BERLIN — “Seinfeld,” the most popular sitcom in America, has just died on German television. Teutonic viewers preferred vintage episodes of “Hogan’s Heroes” instead.
Munich-based weblet Kabel 1 tried scheduling “Seinfeld” in an early evening slot, but with poor results. “The ratings went as low as 1%, which is not acceptable,” says Nickolas Paalzow, head of programming at Kabel 1. “The humor is simply too American. ‘Seinfeld’ takes place in a world most Germans cannot relate to.”
Yet “Hogan’s Heroes,” which touches the sensitive nerve of Germany’s World War II past, has found an audience in the same timeslot. “It would not have worked 20 years ago, but now people have enough distance that they can laugh about that time,” says Paalzow. Scheduled together with “MASH,” Paalzow believes that audiences appreciate “the anti-war message” of the two series.
With German webs cranking up their domestic production activity, American series have been nearly banished from primetime on the larger stations like RTL and SAT1. Series such as “NYPD Blue” and “Chicago Hope” are relegated to late evening spots, and fans of sitcoms “Friends” and “Frasier” have to stay up past midnight.
Pro7 is the only major network airing new U.S. series in primetime: “The X-Files” and action series such as “The Sentinel” attract respectable ratings. But the only Yank series capable of making it into the Top 20 in Germany are 20-year-old episodes of “Columbo” on RTL.