Germany's Offbeat New Year's TV Tradition Is a Ratings Hit

An 11-minute black-and-white comedy sketch from 1963 continues to dominate German TV viewing on New Year's Eve, with ratings hitting a new high as the country rang in 2017.

More than 17 million Germans tuned in Dec. 31, 2016, to watch Dinner for One, a new ratings record for what has become an enduring, if inexplicable, TV tradition in the country.

The comedy skit stars the late, now-forgotten British music hall regular Freddie Frinton as James, a devoted butler to Miss Sophie (May Warden), an old aristocrat. Miss Sophie is celebrating her 90th birthday with her four closest friends. Sadly,...
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What's German for funny?

What makes Germans laugh – and why is it so different from what amuses the British? The answer may lie in a slapstick English comedy that became a TV favourite in Germany

The sketch is called Dinner for One, and it is easily described. The curtain opens on butler James laying a lavish dinner table. The lady of the house, Miss Sophie, wearing an elegant evening dress, descends a flight of stairs, and sits at the head of the table. We soon realise that it is her 90th birthday, and that something is not quite right. "Is everybody here?" Miss Sophie asks. "They're all here waiting, Miss Sophie, yes," James says, gesticulating towards the empty seats around the table. "Sir Toby?" Sophie asks. "Sir Toby is sitting here," James says, patting the back of the chair on Miss Sophie's right, and continues to assign seats to the imaginary guests named by
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