German Of The Day: Tatort

That means scene of the crime. But when Germans hear the word, the first thing they normally think of is a TV show.

Tatort began as an experiment aimed at countering dubbed American crime shows’ market dominance and the success of other domestic productions. To take them on, ARD, one of Germany’s public broadcasters, tasked each of its regional affiliates with creating a series of crime shows featuring one of the cities or regions they served—incorporating its unique landscape, architecture, dialect, mentality, and economic characteristics. Each episode would be 90 minutes long—with no commercial breaks!—providing enough time to develop intricate plots set in distinctive environments. Surprisingly—even to the creators of this series—the audiences loved the new formula, and Tatort quickly earned the cult status it enjoys to this day.

Germans are obsessed with crime fiction, so much so that in German, the word Krimi—short for Kriminalroman (crime novel) or Kriminalfilm (crime film)—can also be used as a suffix to describe anything remotely suspenseful, such as a soccer match (Fußball-Krimi), chess competition (Schach-Krimi), or election (Wahl-Krimi).

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