The Horror of German Reality TV

Deutsch: Logo von RTL II English: Logo of RTL II

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In my never-ending quest to improve my German, I thought last night I would watch some TV and given that my choices weren’t very inspiring, I thought I would watch some reality TV on the assumption that the language probably wouldn’t be very complex and I could probably guess what was going on without needing to understand the dialogue.  These assumptions were right, but, I was not prepared for the horror that is German reality TV.

My first exposure to German reality TV was Die Wollnys – Eine schrecklich große Familie! The tagline of this show is ‘a terribly big family’ and they are definitely right about the terrible fact.  This family was like The Duggars if the Duggars weren’t scarily religious and were on welfare. I learnt some great vocab if I ever want to accuse my husband of being a lazy slob. You can witness the fantastic family dynamics on the RTL II site where they have entire episodes online.

My next foray into the world of German reality TV was far more frightening.  I had the misfortune to watch Traumfrau gesucht. I thought this was going to be harmless dating show, kinda like The Bachelor or Beauty and the Geek, but I was wrong, horribly wrong. The show is about three guys Elvis, Walther, Manfred who go to Eastern Europe to basically find a mail order bride.  After watching the show for just 5 minutes you have no doubts why these guys are single and can’t find a single woman in the whole of Germany who will date them. They honestly made my skin crawl.  Fortunately, most of the women on this show also had enough sense to look suitably horrified. These men in all their creepy glory, especially Walther who thinks nothing of buying a woman he doesn’t know a thong and nylons as a 1st date gift and has a catalogue of women, can be seen here. It’s terrifying stuff.

I’m not sure my German language skills were improved any by watching these shows but they have certainly given me an interesting view of a slice of German society.

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7 thoughts on “The Horror of German Reality TV

  1. There was a story on a ZDF news magazine about how there reality shows are made up. They’re not a thing where cameras are hung to catch action but instead are scripted and coached. People are told to act as if the have certain relationships that they don’t have and the people featured are told what to say and how to react. Sat 1 is bad but the worst offender is RTL. The have spotters to find weird looking people on the street and they make a show or an episode of a show around them. If you ever see the daytime ones you’ll see the same folks pop up on different show – sometimes as the star and sometimes as the best friend.

    A German reality TV show is about the worst place to try to learn German since most of the people shown use grammar as if they have never seen the inside of a school.

    • I really hope Traumfrau gesucht is made up. It will restore my faith in humanity.

      Yes, I will agree with you about the grammar, but at this stage, I’m having real troubles understanding what is being said in German so anything, correct grammar or not, that forces me to try to understand spoken German can only help.

  2. Ooo Ooo… there’s this stupid one that’s like sex on the beach or something. See that! Its HORRIBLE. My Gerfamily calls that stuff “Herztv” its like “On the dole tv”… And have you seen the Junglecamp show… awful.
    But, much to the disdain of many, I quite like Galileo.

    I find watching familiar tv shows like Scrubs in German helps. I’m familiar enough with the plot and the characters to get the situational cues to learn new words that I’d normally miss. And since I’ve seen most of the episodes, I’m mostly hunting for new words. And slow movies, with lots of dramatic pauses. Hope that helps.

    • I’m already watching shows I know in German, but since the ones I like to watch are usually full of big technical words at this stage it is more of a hindrance than a help. However, I do watch kids movies but usually with the subtitles turned on.

      • You’re braver than me… I’d probably learn faster if I had the patience to deal with it that way. I watch tv at the end of the day and usually I’m too tired to pay that much attention. But I’m doing it the cheaters way. There’s usually someone there I can ask to clear it up. You’re probably two steps ahead of me on this language thing.

  3. Sorry, but I had to laugh a lot reading your post :D It strikes a chord because I also learn German mostly through TV shows, mainly from documentaries on N-TV, N24, Phoenix, or Galileo on Pro7. But most of all, The Simpsons…

    I think RTL or RTL2 are not the best places to get a glimpse of the German society. If you take them seriously, at the end of the day you’ll think that Germans are totally absurd down to the border of almost idiot, while the reality is quite far from that (or so I believe, at least :) )

    Schöne Grüße aus München!

    • I’m glad that you laughed a lot as my post was not meant to be serious in any way. I know that reality TV is not the best place to learn about German society, but still I found it interesting nonetheless and it is always good to watch what the locals are watching (well some of them at least). It does provide a great topic to talk about in the office the next morning.

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