overly Dramatic, Life Changing Talkshow

In this category, any daytime television watching German will immediately tell you, you need to watch BrittBritt is a talkshow so kindly self-termed a “comedy show” by its makers at SAT.1.  However, after watching a few episodes, your average American viewer will start to notice some running similarities that sets a little bell ringing in the back of your head.  That bell… is called the Jerry Springer bell.  With show titles spanning the range from “Du Bitch” to “DNA Test- Passen wir wirklich zusammen?” Britt is very Springer, indeed.  More of a Maury fan in the first place? No problem.  See for yourself.

Video-Cameras-in-the-Faces-of-Dysfunctional-Families-who-Need-Counseling Documentaries

This is a category also hideously well-known to the average American television connoisseur.  We’re running much more along the lines of Jersey Shore here.  The top Assi show in Germany that falls under this sub-category is without a doubt Familien im BrennpunktFamilien im Brennpunkt shows every day during the week at 4PM in Germany on RTL (Germany’s pseudo-VH1) and supposedly  “begleitet im Stil einer Doku Konflikte unter deutschen Daechern, die Anwaelte und Gerichte beschaeftigen: Scheidungsdramen, Sorgerechtsstreitigkeiten,Probleme rund um die Anerkennung der Vaterschaft oder Probleme mit Aemtern und Behoerden.”  Whew.  Let’s break it down now y’all.  Basically, what RTL is trying to say, is this show covers (with STYLE!) complaints that generally require lawyers and pertain to common law.  You know.  Things like mega-divorce, Fist fights, Problems with and questions about paternity,  general wanting to stick it to the man, 13 year olds with babies and children who won’t poop on the toilet.  Each show revolves around a different set of dysfunctional people doing hideously dysfunctional things. Typical Trash TV gold.

Doku-Soap

Finally, the best for last–The “Doku-Soap.”  Be it following people with a “love” (ahem) for animals or a 50 year old woman with an Ultra-Crush on the boyband, Tokio Hotel, the DokuSoap Mitten im Leben has it all.  Mitten im Leben has been termed the purest of the pure when it comes to Assi Television in Germany.   Each episode is an hour of premium filth, the clearest of embarassment to humanity.  Descriptions do not do it justice.

Albeit the extreme lack of English language throughout the clips provided, it remains extraordinarily evident, trash TV is a banal human desire.  We need it.  Its global, universal and in a way connects us all.

Beautiful, isn’t it?

Komödie vs. Comedy – Understanding German Humor

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Germany is experiencing the end of an era with the recent August 22nd death of Bernhard Victor Christoph Carl von Bülow, pseudonym “Loriot.”  For decades, Loriot has characterized and personified German humor, as well as confused and confounded American and British comedians.

It would be a decently safe assumption to say that Loriot lead and directed German humor.  His influence is massive and lives on even after his death.  Dieter Wedel, one of Germany’s most famous television directors (known for shows like Tatort and Schwarz Rot Gold) once said, “The Germans don’t have any sense of humor — the Germans have Loriot!” However, such a broad, sweeping statement also asks the question, what is German humor and why is it so widely misunderstood?

Loriot is known for his live action sketches, but even more so, for his cartoons.  His work reflects the mindset and pervasive “German” perspective on life and human interactions.  Most of his humor stems from problems with communication between individuals during every day life, the comedy therein coming from the staunchly formal nature of the German language.  Loriot was, as per usual with all typically German writers, a stickler for grammar.  In this sense, Americans attempting to understand German humor often deal with the problem of the fundamental humor being, so to say, “lost in translation.”

Many German jokes are based on double meanings, coming from German’s favoritism towards taking many words, ideas and concepts and crashing them into one (sometimes absurdly) long compound word.  The German language has very strict grammatical structure and often relies more on humorous ideas opposed to English’s reliance on wordplay.  Loriot brought a sort of inanity to his work with the juxtaposition of his character’s dignified behavior against the exaggeration of their features.  This is typified in his short sketch Herren im Bad.

For the original version (auf Deutsch) click below

Herren im Bad (Men in the Bathtub)

Seriousness combined a focus on banal flaws is a stereotypical theme in German humor.  This is also seen in the way that Germans observe and perceive the world and people around them.  I mean, there is no serious data to prove this and I’m being entirely subjective, but in my experience, Germans do not focus on personality flaws as something you can easily change, but instead as something that is a basic part of a person’s being.  You aren’t dumb because you don’t study, you’re just dumb because you are.  They’re not going to shun you for being a bit socially inept, they’re just going to accept that you’re kinda weird and run with it.  Needless to say, Americans generally DO NOT get this.

The problem with German humor, is that you need to understand German to get it.  You can’t explain or clarify the nuances of German diction or the play of grammar in English.  Comedy doesn’t translate.  Loriot’s genius comes from the fact that he was exactly as meticulous with his words as he was with his physical comedy.  He made fun of the narrow-mindedness of and excessive formality of German while maintaining respect for the language’s tone and essence.

In response to Loriot’s death, Germany’s president of parliament, Norbert Lammert, captured von Bülow’s lasting effect on German humor and culture stating, “Vicco von Bülow put his stamp on cultural life in Germany for decades and, as Loriot, helped Germans to gain a more relaxed view of their mentality and habits.”

Stefan Kuzmany, a correspondant from Der Spiegel(Germany’s top newsmagazine) summed it up nicely: “Abschließend bleibt zu sagen, dass Loriots Tod absolut nicht nötig gewesen wäre. Unsterblich war er längst. Er wird es bleiben.”  (“Loriot’s death was absolutely unnecessary.  He had long since become immortal. And will remain it.”)

The Following Is Not a Test.

You know how it goes. You’re watching your favorite program and bam it happens: a commercial that seems harmless comes on. Then you find yourself singing the product jingle in the shower, on the bus, or at work. It’s there to stay!  In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy has taken extensive measures to prevent this problem for French viewers:

As of Jan. 5, after 8:00 p.m. there are now no commercials on public television in France and commercials will be phased out entirely by the year 2011.

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According to www.guardian.co.uk, Sarkozy introduced the ban idea to public stations, Television France 2 and France 3, in 2008 in an attempt to improve the quality of public television and compete with the BBC model. According to online.wsj.com, the loss in advertisements would be made up in a balancing scale, rearranging taxes for others:

The government has pledged to make up the resulting budget shortfall — which it estimates at €450 million in 2009 — with a new tax on Internet-service providers and mobile-phone operators, plus a levy on the ad revenues of private TV channels

However, some critics think Sarkozy is less concerned about upping quality of France’s public television and more about upping the money in the pocket of his friend Martin Bouygues owner of private channel, Television France 1:

…the only sector to benefit from the advertising ban would be private stations like France’s most watched TV channel TF1, which would face less competition for advertising revenue.

Not only will Sarkozy be controlling the advertisements on France television, he will also be controlling the content. After approval from The National Assembly, the head of France Television will no longer be selected by an independent party, but will instead be the choice of Sarkozy.

Responses from the media included strikes,  the possibility of television as political propaganda, and a book analyzing the mass effects of Sarkozy’s move with French television.

Sarkozy had this to say of his reasoning in a February of last year:

If we keep commercials we are subjecting ourselves to the tyranny of audience ratings. And this always means the worst programming dumbed down to lowest levels.

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Almost two years later as Sarkozy’s plan starts to come into action in French programming, with no effective rebuttals, one has to look at the validity of his efforts. How far is too far? Should his son make it into office, would he agree with the policies? Does Sarkozy’s plan take away the people’s voice?

Would this work in America?

The Monday Night Movie courtesy of Joseph Goebbels

‘Simplicity in Diversity’ is the title of a recent post on Politplatschquatsch. Comparing Prime Minister Merkel’s recent television performance to the grayness & monotony of the television produced by the ‘corrupt elite’ GDR, this poster is not only bored and disappointed but claims Merkel seemed less than thrilled herself.

Not all that special

Not all that special

Perhaps they too were traumatized as children when the first moon landing took precedent over the Batman after school programming.