The Mouse

Field Mouse. isolated. striped field mouse

Every country has its famous kids’ TV programmes. When I was in Gymnasium, one of my German teachers told the teenage class, much to the latter’s incredulous amusement, that his favourite TV programme of all times was Die Sendung mit der Maus, a kids’ show. Learn more about this ominous mouse and why it’s still all the rage today …

Well, to tell you the truth, my English husband loves that programme too. It may not be obvious to first-time watchers, but the best part of the show are the so-called Sachgeschichten, the documentary-style stories that tell you about things or show you how things are made. Most of these clips are truly interesting, even to adults, because often we’re not aware, for example, of all the steps involved for a posted parcel to reach its recipient (see this clip) or how an episode of Shaun the Sheep is made (see here).

What is more, the Sachgeschichten are excellent for learners of German because, as it is targeted at children, complex processes are explained in plain, slow-spoken German.

Just like the popular board game Mensch Ärgere Dich Nicht, Die Sendung mit der Maus is a proper German invention and not an adapted format from another country. You will find more background information on the programme on Wikipedia.

Having two small children, my husband and I get quite a few opportunities to watch the programme together with them. (It is aired every Sunday morning on ARD, annoyingly at different times, and repeated on KiKa.) When we watched it one Sunday earlier this year, we were all particularly delighted because it was a special about Great Britain. I do recommend watching it and have put it on my Links page. Here are the direct links to both parts: Teil 1 and Teil 2.

You may think of it what you will. The show is (or has been) sexist to some extent, as most German TV still is today. But within its cultural context, it is simply one of the most popular German TV programmes ever for children.

Each episode offers something for different age groups: the mouse cartoons are targeted at smaller children (for our two-year-old, that’s all she wants to watch), the other cartoons and fun stories are for older children, and the documentaries appeal to nerds of all ages (and, as we all know, most parents are nerds).

I just wondered why it actually is that most parents are nerds. I think it’s because children ask so many questions. And parents need to find a child-friendly way of explaining all kinds of things which they have no clue about at first. (Seriously: no prep-time! You’re in the bathroom brushing your teeth, next thing you know, you have to give a full-blown presentation on the solar system. Impromptu-speech practice at interpreting uni class was a walk in the park in comparison – at least there we had five full minutes to prepare!) So you start being inquisitive and wanting to find out how things work.

First you tell yourself, it’s all for your child. But after a while you realise you’re totally into it yourself. And isn’t that the best bit about parenting when everyone gets something out of it?

Here’s another thought: I recently read that things that used to be seen as nerdy are now in demand because they are analogue and provide a haven from our busy digitised lives. Things like gardening, vinyl, board games, hardcopy books, crafts etc.

So modern parents are nostalgic nerds. And loving it!

The Pommes Buddha says: Go on and have some cheesy fun!

  

The Crime Scene

Fadenkreuz

Have you ever asked a German what she does on Sunday night? Try it! A great deal of my fellow countrypeople will say, ‘Sunday night is Tatort night!’ You (and many Germans) may think of it what you will, but you can’t begin to grasp the German psyche without investigating (pun intended) the Tatort (= crime scene) phenomenon. Let’s embark on a somewhat bumpy journey through German television history.

It’s a mystery: along with Dinner for one, Tatort is one of the shows with the highest TV ratings ever, yet many Germans will admit that they don’t actually enjoy watching it all that much. We just grew up with it.

The first Tatort was broadcasted in 1970. The thing that strikes the unsuspecting viewer is that the opening sequence and music have never been changed. You’ll think you’re stuck in a time warp. It’s like Point Pleasant Police Department, only for real. At least the episodes are recent. The concept is based on twenty-odd changing locations around Germany, and sometimes Austria and Switzerland, with the investigation team in each town or city remaining the same. Each 90-minute episode is thus a separate, self-sufficient unit.

Tatort is often criticised for being overly serious and socio-critical and accused of delivering Betroffenheitsfernsehen. Some viewers miss the light-heartedness and tranquility of Cornwall-set British crime series or the tech-savviness and action of the average US series. However, everyone has one or two favourite Tatorte. The witty Tatort Münster, for example, has evolved into something like a cult, with a rating of just short of 13 million and an expansive following, including a number of fan-fiction writers. One of my personal favourites (although I truly rarely ever watch it at all) is the new Tatort Saarbrücken with the divine Devid Striesow. And, historically, one must mention the roughneck Kommissar Schimanski, played by Götz George, who has gone down in TV history.

As it is so controversial, Tatort is ridiculed, worshipped and modified in many ways (just search on YouTube). Some Germans claim they only watch Tatort to follow the simultaneous live tweets online because it is so much fun making fun of it. And German comedian Michael Kessler calls it Tatort-Terror.

The bottom line is: you have to watch at least three different Tatorte before you’re entitled to dismiss the show. And if you don’t get it, you’ve at least learned that German TV is … different.

Let’s hear about how guys (and some girls) make a difference next week.

The Pommes Buddha says: Murder is the best medicine.

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