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Inside Move: ZDF adapts Beeb’s ‘Britons,’ with caveats

Experts to choose list of great Germans

German pubcaster ZDF hopes to repeat the success of BBC’s “Great Britons” event TV series, which crowned Winston Churchill the top Great Briton. But in a decidedly undemocratic move it’ll try to ensure there are no embarrassing results by banning votes for Adolf Hitler or any of his cronies in the greatest Germans version.

Instead, a panel of experts will choose a list of 250, leaving Germans to pick only 50 — all of whom must be non-Nazi. For the purposes of the competish, Austrians (excluding Hitler) will be permitted, as will Germans who chose to leave the country such as Karl Marx, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud and Marlene Dietrich.

“That’s bizarre. You’ve taken some of the fun and some of the drama out of the game,” says Michael Sturmer, one of Germany’s leading historians.

But Peter Arens, who is responsible for the editorial content of the program, says, “We want people who were important for German history or culture but certainly not convicted criminals or people who committed crimes against humanity.”

The first episode of “Our Best” (“Unsere Besten”), the show’s working title, will present the top 100 and introduce the top 10.

Each of Germany’s 10 favorites will then be presented by a famous German over five consecutive episodes leading to a grand-finale special.

Germany is the first country to acquire the format, although other countries have shown interest. It is BBC Worldwide’s first co-production of an entertainment format with ZDF. Hamburg-based MME will produce the series.

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