such is an old saying in Vienna, especially popular among the working class Viennese, referring to hardiness and the ability to withstand all tribulation of daily life at least until death catches up. You hear that saying in working-class quarters like 'Faforiten', where you'll find the Haselgasse, which is where "Ein Echter Wiener geht nicht unter" takes place.
Meet the Sackbauers, a family of true Viennese proletarians: Proud head of the clan as well is Edmund 'Mundl' Sackbauer: descending from a long line of workers, he has a soft heart inside a rough exterior, as inarticulate in putting his ideas into words as he is eloquent at verbally expressing his spontaneous outbursts of rage. Toni, his resolute but ever-loyal wife, keeps the fragile net of sanity that is the Sackbauer-family together. Firstborn son Karli is a younger and (still) slightly more naïve carbon copy of his raving father, a man-child, which often leads Mundl to the conclusion, he must have been a "Rauschkindl" (conceived during drunkenness) and Hanni, the youngest daughter. Although loving her family, Hanni unconsciously wishes she had been born into a better "milieu". Further protagonists are Schani, Mundls older brother and sole voice of reason among the Sackbauers, Hannis boyfriend Franzi (a writer whom Mundel disdains as an intellectual, mockingly calling him "Nuddlauge" or "noodle-eye") and Irmi, Karlis fiancé, whose bourgeois parents tend to look down at the Sackbauers, never tired to remind him of his inability to eat chicken without using his hands.
We follow the clan through their mundane, everyday occurrences, tribulations and victories: Family vacations ("Der Urlaub"), Inheritances ("Die Erbschaft"), celebrations ("Stille Nacht" & "Jahreswende"), pregnancies ("Grossvater"), Mundl loosing his job and consequent his search for a new one ("Abgruende"), Karli falling in love with a prostitute ("Unterwelt") and many more within the 24 episodes that were produced.
Unless you grew up in this part of Vienna, you may find it a strange, slightly bizarre world: Apartments with tapestries that seem to come from the times of Mozart, where the kitchen can be converted into a bathing room and where the fridge is always in a position so that beer can be reached while one sits on the couch. Where the man of the house is never seen without holding a half-empty beer (which his wife constantly reminds him he's holding in his hand, whenever his eyes take on a searching expression), where the beer is drunk straight from the bottle and where a left hand not holding a burning cigarette seems strangely empty.
It would have been very easy to make this series a parody of Viennese white trash, in the vein of "Married with family" or "Rosanne" and to have the Sackbauers as butt of a joke for anybody socially higher than them. Instead, producer Ernst Hinterberger approach is non-judgemental rather than gawk at Mundl, he forces us to reflect and, in the end, makes us laugh with Mundl, rather than about.
Few TV-shows from Austria have become quiet as iconic as "Echter Wiener"; few series ever achieved the ratings or cult-status of this series that lasted a mere five years. Even more remarkable is that the various levels of society, a hierarchy that is as rigid as it is old, love the show for very different reasons: For the working class Austrian this is a form of soap-opera that precisely depicts them and their lifestyles; the middle class loves the show because of the wonderful linguistic twists, Mundls outbreaks and the humour that is the basis of almost every episode while the intellectuals see it as a very accurate, semi-documental "milieu-study".
However, be warned: even if you speak perfect German, if you're not familiar with the Viennese dialect, either watch it with subtitles or not at all because you won't understand a word.
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