Why is German TV so bad, most of the time, even though we have public broadcasting services that should be able to develop at least some formats of high social relevance and artistic value? Maybe because we lack the political and social issues that the U.S. has to struggle with. Take “The Wire“: I can not think of one TV-producer in Germany who would articulate social criticism in such an elaborate manner as the The Wire’s head-author and inventor David Simon does in this deep-digging interview with Bill Moyers. Then take a look at “Breaking Bad“, a TV series produced by AMC who already won a lot of respect for “Mad Men”. In “Breaking Bad” one can learn how a corrupted health care system can lead a middle class chemistry teacher into a situation were drug trade is the last exit to secure his family’s financial security. The story appears to be a little bit stretched on first sight, but the accurate account of his psychological situtation faced with a fatal cancer diagnosis and the complex characters of his close relatives make the series a striking example of how entertainment can be married with existential questions and a closer look at the dark sides of todays society. “The Wire” had no composed film music which contributed to the authenticity of the whole project. “Breaking Bad” however comes with a cautious and subtle score by Dave Porter (apart from some hilarious songs programmed especially in the three early episodes of the first season), that at some parts incorporates iconic sound elements of the story. For instance, in episode 2 of season 2 Walt, the chemistry teacher, and his former student Jesse are held captured by the crazy drug dealer Tuco in a desert shack, where his sick uncle lives in a wheelchair and is only able to express his whishes to the outside world through a bell fixed on his seat. This bell then plays a crucial role in the dramatic climax of the episode and Dave Porter manages to compose a surreal transition from the on-screen bell sound to his musical composition:
So again: why is it that German television doesn’t offer entertaining, but nonetheless socially critical and relevant TV productions? Is it that we do not have the harsh consequences of a political system, where health care is sometimes a luxury and drug trafficking part of the economic circle? Or are we too acquainted with the tender embrace of a social-democratic wellfare system that takes care of everything and makes our daily concerns so lukewarm and our society a boring biedermeier community compared to the U.S.? I think both is not true. We have a lot of vital and challenging problems to cope with and historical events that carved our society in ways that provides substance for tons of good scripts. Above all there is the phenomenon that in Germany TV-series are not regarded as a cultural achievement, they are mostly associated with cheap underclass entertainment, especially in the more educated establishment. Therefore there is not much fertile ground for creative invention and at the same time not a big audience willing to spend time with their own German heroes to break bad.