Germany’s Wetten, Das? variety show faces the axe after three decades

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 April, 2014, 9:52pm
UPDATED : Monday, 07 April, 2014, 9:52pm


It has seen crazy bets performed before millions and hosted Hollywood stars, but after a three-decade run, Germany's once top-rated TV variety show faces the axe.

A victim of plummeting ratings, a fast-greying fan base and charges that its concept has grown stale, Wetten, dass? (Wanna bet?) will screen for the last time in December after 33 years.

Such is the status of the show, once Europe's most successful, that the decision made the front pages of Sunday newspapers.

The show's concept is of ordinary people performing often bizarre tricks and stunts, while celebrity guests sponsor them and have to perform mildly humiliating acts if they lose.

Since the 1980s, the show has featured a dog selecting 77 toys named by its owner and a farmer who could identify his cows by sounds they made when chewing apples.

One candidate changed a car tyre while driving, and the Berlin police motorcycle squad performed a world record moving pyramid with 84 officers on nine bikes over 100 metres.

The show kept audiences on their sofas on Saturday nights, with viewers peaking at 23 million in the mid-80s. But changing audience tastes and the rise of reality shows saw audience figures drop to 5.85 million in February.

Programme makers decided it was no longer worth the cost of at least €2 million (HK$20 million) per show.

Some stars on the show, which ran over three hours, were left scratching their heads, if not annoyed, by the uniquely Germanic take on entertainment.

The beginning of the end came when a bet went wrong in 2010, leaving a young man paralysed as eight million viewers watched in horror.

News magazine Der Spiegel also criticised the programme for featuring inappropriate advertising on a publicly funded show.