LONDON — The outrage over Danish caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed had everybody thinking that jokes about Muslims were verboten. But now a sitcom called “Turkish for Beginners” has Germans laughing in relief along with the 2.4 million expat Turks who live in the country.
The series centers on a German teenager whose mother moves in with her Turkish boyfriend and his two children.
“This is about people from different cultures who’ve been thrown together into a family from which they can’t escape. They argue, they fight, but at the end of the day they belong together,” says producer Alban Rehnitz of Munich-based Hofmann & Voges. “I guess in a way the family in this sitcom is a metaphor for the nation as a whole.”
Penned by Turkish-German scribe Bora Dagtekin, the show has had excellent reviews. It’s particularly popular among young women, reaching ratings of 23% in that demo for pubcaster ARD.
Although it’s essentially a family sitcom, religious issues are not ignored: Much to the chagrin of the family’s German daughter, the Turkish daughter wears a headscarf and annoys her stepsister by waking up to the blaring sound of a mullah alarm clock.
Says Rehnitz: “After the Danish cartoons, we checked whether the series might be in any way offensive to Muslim viewers. But we didn’t make any changes because it has a multicultural and completely inoffensive tone.”
Rehnitz says the basic idea behind the series was to make a sitcom about “the patchwork family and the multicultural marriage.”
“Turkish for Beginners” isn’t the first attempt to create a German-Turkish sitcom for a mainstream audience. Last year, commercial net Sat1 tried with a sitcom called “The King of Kreuzberg,” but axed the show after poor ratings.
And if the plans of other broadcasters are anything to go by, the time is right for Turkish-German material.
RTL is soon to broadcast a comedy entitled “Everyone Loves Jimmy,” about a macho Turkish man and his two sisters. And ProSieben is doing the Turkish version of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” focusing on the proprietor of a Berlin record shop who marries a kebab shop owner’s daughter.