Time to bust out the region-free DVD player?

Today’s Times has an article about Tatort, a German TV police procedural that will soon celebrate its 40th year on the air:

“Tatort” is a little akin to what Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” was in America. It’s one of those modest pop-culture symbols and long-standing common experiences that can be hard for outsiders to translate but that speak to, and of, a nation. First broadcast in 1970, before video games or food processors and when Germany seemed permanently split in two, the show adopted the age-old formula of a pair of detectives solving a murder to devise a distinctly German version of the crime drama…

There are 15 versions of “Tatort” produced by the various regional divisions of ARD, the German public broadcasting system. So this means there’s a Leipzig “Tatort,” a Frankfurt “Tatort,” a Bremen “Tatort,” a Kiel “Tatort,” a Stuttgart “Tatort” and even a Vienna one, made by Austrian television, all of which take turns sharing the Sunday time slot with “Polizeiruf 110,” the former East German knockoff of the show, still producing new episodes occasionally.

The article makes inevitable mention of the Law & Order and CSI franchises, but this production scheme reminds me more of the old NBC Sunday Mystery Movie that alternated episodes of Columbo, McCloud, McMillan and Wife, and other shorter-lived crime series like Banacek. I’d be curious to check it out, but it doesn’t look like the series has been released in the American DVD market yet.

To those of you who’ve seen it: Would it be worth my while to bug Scarecrow Video about stocking the region 2 discs?

9 thoughts on “Time to bust out the region-free DVD player?”

  1. Hi!

    First of all – it’s really strange, to read about german TV-shows in a blog of someone, whom i just know, cause i have his books in my shelf.

    Second – sorry for my bad english 😉

    Ok – Tatort. Well…I don’t know most of the crime series – but i do know columbo…and Tatort is not really like columbo.
    I really LOVE the Tatort series – every sunday, when they air a new one – I’m there on the sofa. Some say, that is something all the teachers do on sunday evening.

    Ok – I’m loosing my point…i guess…so – what I really wanted to say was: I really love Tatort – but I don’t know, if it’s something that is possible to transfer into another country.
    The stories and the humore are really special for the locations of the Tatort. As you know – there are 15 cities in which Tatort take place, representing different aspects of our country.

    Maybe you should watch some on youtube – there some playlists here http://www.youtube.com/user/lebtlongandprosper.

    So you can decide, if you really want some DVDs! 😉

    So long – and good night – Marie

    1. i don’t have enough German to follow the dialog, but i am already in love with the guy in the Berlin version, with his book of dance steps.

  2. hee hee – it IS weird reading an american talking about tatort.. (another german here) – however i find the quality of the series really really varies (i´m not a hardcore fan, but there are lots of my friends that are) and i´m not sure it´d translate – but i´m very interested to get your perspective on things… we´re so flooded with us american series in german television, it´d be fun to see if it ‘worked’ vice versa.

  3. TATORT is almost an institution. What do you do Sunday night? You watch Tatort.
    My favourite detective is Lena Odenthal , a tough kick-ass lady who shares a flat with her colleague (without being lovers).
    What I like about Tatort detectives is that they are so real. They are not stock figures and they do not look as if they spent 3 hours at a beauty shop and hair dresser’s before showing up at a crime scene.

  4. My two cents (although I’m no special fan either): The quality varies immensely. Some episodes are gems, some are plain crap and there’s a lot of average.

    The gems are funny in some way, plus you may find interesting insight regarding current German topics and “mood”.

    From my point of view several of the gems can be found among the “Tatort Münster” episodes.

  5. Ah, the eighties memories of three available tv channels and sunday evenings watching Tatort… 🙂

    Tatort can be quite good, if you like whodunnits that don’t shy away from sometimes tackling heavy social issues. The investigators range from classic buddy cops to lone wolves with some background supportive characters. Production quality is unusually high for a tv show. When I still had tv in the house, my favourites where the Münster Tatort – a working class cop paired with a posh medical examiner – and the Kiel version. Mainly because I lived there for a while and the protagonist is one of the best (and quite realistic) examples of northern german gruffness I’ve seen.

    As the older ones that aren’t in production anymore, there’s Schimanski – Germany’s first police investigator that wasn’t wearing a suit, and the Manfred Krug Tatorts that make up the bulk of my childhood memories.

    Tatort goes a long way to show how culturally diverse Germany is for such a small country – even if it’s dubbed, I would strongly recommend watching it in German with subtitles, you’ll get to hear the full range of accents. The Austrian ones are sometimes even subbed over here. And while you might not catch on all the pop culture allusions, hey, I have to face the same problem watching Buffy. 🙂

    As others said before me – it’s funny recommending tv shows to someone whose books I usually recommend.

    Best wishes from Berlin,

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