Dorm-Room Bullshit Sessions, Lovingly Filmed

http://cineuropa.org/en/videoembed/348080/rdid/345445/

Above is a trailer for a German movie, ‘303’ (link here if the embed doesn’t work). The English-language description is:

When biology student Jule finds out she’s pregnant, she sets out for Portugal to find her boyfriend Alex, who works on an organic commune there. Traveling in a Mercedes ‘303’ bus, she picks up hitchhiker Jan at a gas station outside Berlin, who’s traveling to a Spanish fishing village to tray [sic] and find his biological father. They’re both passionate and not very diplomatic, very interested in world affairs and philosophy, and while they’re “on the road”, they have impassioned and deep conversations about capitalism, human nature, love and relationships and the meaning of life. They trip becomes an emotional roller coaster, which finds them falling in love with each other? [sic]

Middle-class kids who inexplicably have months of free time on their hands conversing earnestly about “capitalism” and “the meaning of life”?

Alas, my pressing schedule will not afford me time to see this film.

That ’70s Feeling: Jörg Immendorff’s Revolutionary Struggle

MAO — Materialien zur Analyse von Opposition (Materials for Analysis of the Opposition) is an online archive (g) of documents from the heyday of German Maoism. It collects flyers, magazines, manifestos, artwork, banners and other ephemera from the early- to mid-1970s, when some factions on the German left became enthusiastic adherents of Chairman Mao thought. The website is a bit hard to navigate, but you can tell it's a labor of love and probably dates from the 1990s, so gratitude is in order.

I stumbled on an interesting document, a review of a book by Jörg Immendorff. First, a bit of background. Immendorff was a Düsseldorf-based artist famous enough to have an English Wikipedia entry. He was a fixture of the Düsseldorf culture scene and a teacher at the Kunstakademie until his death from ALS in 2008. More on him later.

The book the Maoists review is entitled (my trans.): 'Here and Now: Do What Must Be Done. Jörg Immendorf. Materials for a Discussion: Art in Political Struggle. Whose Side Are You On, Culture-Creator?' Despite this engaging title, the book doesn't seem to have sold many copies and is now rare. This is the cover (from this antiquarian website (g) where you can buy the book for €120):  

12641_0

I'm sure this painting is by Immendorff himself. It isn't Hockney/Currin-esque ironically self-aware textureless or 'bad' painting. It's just clumsy. This is what most Immendorffs look like. If you're getting the idea that I don't dig him, you're right-on, man. I've always found his stuff unconvincing: either crowded and ugly, or flat and cliched.

But what about his political views? Like so many German lefty/culture types, Immendorff jumped onto the bandwagon of Maoism in the early 1970s. This book is obviously from that period.

A review of the book and the associated exhibition can be found in this 1973 agitprop flyer (g) from the Revolutionary Artists' Group, found on the archive website. Let me apologize in advance for the layout of this page from a self-proclaimed 'Artists' group'. Clearly, these Revolutionary Artists are mostly untrained, given what's on display in most of the pamphlet. Yet no matter how limited your means are, there's no excuse for pages clogged with unreadable clots of text like the one below. Apparently columns are tools of the bourgeoisie.

But let's forge ahead anyway. The handwritten title reads: "Progress at the anti-imperialist Culture Front!" and begins: "A book has just appeared from Comrade Jörg Immendorff, who is active in the Group of Revolutionary Artists — Ruhr Struggle." 

  Duesseldorf_GRK_Ruhrkampf_1973_123_21

The review, misspelling Immendorff's name, reports breathlessly that he has decided 'to consciously place his artistic activity in the service of the people and the revolutionary proletariat'.

The article then reports on the exhibition accompanying the book, which was held in the Westphalian Artist's League in Münster. Both the exhibition and the book, the review states, 'show the attitude of a partisan artist who has developed away from bourgeois philistinism towards cultural creation marked by class struggle. Both (the exhibition and the book) are a declaration of war on the brainless bourgeois avant-garde…which have learned nothing from the anti-imperialist movement of 1968.'

During the entire exhibition, young members of the 'anti-imperialist league' staffed a book-table with 'revolutionary writings' inside the museum.

The exhibition also featured a roundtable discussion with members of the Communist Students' Association, the Anti-Imperialist League, the Group of Revolutionary Artists, and Immendorff. Immendorff admitted his works were not yet fully 'revolutionary', given their incompleteness and flaws, and thus that he sought 'discussion and critique' from the audience.

One critique focused on Immendorff's portraits of 'Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao Tse-Tung', which were based on the works of Chinese 'people's artists'. One cannot simply import the stylistic devices of the Chinese revolutionary artists' Social Realism into German conditions, because the international class struggle is always defined by the particular historical, social, etc. etc. — you get the picture. 

Immendorff's later history is well-known to all Germans. He continued producing masterpieces of socialist-realist artwork in the service of the international proletariat, donating every penny of profit to Third World liberation movements. He lived in a humble apartment in the working-class section of Düsseldorf, volunteering much of his time teaching painting to Turkish immigrant children. Even those who disagreed with his political views couldn't help admiring the depth of his commitment to social justice.

Oh wait, wrong Immendorff. While no doubt continuing to mouth the occasional revolutionary slogan, he went on to amass a fortune of between 15 and 18 million Euros (g) at the time of his death. He described his own philosophy of life as 'selfishness'. Late in life, he married a Romanian ingenue 30 years his junior (former student) and rechristened her Oda (after a Germanic god), last name Jaune. The French word for yellow, Immendorff's favorite color. Not hers.

But that didn't stop Immendorff from regularly renting luxury hotel rooms, to which he would invite groups of up to 15 prostitutes. There, he held hours-long cocaine orgies with them costing sums in the five-figure range. He was caught white-handed during one of these, so to speak, and eventually sentenced to 11 months' probation. At the time of this coke and champagne orgy, his wife Oda was in an advanced state of pregnancy. As a result of the prosecution, Immendorff nearly lost his comfortable civil-servant position as a teacher at the Düsseldorf art academy — run by the state he no doubt routinely claimed to despise.

Just before he died, he changed his will to try to bestow upon the long-suffering Oda his entire fortune. This came as rather a disappointment to Immendorff's illegitimate son Jean-Louis, born in 1999. Immendorf ignored the letters and pictures his son sent him during his life, and took no interest in him. Fortunately, German law guaranteed the son an 1/8 of Immendorff's inheritance, no matter what Immendorff tried to arrange.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is yet another object lesson in why nobody should pay the slightest attention to the political opinions artists claim to have.

Especially, it must be said, German ones.

German Television is ‘Low-Quality Schlock for Aging Viewers’

Thomas Rogers, a writer living in Berlin, takes to the pages of the New Republic to describe the oddity of 'Wetten, Dass…?' and the crappiness of German TV in general:

…[T]he mediocrity of [German] TV—and “Wetten Dass..?” in particular—is currently a particular source of national insecurity. Whereas other European countries, like Denmark and France, have impressed international audiences with high-quality shows like “Borgen” and “The Returned,” TV in Germany remains dominated by talk shows, schlocky crime procedurals, mediocre miniseries, and, well, “Wetten Dass..?”—or as a New York Times headline from last year described it, “Stupid German Tricks.” 

…Not only does the 33-year-old “Wetten Dass..?” seem to confirm a lot of the world’s less generous stereotypes of Germans—e.g. humorless, weird, with terrible taste in formalwear—its concept is also awkwardly difficult to explain….

For Hollywood stars used to appearing on “Kimmel” or “Conan,” [Markus] Lanz’s interview techniques—which often involve commenting on female stars’ appearance—can seem jarringly unpleasant and often sexist. When a baffled-looking Cameron Diaz appeared on the show this spring, Lanz asked her to stand up from the couch so two young boys could get a kiss from “one of the most beautiful women in the world.” She instead gave them high fives and awkwardly and silently sat back down.

On a cultural level, the show has also become a symbol of Germany’s continuing struggles to create good television. As television has emerged internationally as the new medium for sophisticated storytelling, public criticisms of the show, and German TV in general, have sharpened. In 2012,Spiegel published an interview with a top German media critic under the headline “Why are German TV shows so lousy?” Unlike the U.S., television in Germany is highly subsidized by the public.

Even if you ignore stunty shows like “Wetten Dass..?,” German narrative offerings have lacked the nuance and verve of high-end British, American, or Scandinavian productions. “Tatort,” the country’s most popular program, is an uneven cop show that often feels several decades out of date, and most other fictional TV shows perpetually reshuffle a few familiar elements (blonde doctor, romantic woes, rural hospital, Bavaria). As Lothar Mikos, the media critic, told Spiegel, the problem isn’t monetary, it’s the opposite: German broadcasters’ enormous bureaucracy and generous funding have largely insulated them from the need to innovate. And since younger people tend to watch American or British shows online anyways, there’s little to dissuade networks from creating more low-quality schlock for aging viewers.

Rogers has subscribed to the donut-hole theory: Germany does highbrow really well and lowbrow OK (but who cares), but the vast middlebrow area is a wasteland.

German Beatles? Nö, German Beefheart

The BBC has a short piece on Faust, who were supposed to be the German Beatles but turned into something more rich and strange:

However, a second stroke of fortune befell them when Richard Branson, young head of the fledgling Virgin Record label, decided he wanted a piece of the Krautrock action,signed up Faustand brought them to the UK. He released an album of their outtakes, The Faust Tapes, for the price of a single, in 1973 – its low price and (to ‘70s British rock fans) difficult content made it one of the most bought but least listened-to cult rock albums of the year.

The few who did get Faust, however, were highly influential – BBC radio DJ John Peel, critics like NME’s Ian MacDonald, future band members like Bill Drummond, Ian McCulloch, Julian Cope and Jim Kerr, all of whom found in Faust post-punk ideas before punk had ever happened. They had seen nothing like them, or their neo-Dadaist live act, which involved sofas, a pinball machine, power tools, TV sets and walls of tin cans.

Faust, however, hated English food, English studios and Branson himself – though today, an older and wiser Péron believes they behaved unreasonably towards him. Inevitably, Virgin dropped Faust. They disappeared in the 1980s altogether – one of their members, Rudolf Sosna (described by Péron as the “true genius” of the band) sadly died. However, in the 1990s, they re-emerged, finding appreciation and understanding from rock audiences schooled in Faust’s successors, such as the 80s German group Einstürzende Neubauten. Faust’s onstage arsenal was as bizarrely formidable as ever, including angle grinders and even a cement mixer.

The De-, Trans- and Re-funkulation of ‘Kung Fu Fighting’

First, Carl Douglas' evergreen 1974 hit 'Kung Fu Fighting': 

And now, the near-simultaneous and deeply regrettable German ripoff 'Kung Fu Leute', from the hapless 'Kandy', who looks like he was dragged in off the street to read lyrics from a card:

Given Germany's role as self-appointed Sole Remaining Keeper of the Flame of Intellectual Property™, I can only hope Carl Douglas was handsomely compensated for the traumatic defunkification of his song. (Right?).

But wait! Deutschland redeems itself 30 years later when the German outfit the Mardi Gras Brass Band returns to the original English lyrics and turns KFF into a tuba-driven slow jam:

And now comes Erdmöbel with their own song about someone who remembers his lover by her 'kung fu fighting' ringtone. The video features two people with pure Nordic blood pretty faces kissing: 

But lest we forsake or fake the funk, let us conclude this musical journey with Cee Lo Green insanely buttshaking but way too short cover:

Conan O’Brien Inspects a Kotzbecken and Confronts Harald Schmidt’s Producer

I stumbled on this 1997 Conan O'Brien segment recently. Far from his best work, but of sociological value for showing Americans a genuine German Kotzbecken (puking-sink) and, even more entertainingly, exposing Harald Schmidt's relentless plagiarism of American late-night television:

Just underneath the video: DISABLING COMMENTS – YOU PEOPLE ARE ALL CHILDISH DOLTS. THIS IS A COMEDY VIDEO. ENOUGH WITH THE COUNTRY BASHING.

Arrgh, what I would have given to read those. Perhaps we can re-create some COUNTRY BASHING right here, folks — what do you say?

One Man’s Cheesy ’90s Nostalgia is Another Man’s Hot Trend

We Anglo-Saxons are a race of reckless innovators, especially those of us who risked everything to cross the Atlantic and found the Land of Opportunity. It's our job to create the trends everyone else imitates, and we take it on gladly. Meanwhile, we look at the Continent with bemusement. There, 'stars' that would long have been forced down into the septic tank of obscurity continue to be venerated by millions of people. Hugh Schofield noted the curious French tolerance of Johnny Hallyday:

In fact, when one looks around, one realises that there is an unusual
level of flattery – one might even say obsequiousness – in French
public life, especially when it comes to culture.

If you have ever watched French television, you will get the picture.

A
typical mid-evening programme is a chat show on which the invitees are
members of the small, unchanging – and therefore ageing – club of
national celebrities.

Behind in rows of seats, a youthful
audience hand-picked for telegenic good looks bursts into applause at
every anecdote or hackneyed clip from the archives.

At the more
serious end of the market, the annual literary season is in September,
when there is a rush of new publications and the big book prizes like
the Goncourt are announced.

Here, too, listening to the reviews is like being beaten about the head with a powder puff.

Nothing is ever mediocre, let alone bad.

Everything
is uplifting, exquisite, crafted, delicate, challenging, or that most
irritating of French words: "engage", which means "committed", though to
what is never spelled out.

One realises after a while that the French view their stars almost as
members of the family. They enjoy going to see them in the same way
they enjoy catching up with the latest family gossip.

That kind
of conservatism is actually quite refreshing after the brutal neophilia
(the constant need for the new and the culling of everything that is
familiar) that one associates with British culture.

The bad reason is that it is all about self-protection.

Succumbing to sycophancy, after all, is a way of reassuring oneself that all is good in the world, when clearly it is not.

Seen like that, the French are merely deluding themselves that their
culture matters the way it once did: sticking their fingers in their
ears, if you like, and whistling to Johnny Hallyday.

Much of this applies equally to Germany. Die Zeit, despite its many virtues, is probably the worst offender here, dutifully reprinting every syllable that drops from the mouth of Hans-Dietrich Genscher and Helmut Schmidt. In the culture pages, virtually every writer, no matter how obscure, is dutifully given the epithet groß (great). Pop acts that are long-forgotten (or who have degenerated into jokes) in the Anglo-Saxon world –  Metallica, Ozzie Osbourne (g) — fondly embrace Germany as a sort of geriatro-rocker retirement home. Quondam innovators Kraftwerk, who haven't released any genuinely new music in decades, continue to pack them in in Germany (and to be fair, MOMA, where their concerts were billed as a 'curated' retrospective, drenched with nostalgia).

Which brings me to this clip from the 1996 direct-to-video movie 'Vibrations':

Someone in the US unearthed it and it's become a minor Internet sensation under the heading '90s nostalgia. Yet in Germany, 'techno' music is alive and well — in fact, the 2010 version of the Love Parade attracted almost a million people. If it hadn't been for the overcrowding that killed 21 people at that event, it would still be going on.

Tatort as After-School Special

There's an English phrase that always comes to my mind when I watch a particularly preachy episode of Tatort ("crime scene"), the weekly crime show that is a German institution. The phrase is "after-school special". An after-school special, was a TV show, usually a drama, that played at 4 pm or so, just as kids would come home from school. The scripts taught us kids to to tolerate all races; be proud of who we were; accept people who are different; be kind to the handicapped; avoid drugs, smoking, alcohol, and sex; not let strangers touch us "there"; and so on. The clip above gives you an idea of what we're dealing with (and, as an extra bonus, it features the title "The Boy who Drank Too Much"!).*

German publicly-financed television has a so-called Bildungsauftrag, roughly, "duty to educate". Now there's nothing wrong with requiring broadcasters who are financed by TV fees to provide educational programming. The talk shows and documentaries you see on regular German television — as much as we might mock them — are streets ahead of anything on American TV. The show Titel Thesen Temperamente (g) which runs every Sunday on the main German broadcast station, shows a fantastic dog's breakfast of 8-10 minute long clips about everything from jazz pianist Michel Petrucciani to discrimination against homosexuals in Turkey to Tiken Jah Fakoly (including a tour of his home and studio in Bamako, Mali), to anti-right-wing activists to Werner Herzog's new films to the Nazi past of the Alpine climbing group. Just about every one of these segments would have been deemed too controversial/hifalutin/boring/full of non-Americans for any of the 500 channels of American television. Except the stuff about Nazis, of course. Nazis always sell.

The problem is that this duty to educate often seeps into the dramas. Tatort, nominally a crime thriller, often reeks of after-school special. Frank Junghänel provides an example (g) in the Frankfurter Rundschau (my translation):

The problem is often the stories…they always have to be relevant. If there's a case from the 'beekeeper milieu', we're guaranteed to find out that the bees ate some genetically-modified rapeseed. Then the detectives will spontaneously discuss the dangers of adulterated honey, [Detective] Freddy Schenk will wring his hands over his granddaughter's future, and, at the end, the pharmaceutical industry will be outed as the villain, having sponsored experiments with rapeseed…

These after-school-special theme episodes are rarely highlights. But Tatort produders want to remain true to their mission to educate the public. "I'm trying to motivate the screenwriters to be more flexible with their narrative structures", says Tönsmann. "The theme should develop from the story, not be imposed beforehand." Screenwriters tend to want to explain too much. "We want to reduce the didactic element." At home, he likes to watch DVD series such as "The Wire." It plays in Baltimore, and shows police mostly at work.

The article goes through an entire laundry list of weaknesses in Tatort scripts: the sensitive would-be literati who write them have no idea about real police work, the situations are often ludicrously exaggerated, the characters make implausibly long and well-organized speeches, didacticism makes things boring and predictable, the same targets get whacked again and again. The problem, in a nutshell, is that the after-school special in the USA was designed for teenagers, while Tatort, broadcast on Sunday night, is watched (mostly) by adults.

Which leads to the uncomfortable conclusion that the people who write for German public TV stations think of their audience as largish children still in need of moral instruction. According to Tatort, adult Germans need to be taught that neo-fascists are bad, asylum seekers/transvestites/nonconformist teenagers are misunderstood and unjustly persecuted, corporations (especially pharmaceutical and agricultural corporations) are evil, sexual abuse destroys lives, yet even pedophiles deserve a second chance, vengeance is always an wrong, Eastern European crime gangs and their rich German customers exploit women, your cheap clothes come from stinking sweatshops, etc.*

As Junghänel's article shows, there are some producers and writers for Tatort who are aware of the after-school special problem. The mention of The Wire is promising: High-end American TV has recently gotten very good indeed at Balzacian realism, and The Wire is among the best shows ever made. It's based on careful observation of reality, and its writers generally let the chips fall where they may: if a scene was logical and right, it got shot, regardless of whether it might have happened to confound or confirm a stereotype.

An example: one character, Kima Greggs, is a detective who — even though she's a a gay black woman — is not shown to be unusually noble, self-sacrificing, or wise. She's out on patrol when a bunch of mostly-white officers are arresting some black men, and one of them turns around and assaults a cop. Big mistake. A cluster of uniforms surrounds the hapless arrestee, beating the living crap out of him. Greggs runs over to the scene. Does she deliver a lecture on racial tolerance or police brutality to the beefy white cops? No, she joins in — because a good cop always protects fellow officers, and that includes making sure anybody who attacks a cop lives to regret it. And of course there's no disciplinary proceeding, because (a) the guy really was resisting arrest, and (b) nobody's going to snitch. This would be the point at which a robot programmed with politically-correct Tatort episodes would begin shrieking "does not compute" and finally explode in a shower of sparks. Good riddance.

* Now, just to clear the air: I agree with most of these messages. We should be nice to other people! Kids should steer clear of drugs and alcohol! Neo-nazis are bad! Etc. etc. My issue is with crappy dramas caused by political stances, not political stances as such.

Germany as Elegant Senior Residence for Forgotten Anglo Pop Stars, Part XVI

Remember Kim Wilde? I didn't think so.

But I do! Granted, it's not much of a memory, really nothing more than a hazy recollection of hearing one of her last pop hits on the FM radio of my Toyota Corolla in 1985. Since then, nobody in the English-speaking world has paid the slightest attention to Wilde. Allmusic devotes precisely one sentence to her later career: "Wilde continued to record in the '90s, scoring the occasional hit, either in the dance or adult contemporary field." You can almost hear the author filing his fingernails and yawning.

Needless to say, if the Anglo world has forgotten about a pop star, this is the cue for Germans — with their charming loyalty to faded relics of pop-music history — to step in and save the day. And lo, Wilde just played a concert in a large venue in Frankfurt, Germany, and the concert was actually reviewed in one of Germany's leading newspapers (g)! And Wilde was joined on stage by members of — wait for it — Kajagoogoo and Alphaville!

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?

Falco’s Grave, by Popular Demand

To us in the Anglo-Saxonsphere, Falco (Johann Hölzel) is but a footnote. He created some catchy,  original hits in the 1980s, but then seemed to fade away, like an Austrian 'Flock of Seagulls'.

But when you visit Austria, you're on the other side of the cultural telescope. Falco is still, twelve years after his death, a beloved icon. One reason is that he was one of the few German speakers capable of performing pop music that people in other countries voluntarily paid money to listen to in their private homes. Another reason is that he made the rest of the world notice Austria for benign reasons (unlike the controversial twentieth-century statesmen* or surgically-retouched crypto-homosexual neo-fascist).

So it will come as no surprise that Falco is buried in the 'Grove of Honor' (Ehrenhain) of Vienna's Central Cemetery, next to renowned composers, professors, and scientists. Here's what it looks like:

Grave of Falco

The grave is a place of pilgrimage — in fact, you see the shadows of two Falco admirers in the picture. Here are some of the offerings:

Offerings at Falco's Grave

A bonus grave, György Ligeti:

Grave of Ligeti

* Yes, you should definitely click on this link. It's not what you're expecting.

If it is what you were expecting, your medications may need adjusting.

Germany’s Doughnut-Hole TV Landscape

Two commentators in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung here try to explain why so much German TV kind of sucks. Adrian Kreye here (G) maintains that "America is unbeatable" when it comes to television, because American TV mirrors the "experience-world" (Erlebniswelt) of higher-class social groups at a high level of quality.  I’ve heard this from many Germans as well — even those who see American mainstream movies as superficial trash may love series such as Desperate Housewives, Lost, or Gray’s Anatomy.  These high-end series offer clever writing, original ideas, sharply-drawn characters — exactly the sort of thing you rarely see on German TV.  Not that all of these series play well in Germany — precisely because they are so finely-tuned to the experience of American social groups, Kreye notes, the best series often flop in Germany, while generic police thrillers like "CSI" do well.  Thus, Kreye’s not saying that the solution is to import American shows; rather it’s to create the conditions in Germany that will lead to better television.  Kreye suggests that the American practice of offering important players (actors, writers, directors) a percentage of revenue cultivates talent much better than the German system, which is more oriented toward lump-sum payments and buyouts.

Christopher Keil then piles on.  He points to what I call the "doughnut-hole" structure of European popular culture.  Let me here define the Hammel Doughnut-Hole Theory of the European Cultural Landscape (HDHTECL): At the high end, we find subsidized "serious" entertainment such as symphonies, operas, museums, and contemporary jazz and dance.  Often uncompromising, usually of high quality.  At the low end, "entertainment" for the masses: tabloid confessional talk-shows, "folk music" festivals positively eerie in their frozen-in-amber 1960s campiness, soft-porn video clips and movies, ludicrously exploitative call-in contests, etc.  In the middle, there’s some good stuff, but not much, and with little cross-cultural appeal.

We may contrast this with the Anglo-Saxon world.  The middle-brow consumer in Britain and the U.S. is well-served — not least becase she’s likely to have lots of disposable income.  She can watch the above-named TV series or quirky but non-confrontational movies like Little Miss Sunshine or Sideways. For music, she can see a taffetta-and-morning-coat opera production which would be seen as ludicrously stuffy by European standards, and even a newly-composed opera by someone like John Adams or Philip Glass.  This opera will be comfortingly tonal and possibly even "uplifting."  For the less abmitious, there’s a choice of hundreds of indie-rockers, some of whom are damned creative.  Most of this stuff is classic middle-brow entertainment, defined as having some cultural cachet and not insulting the viewer’s intelligence; while avoiding formal innovation and direct challenges to middle-class values.  (The debate over whether all this middlebrow entertainment is Good for Us — about which I have Complex Views — will have to wait for another post).

So much for my theory, which Keil seems to share.  The problem with German TV, Keil suggests (G), is that educated Germans are "more and more radically turning away" from television as a whole, because they see the whole thing as increasingly dominated by dreck for the masses.  Sensing that educated viewers are ignoring TV, even the large publicly-funded television stations are reorienting their fare towards the lower orders, perpetuating this vicious circle.  Of course, strong anti-TV sentiment from people like this has always existed in German society, but has increased since 1984, when private television channels (which are allowed to aim much farther below the belt than public ones) were first permitted.

It’s an interesting argument, but unfortunately, one part of it  — that is, that educated Germans are increasingly viewing no television whatsoever — needs to be backed up with empirical evidence, which Keil doesn’t provide.  German journalists tend to move in pretty stuffy, insular little circles, and sometimes talk about things people in their social circles are doing as if they were national trends.  So, does anyone know whether he’s right?