What 1980s TV Show Everyone Should Watch

German television history in East and West

Tony Curtis and Roger Moore in the series "Die Zwei" (& copy ddp / AP)

Youthfulness as a program ideal (FRG)

In all programming phases, a general problem arose for youth programs: young people are more inclined to watch programs that are made for adults. Programs that are designed for their age group are of less interest. For programs that are preferred by young people, the protagonists do not necessarily have to be of the same age. In the 1970s, for example, series such as "Die Zwei" (1972/73) enjoyed great popularity. This was despite the fact that their heroes had already passed their 40s, but impressed their audience with brash sayings and boyish arrogance.

To the amazement of American media researchers, the sitcom "Golden Girls" about a shared apartment for older women in 1985 (until 1992) met with great applause, especially from younger viewers. The declared favorite of this group was Sophia of all people. She was the oldest of the wreath and her blunt manner of speaking seemed like an adolescent rebellion against set limits. In the ZDF satirical series "Express" (from 1968), Marius Müller-Westernhagen, Diether Krebs, Hildegard Krekel and guests like 'Bürgerschreck' Rainer Langhans played cheeky and sometimes revealing jokes. That corresponded more to the youthful understanding of humor and was often perceived as scandalous by the elderly.

"Youthization" as a social trend

In the 1970s and even more so in the 1980s, the 'youthful style' took hold. In the broadcasting houses one now met representatives of the generation that had grown up with pop and protest culture in the 1960s. There was also an audience in front of the television that was middle-class but was still looking for alternatives to the programming of the generation of his parents. This "youthfulness", which meant a change in habitus and behavior, reflected a general social trend: As a result, a young appearance became the determining norm, which older generations also emulated.

Consumers with high purchasing power - young people as the target group

The adolescents had been discovered as consumers with high purchasing power. The commercial broadcasters that emerged from 1984 primarily aimed their programs at the group of 14 to 49-year-olds who were classified as particularly willing to consume. This was expressed in the content and the frequency of publication on RTL and Sat.1: colorful pictures, lively sequences of scenes, shrill shows and casual appearances by the moderators themselves in the news programs should suggest youthfulness. This made it obsolete to address young people separately in individual programs.

Youth evenings in the ARD

In the case of public service programs, the development did not go unnoticed. In 1984, the ARD canceled the afternoon appointments for young people in favor of a broader family program. As an alternative, there were sporadic - in 1984 there were four - "ARD youth evenings" on the broadcast slot from 8:15 pm. The first live broadcast on November 3, 1983 was looked after by the WDR and was designed as an "entertainment broadcast". "Entertainment program, however, understood in the sense that what is preoccupying young people today, from unemployment to armament and peace discussions and everything in between, just happened. And in a decided way, which is not held back in verbalization has "[1].

Youth programs in the regional programs

If these "youth evenings" still followed the idea of ​​target group orientation, this concept for the main program of ARD was soon finally discarded. Youth-related content gradually pervaded the entire program. Separate youth programs were occasionally found in the regional programs. With "Live aus dem Alabama" in January 1984 in the Bavarian program the predecessor "Rock aus dem Alabama" (from 1981) soon became a very prominent series. There was often a time-critical and controversial discussion here, which earned the editorial staff television awards on the one hand and complaints from politicians and broadcasters on the other. Live concerts with bands and performers from different genres were integrated into the concept [2]. Sandra Maischberger, Giovanni di Lorenzo and Günther Jauch gained their first moderation experience here.

Programs with main topics - "Mosquito" (ARD)

In the later 1980s there were also isolated attempts at youth-specific programs beyond musical focuses. The series "Moskito" (subtitle: "Nothing sticks better"), produced from 1987 to 1995 by the Sender Freies Berlin (SFB) for its third program, but partly also broadcast on the ARD program, gave the young people in particular a chance to have their say . The magazine dispensed with moderation and relied on reports, roundtables, skits and self-made videos. Each issue was dedicated to a specific topic. The spectrum of topics ranged from acne, sexuality and first love through art and politics to death. Irony and slapstick were combined with serious reports, provocative theses and extraordinary discussion guests. The Berlin rock band "Die Ärzte" contributed some special "mosquito songs" to the program until 1989. "Moskito" has received numerous prizes and is one of the most prominent youth magazines on German television.

... and "colon" (ZDF)

Related to these youth-oriented ARD programs was the ZDF pre-evening series "Doppelpunkt", which was broadcast every two weeks on Wednesdays at 7.30 p.m. from November 25, 1987 to 1995, and became a framework for various program concepts: "Colon Talk" mostly offered talk shows with those affected and experts on a topic, "Colon Scene" was a culture journal that was soon discontinued due to a lack of audience participation - subtitle: "Star portraits, cultural reports and music live". "Doppelpunkt - Vor Ort" was a short-lived series of reports with a slot in the late-night program.

At the same time, technical innovations at least tended to change usage behavior. Video recorders became more and more popular, TV sets became cheaper. In 1985, more than 50% of all adolescents and young adults between the ages of 12 and 29 had their own device and were therefore able to access the program at will, regardless of the parents' wishes [3].

Video clips, music shows and music channels

VIVA boss Dieter Gorny (& copy picture-alliance / dpa)

Music-related entertainment came to the fore of youth television interest in the 1980s. When the first music clip was produced is a matter of design. Short jazz films were shown in cinemas shortly after the invention of the talkies. These helped the 'invisible' radio and record artists to create a visual presence. In doing so, they had a business-promoting effect. So-called "video discs", which already corresponded to the later music clips, served the same purpose. They were designed for use on television and in coin-operated machines. Back then they worked like jukeboxes. The first British group to record a "video disc" were The Shadows in 1960 [4].

From the mid-1960s onwards, appearances in the increasing number of pop music programs became indispensable for artists, but they were not always possible to the extent desired. Cinematic adaptations of their hits helped. The Beatles sent their short film "Penny Lane" around the world in 1967. In 1971, Creedence Clearwater Revival quickly staged their "Sweet Hitch-Hiker". In 1972 Alice Cooper made a garish campaign satire for his song "Elected".

MTV program and advertising

A consequence of this development was the establishment of the US music channel MTV in 1981, which primarily broadcast music clips and thus permanently removed the line between programming and advertising. According to the intention of its inventors, the name of the station should be understood as a signature for a youthful attitude to life and not only depict trends, but create them themselves. Mark Booth, one of the managing directors of MTV Europe, openly called the program environment of the advertising a "youth culture lifestyle" in which the viewer could "shop" [5].

In the USA, MTV became the property of the media group Viacom in 1985 and expanded its spectrum to include cinema and fashion magazines, game shows and reality soaps such as the "Big Brother" forerunner "The Real World". In addition, the station began to cast a network of offshoots across the globe. From August 1, 1987, the MTV Europe program could also be received in Germany. Another regionalization divided the offer into 13 stations, including MTV Central for the German-speaking area. With entertainment shows such as Christoph Schlingensief's "U 3000" (2000), which took place in the Berlin subway, or "Reading Circle" (2001) with Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre, the German MTV gradually said goodbye to the broadcasting scheme of the early years with its chain of video clips.

Clip broadcasts - "Formula One" (ARD) and Co.

In Germany, the Bayerischer Rundfunk established an early clip broadcast with "Pop Stop" from 1980 to 1983. From 1983 the HR, the WDR and the NDR jointly produced the series "Formula one" (until 1988), which, as a kind of "ARD hit parade", mainly presented newly produced video clips in addition to individual studio appearances. In front of an initially still small audience, the advertising-financed cable and satellite channels musicbox (1984–1988) and Tele 5 (1988–1992) played parts of their programs with clip broadcasts. Profiled music journalistic formats remained the exception.
One of them was the "Musikszene" magazine (1980–1987) with Ron Williams, produced by the Viennese company Mungo Film for ORF and WDR. The magazine combined topics such as "The progress of electronics and its consequences for the record industry" or "Two rock stars: the 'feminine' Boy George and the 'masculine' Sting" (issue of March 25, 1984) with cheeky music-critical, including political-satirical ones Moderations. Ron Williams, who comes from the USA, remembers (in an interview from January 12th, 2008) that two episodes were not allowed to be broadcast in the third program of Bayerischer Rundfunk, because he had a couple of - today seemingly harmless - taunts against the then Prime Minister Franz Josef Strauss had woven. The editor of the series was Hannes Rossacher, later one of the co-founders of the music channel Viva.

Gradual opening on GDR television

In GDR television, the necessity arose to try to redefine the youth programs. One reason for this was the increasing preoccupation of German programs with youth protest, pop culture and pop music. In 1973 a survey carried out in the GDR with a view to the creation of a new youth program found "that among most young people there was a pronounced desire for beat music and there was also a desire for special, youth-oriented domestic and foreign policy information" [6 ]. This request was met. In the magazine series "Rund", which has been broadcast since 1973, the ratio of verbal and musical contributions was 30 to 70 [7].

Pop music and politics

Tamara Danz, the singer of the group "Silly" at "Rock for Peace" in the East Berlin Palace of the Republic. (& copy picture-alliance / dpa)

The use of pop music as an incentive to deal with political issues is common in the following years. Examples of this are series such as "Dreieck" (from 1976), "Klik" (1985–1989) and "Hautnah" (from 1987). For Karsten Roeder, editor-in-chief at the youth magazine "Elf 99", "entertainment was more or less the low loader (...) for politics" [8]. The viewers often accepted and tolerated politics because it was about entertainment for them.

The music magazine "drammss"

The youth music magazine "drammss", broadcast on GDR television for the first time in 1987, offered not only music performances, but also background information on a wide range of music - as well as practical music lessons. (Excerpt from the broadcast on May 18, 1987) (& copy Stiftung Deutsches Rundfunkarchiv, 1987)

In this respect, the series "drammss", which was started in 1987 (until 1990), held a special position as a pure music magazine in the GDR program. The youth radio director Peter Breitfeld defined the program of this series as follows: "While" Hautnah "is dedicated to the discussion of one topic," drammss "is a music journal that offers more than just music as well as trends in the development of music from rock to classical. This journal introduces different music genres, gives young research groups the chance to introduce themselves, and not only uses the "Record review" section to participate in the discussion about rock and pop tendencies "[ 9]. The series did justice to this announcement. The editors portrayed pop musicians from the GDR, but also cast glances across the borders and reported, for example, the breakup of the West Berlin formation The Rainbirds (broadcast on July 17, 1989).

Critical voices in the youth programs

The regular rubrics included the "disco dance tips" and the LP criticism. To this end, young employees from selected companies were questioned before a professional music critic made a final judgment, which could well be negative. One LP by the Puhdys was even branded as "vinyl waste" (broadcast on June 5th, 1989). In the broadcasts of 1989 it is noticeable that a number of contributions by local artists seem to refer to the beginning of the upheaval in terms of text. In a song by the Letshow group, it says comparatively bluntly: "Now I show myself / I won't be silent any longer / No more mask / In front of my face" (broadcast on July 17th, 1989). And in a contribution to "Elf 99" in the same year - with clearly critical marginal comments by moderator Ingo Dubinski - in a feature about break dance, the cultural officials who had branded the phenomenon popular with young people as an American underground phenomenon were criticized.

"Rock for peace"

One of the most important music events in the GDR was the annual two-day rock festival "Rock for Peace" (1982–1987), which was organized by the FDJ and the GDR Committee for Entertainment in the Palace of the Republic. Numerous popular bands performed at this festival (1987: 65 bands), including guests from Germany. However, there were repeated conflicts, including: 1984 when the German group BAP did not want to take a time-critical song out of their program and therefore left early. Individual recordings were also broadcast on radio and television with a time lag.

Orientation towards the young target group (GDR)

Viktoria Herrmann moderated "Klik" and later also "Elf 99". (& copy picture-alliance, ZB)
The former FDJ functionary Peter Breitfeld became editor-in-chief of youth television in the mid-1980s. A realignment was associated with this. Breitfeld announced that it would "take greater account of the growing needs for information, guidance and stimulating entertainment" [10]. The "Klik" series, which was set up in 1985 and is intended for the age group 13 to 17, followed this intention. The title stood for "class in the club".

The monthly broadcasts were recorded in changing youth clubs. They included categories like "Hit", "Gambling House", "People". A selection of the topics discussed there shows that the editors were very close to the interests of their target group: "Motorcycle frenzy", "Appearance and externalities", "The ideal partner" and "Football fans - football hooligans". In particular, the sexual counseling under the heading "Sexion" enjoyed great popularity.

Openness vs. controls and prohibitions

In between the verbal contributions, there were for the first time own productions in addition to unofficially imported foreign video clips. The openness in words and images made the series popular, but also provoked strict controls on the part of higher authorities who censored individual contributions and banned some videos. The program was therefore not allowed to be broadcast live. The three undisguised chatting young presenters in the series were young professionals, including Victoria Herrmann, who later worked for "Elf 99" and were successful as a television presenter after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Three new series for young people

The program policy adopted with the establishment of "Klik", to present politics in combination with entertainment, continued in 1987 with three new series: the magazine "Hautnah", which is dedicated to a topic in each issue, the entertaining science program "logo" ( which had nothing to do with the federal German children's show of the same name; until 1990) and the music magazine "drammss". "Hautnah" dealt with topics such as "Colorful Republic of Germany" (on the problem of foreigners), "I am a housewife by profession" and "Pornography". There were new tones in "logo", where occasional discreet satirical political jokes were allowed [11].

Formats and topics in the youth afternoon

Never before had such an effort been made for a youth program on GDR television: The large team consisting of the three editorial departments "Journalism", "News" and "Film and Entertainment" had a specially built, 500 square meter studio with the latest technical finesse available based on the western model. Every conceivable broadcast could be driven from here.Films such as "Dirty Dancing", series and video clips by international stars such as Tina Turner, the music magazine "Count down", the car magazine "DIXI" and the girls' magazine "Paula", for which Anja Kling was hired as a presenter, were embedded in the youth afternoon has been. The later successful actress recalls: "It should be about topics that interest girls between 14 and 18. But not just 'my first time' and 'how do I style my hair', we also had articles about disabled girls, foreign ones Girls, girls who could do something special "(interview from August 13, 2007).

"Elf99" and the turning point

Launched in the course of the last youth television offensive in the GDR (first broadcast on September 1, 1989), "Elf 99" offered a mix of current reports, sports reports, music videos, television series and movies. In the course of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the show became increasingly courageous and reported on political developments with open criticism and uncensored interviews. (Excerpt from the broadcast on November 3rd, 1989) (& copy Stiftung Deutsches Rundfunkarchiv, 1989)

The "Elf99" series had the necessary staff and the appropriate framework to provide critical reporting within the old system that did justice to the events of the time that ultimately brought about the end of SED rule. As part of this upheaval, the editors wrote radio history: the moderators - new for GDR television - conducted uncensored interviews in the last few weeks before the fall of the Berlin Wall and in the months afterwards and allowed the opposition to have their say The villas of the SED leadership and the assault on the Stasi Ministry [12] were the focal points of the action.

After the reunification, "Elf99" was continued as an independent company by those involved. Under the same title, but with a different design, "Elf99" was shown on RTL in 1992, then on Vox until 1994, but was unable to assert itself in the market determined by ratings. "Elf99" presenters like Ingo Dubinski, Victoria Herrmann and Ines Krüger stayed on the screen for a long time. Overall, the offer of GDR television to young people clearly increased in profile in the 1980s. The intended goal of getting young people more enthusiastic about the GDR, however, was not achieved; GDR television was also overwhelmed here.