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"Tatort" (= Crime Scene) is one of the most popular detective series on
German TV. Feature length (90 min) episodes air on roughly 30 Sundays
of the year - following the evening news at 8:15 p.m.
The public network ARD that shows "Tatort" is organized federally, i.e. it consists of a dozen regional TV stations. Each regional station have their own police team depicted in their region. So, there is a Berlin team, a Hamburg team, and so on - each have their own episodes under the common label. Larger regional stations like WDR (Cologne) add 3 or 4 episodes each year, smaller ones like tiny Radio Bremen just 1.
The style and setting vary with the teams - that is part of the fun of the series. Episodes from Frankfurt have been rather vanguard in terms of cinematography and storytelling, while the Münster team is famed for their witty dialogues and comic effects.
The regional differences also lead to a competition for audiences and public attention. Viewers tend to choose what team episodes to watch - with consequences for audience ratings and public discussions about the poor scripts or the cheap productions that the Tatorte from some stations have been suffering recently.
The feature length and the producers' ambitions to show not only entertaining crime stories but also to present social issues like child abuse, integration of immigrants, or school violence lead to high public awareness for "Tatort". Episodes are regularly reviewed in quality newspapers like Frankfurter Allgemeine or Süddeutsche Zeitung.
There's not a single comment (so far) for 'Tatort'? That's really hard
to believe, since it's a very long running and popular series here in
Germany. I have seen some episodes, but not enough to consider myself
an expert on the series. If you are an expert, please go ahead and add
Normally I always include a rating for the titles I comment on, but I think it would be unfair to do so in this case. I don't think I have seen any of the episodes from the 70s except for 'Reifezeugnis', and I haven't seen many of those of later years. I don't consider myself an avid fan of the series.
So what can I tell you about 'Tatort' ('crime scene')? The basic idea is interesting. There are about 35 episodes per year (at least nowadays). But you don't get to see the same team of detectives in every episode. There are different teams from different parts of Germany; that's what makes it interesting. (Some episodes even feature teams from other countries, namely Austria and Switzerland.)
But I think that, at least nowadays, too many episodes suffer from bad scripts. Often the cases are too confusing because they cram too much into the 90 minutes running time. If you are interested in examples, go to the user comments page for the episode 'Das Böse'. I have written a comment on it. There's also a somewhat similar comment for 'Der Kormorankrieg', titled 'Execrable' and written by a user called 'moabitnik'. (Please keep in mind that user comments are subject to change and deletion. Though it's unlikely, a comment might be different or gone tomorrow. I only refer to other comments because I think it would be redundant to repeat information that can be read elsewhere.) And I think that in many scripts there's too much 'political correctness', for example there are too many iffy 'power women' among the detectives.
Some more information that might be of interest:
Some episodes were only shown in Austria. They are listed as a spin-off on the 'movie connections' page for 'Tatort'.
'Reifezeugnis' is perhaps the most famous episode. It was directed by Wolfgang Petersen of 'Das Boot' fame and stars a young Nastassja Kinski.
I guess Schimanski, played by Götz George, is the most popular 'Tatort'-detective. He got a spin-off series and two theatrical movies were made with him.
The German experimental rock band Tangerine Dream wrote the title track for 'Das Mädchen auf der Treppe' and scored a hit with it in Germany.
Some episodes are no longer shown as reruns because their content is deemed too controversial. Some episodes have been edited after their original airing, for example because of unwanted product placement.
Every German who has a TV set is required by law to pay fees for the station that produces 'Tatort'. Believe it or not, you have to pay for it even if you don't watch it. So the makers don't have to try hard to get funding for the next episodes. I guess the quality of the series might improve if they had to try harder.
Based on the episodes I have seen in the last few years, I would give 'Tatort' a rating of four points out of ten. But, as I have mentioned above, I might be wrong, since I haven't watched many of the episodes, so I won't rate it.
Edit / addition (27th August 2008): In the last months, I have seen some reruns of old episodes from the 70s and 80s, and some new episodes. There were a lot of good episodes among both of these, so I would now give the series a rating of six points out of ten, because I now guess that the ratio of bad episodes is lower than I had thought before.
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