“Wetten, dass…” returns to German TV screens with a bang – but would it be better to let it die quietly?

Last night saw the return of Germany’s longest running and most successful entertainment TV programme “Wetten, dass”, which can be loosely translated as “I bet you”. True to the Ronseal system of German programming, “Wetten, dass” does exactly what it says on the tin, inviting members of the public to suggest crazy and – in some cases physically dangerous – bets. If accepted, contestants get to demonstrate their skills in front of a live studio audience and of millions of German, Austrian and Swiss viewers at home.

To spice up this simple format, contestants are allocated a celebrity who has to complete an often embarrassing “truth or dare”-type task if the bet is lost. This integration of high-calibre guests into the show is the real secret of its success – this and the immense popularity of Thomas Gottschalk who hosted the show for decades until resigning last year, after a contestant was badly injured on stage.

With Gottschalk now focusing on his remaining sources of income, such as fronting the German advertising campaign for Haribo sweets,  it remains to be seen if his successor, former talk show host Markus Lanz, will be as successful in attracting big names to the show. Over the decades, “Wetten, dass” presented not only homegrown talent such as Boris Becker, Karl Lagerfeld or Til Schweiger.  The show was also the most effective arena for international stars to reach Europe’s largest audience, the German speaking public.

Particularly musicians used the programme to advertise their latest records. Madonna, Michael Jackson, Elton John, Robbie Williams, Cliff Richard, and many more, all appeared several times on “Wetten, dass”, despite being treated to the weird experience of trying to communicate with the host and the audience through an interpreter and consequently  having trouble following the strange goings-on and politically incorrect jokes made by the host.

Luckily for his international guests, Gottschalk’s entertainment value rested to some extent on his flamboyant dress sense, his readiness to drop his trousers on stage if needed – for example to prove that he was wearing the same underwear as folk singer Patrick Lindner – and on his ability to transcend the language barriers separating him from his female guests by a universally intellible and embarrassingly male chauvinist flirting technique.

A whole generation of Germans, a generation also dubbed “Generation Golf“, after the popular Volkswagen car which was first built in the early 1970s, grew up watching “Wetten, dass” on a regular basis and continued to tune in even as more and more channels became available and German TV offered a wider variety of programmes.

Last night, “Wetten, dass” was as big a national event as it had ever been. Millions were watching and in no time #wettendass was trending globally on Twitter – much to the confusion of the largely English tweeting online community. But was the show worth watching? German left-wing newspaper taz seems to disagree. They were quick to list Lanz’s many faux pas and insensitive comments, directed towards German-Turkish comedian Bülent Ceylan in particular.

But what about the show’s entertainment potential and freak quota? Well, in keeping with the “Wetten, dass” traditon, yesterday’s bets included a woman claiming that she was able to distinguish dog breeds by touching their fur. Viewers must have felt reminded of the time when the team behind Germany’s biggest satirical magazine Titanic (similar to Britain’s Private Eye) infiltrated the show and staged a hoax involving a man who had put in a bet saying that he could distinguish the shades of coloured pencils by licking their tips.

The show remains an easy target for satire and derision. But the big question mark currently hovering over the future of  “Wetten, dass” is whether Lanz can successfully replace the sometimes offensive but always charmingly eccentric Gottschalk – others have failed before him. It is also unclear if the “hidden attractions” of the programme will continue to outlast the tired looking main premise of the show, which has long run its course and cannot easily compete with more innovative formats such as “Schlag den Raab.” This week’s edition of the weekly newspaper DIE ZEIT argues that German TV is better than its poor reputation, but judging by the many scathing comments on Twitter, “Wetten, dass” will need to work hard to improve if it wants to remain the flagship of Germany’s public channel ZDF and defend its position as the incarnation of the nation’s favourite Saturday night entertainment.

Former Aston Student Nick Holzherr Comes Third on “The Apprentice”

The Final Four Copyright 2008 News Group Newspapers Ltd

So Nick did not win the final on BBC 1’s “The Apprentice”. *sniff* However, not only did he manage to come third, effectively beating 13 impressive competitors, he also gained 5000 followers on Twitter – and we are convinced that at least some of them did not exclusively sign up to hear more about his hair.

In Sunday’s finale Lord Sugar preferred to play it safe and decided to invest in Ricky Martin’s recruitment idea. That’s Ricky Martin the entrepreneur and wrestler, not Ricky Martin the flamboyant singer. Even his proud mum calls him Richard, but this year’s winner clearly felt that something was to be gained by associating himself with a completely unrelated Latino show star.

Although this means that Nick’s exciting business project will now not receive the boost of a 250,000 pound investment, our former student appears to be doing well. Already at the weekend there was a lot of interest in his mobile phone app “whisk”  which will help consumers to order recipe ingredients online. Sign up here  to be one of the the first people to hear news on the launch of Nick’s recipe service. A preview app is available here.

We’re sorry you didn’t go all the way, Nick, but we’re convinced that you will continue to be a successful businessman and any exciting news of your future endeavours will be posted here.

Viel Erfolg und alles Gute!

Aston Alumnus in the Final of BBC Show “The Apprentice”

Nick Holzherr, a former German student at Aston, has made it to the final of the popular and notoriously tough BBC show. He had to undergo several extremely challenging tasks for the past ten weeks and is now one of the four lucky ones to compete in the final for a business deal with Lord Sugar worth GBP 250,000.

Let us all keep our fingers crossed for Nick in the final on Sunday!

Kein Spaß: TV Host Kurt Felix Dies

Kurt Felix and Paola © Nadine Rupp/getty images

He was best known for hosting “Verstehen Sie Spaß”, the German version of “You’ve been framed”. From 1980 to 1990 Kurt Felix and his wife Paola presented the hugely popular entertainment show based on the “candid camera” principle. After the Swiss journalist left the show, a series of other hosts, including late night talk show legend Harald Schmidt, took over and continued to play pranks on celebrities and unsuspecting citizens.

The current successful presenter is Guido Cantz, and the programme still has impressive viewing figures. But the show has never been quite the same without Felix. His inimitable blend of boyish humour and charmingly deliberate Swiss diction will forever be associated with “Verstehen Sie Spaß”.

Innumerable times Felix had suddenly appeared at the end of a prank to show people that they had been punked. Sadly, as DIE ZEIT writes today, Felix’ death from cancer, which ocurred on Wednesday, is all too real and this time no one will jump out from behind a bush shouting “it’s all been a joke”.

One of Felix’ classic pranks: The shower in the lift

Apprentice Contender and Aston Graduate Nick Holzherr to survive third round of the show

“German lecturers at Aston University are all proud to see Nick performing well on The Apprentice”, says Stefan Manz, Head of German. He was an outstanding student on our International Business and German programme, graduating with a First Class degree. During his four years with us he perfected all the skills that are necessary to do well in professional life: team-work, leadership, communicating, thinking outside the box – and he’s just a really nice guy. Go for it, Nick!

Nick studied International Business and Modern Languages at Aston from 2005-2009 and chose the university for its good ranking in graduate employability. He funded a society establishing business links with companies across the West Midlands, which soon became Aston’s biggest student’s society.

As part of his degree, Nick spent some time abroad on a placement in Germany, notably with Deutsche Bank, which gave him first-hand experience with international financial players. He then funded a coffee-business selling high-quality fair-trade coffee named “Go-go Coffee to Go”, the business-plan for which won him the American-German business plan competition. Since 2010, he ventured more into technology and advertisement, he is now linking mini-websites to advertisements via QR codes. Last year, Nick was awarded the title “Birmingham Young Business Personality of the Year”.

 

The Birmingham Post has recently published an article on the young entrepreneur from Aston: Read the article here.

German at Aston Graduate Competes on “The Apprentice”

At Aston, it makes us very proud  to know that our students are more employable than Oxbridge graduates. This is particularly true of students who complete the International Business and Modern Languages (IBML) degree, a programme which fully integrates business studies and language learning. (In fact, some of our alumni are so successful in securing highly paid first jobs that they soon outearn the lecturers who taught them – but let’s not dwell on that.)

Aston degrees have a strong focus on preparing students for their future careers, and entrepreneurship is one of the skills we foster in our students. IBML students are asked to develop a business plan as one of their final year assignments. Over the years we have thus seen many extremely creative and highly innovative designs for new businesses – and it’s always great to see these ideas put into practice!

It goes without saying, that we were very pleased when one of our alumni set up business on campus. After graduating with a well-deserved first class degree, Nick Holzherr opened a fair-trade coffee shop a mere 50 yards from the lecture theatres where he had spent the last 3 years. Offering ethical coffee at a very reasonable price, he was soon giving the competition a run for their money.

But Nick was already branching out into other areas, and he soon founded his second business, a company specialising in scannable business cards, using smart phone technology.

And now it seems, he’s done it again – but this time he is asking for support from the BBC show “The Apprentice” . Nick is already the third Aston graduate to compete on the popular programme – and we certainly wish him much success!

You can follow Nick’s story on the programme as he tries to impress and sell his latest business idea to potential business partner Lord Sugar, starting Wednesday, 21 March 2012, at 9pm on BBC 1. While we wait to find out what he has up his sleeve this time, here is his audition video: