Last night, off Channel Two (ZDF) of German TV, came the final episode of Wetten Dass. Over the course of thirty-four years, Wetten Dass had been played out around 215 occasions (Wiki's numbers).
An American would describe it this way. If you took Ed Sullivan's old show, tossed in some David Letterman interviews with singers and stars, then blended in some pet tricks and amazing people stunts, then topped it off with three singers/groups over the entire evening....that was Wetten Dass.
It's hard to explain the successful formula. It ran only six to seven times a year...meaning it was not a regular TV show, and you had to watch the weekly TV schedule to see if it was running or not.
It was a live show, which meant that some things would go wrong, and it was part of the whole show.
In the 1990s when I started to watch it.....I came to see the 'bets' felling into two categories. Around twenty percent were really amazing stunts or pet tricks. The rest were lame, or fairly dangerous. A number of the stunts would never have gotten onto US TV as a live events, and might have been branded as very risky.
It was a tough show to carry out. It'd always start with a bold introduction, then came guest number one....with six general questions. Then, the bet, with the introduction of stunt number one. Then a singing act would occur, and then you'd repeat the whole deal again with guest number two. There were around twenty such segments built into each show, which amazingly enough....packed up and moved for each live show to another site in Germany, Austria or Switzerland.
What brought the show to an end point? Thirty-four years of production, and a hefty number of Germans who watched it? It came down to three issues.
First, the 2010 episode where a stunt went wrong and a young guy ended up permanently paralyzed was one of the issues. Some folks finally asked safety questions and looked back at dozens of risky stunts that were approved and allowed to be part of the show. There's some negativity from the one screwed-up stunt that rested upon continued production.
Second, there is a declining audience of young people who were active participants as viewers. If some big band like Tokyo Hotel were on the show.....they had some younger viewers. Othewise, no.....they didn't watch. It was different in the mid-1980s.....there was little else to watch. Today? You could ask a hundred German fifteen-year-olds, and I'd take bet that less than ten watched the show routinely.
Third, it was a gimmick show developed around the 1980's mentality of throwing live shows, promi interviews, songs, and stunts all into one three-hour show. It's like running two three-ring circus operations at the same time. The interviews were simply crisp six-question situations where a Hollywood guy could show up and feel happy that nothing terrible would get thrown at him, while he advertised his latest movie.
Adios? Well, I'm one of those people who think it'll go quietly into a redevelopment phase for two years and then come out as a vastly different show....to fit the modern era. And it'll likely lose the live-show status.
And if someone thinks that I'm a critic of the show? Well....no. I think they tried to be too many things and ended up with a gimmick show that had family appeal. This worked in the 1980s. I just don't see how it works in this era.