All the ‘Tatort’ Cliches…

…in one handy list here (g), from secretaries with funny regional accents to fat men eating sausage in front of a river to boarding schools full of scheming scions of wealth neglected by their rich parents. As with so many aspects of German life, the appeal of Tatort lies not in the fact that it's entertaining and original, but precisely in that it's comforting and familiar.

This cultural trait also makes the writer's job much easier. Coming up with original ideas (especially in a decades-old series) is risky, and beyond the capacity of many people. But churning out familiar variations on well-worn themes is child's play. Come to think of it, I'm sure you could take this list and program a computer to write perfectly serviceable Tatort scripts. Hmm, that gives me an idea…

It occurs to me that there must be some reasonably good Tatort parodies out there. Little help?

3 thoughts on “All the ‘Tatort’ Cliches…

  1. It’s true that the Tatort suffers from its number of clichés, (cultural) stereotypes, and oft-used plot patterns. I dare you to name me an American mainstream crime show that doesn’t (and “mainstream” automatically disqualifies anything on cable, just to be safe ;)). I would also argue that the series still produces a handful of excellent episodes per year, along with cookie-cutter tripe (and even the “bad” episodes are usually merely mediocre and easily forgotten, as opposed to badly made, like most German TV productions).

    Some of the regional networks have a better track record (RB, HR after 2001) than others (MDR, SWR), though personally, I like the variety. The series can produce a standard crime thriller, a James Bond parody, a treatise on the “Verrohung der Gesellschaft,” a plea for “mehr Menschlichkeit” (admittedly another of those stereotypes, but still worthy when done well) a tense chamber play, a film noir, and a dark buddy comedy.

    Tell me an American (non-anthology) series that encompasses all that and wasn’t cancelled within a year or two.
    (Not that I’m dissing American television. It can be exceptional — just not usually on broadcast, and not for anyone but a niche audience.)

    The Tatort is also a highly interesting “Zeitdokument,” not least because of its tendency to attempt social relevancy. Older episodes are a window into people’s attitudes towards all sorts of issues, both real (the “man on the street,” sometimes the criminal) and ideal (the detectives).


  2. > As with so many aspects of German life, the
    > appeal of Tatort lies not in the fact that it’s
    > entertaining and original, but precisely in that
    > it’s comforting and familiar.
    Is that so different to other countries?


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