“Wetten, Dass..?”, once Germany’s most popular variety show, has been entertaining audiences with A-List celebrities since its debut in 1981. However, after 33 years, the German public broadcaster ZDF has decided to pull the plug on the show at the end of this year, due to the steady decline in ratings.
The concept of the show was quite simple… bring on regular people to perform incredibly odd stunts and have popular Hollywood and music stars bet on the result. If the celebrity loses the bet, they must then perform a mildly humiliating task themselves.
Some of the more difficult and bizarre of stunts that took place over the years included lighting a pocket lighter using an excavator’s shovel, 13 swimmers towing a 312-ton ship over a distance of 25 meters, and a blindfolded farmer recognizing his cows purely by the sound of their apple chewing.
In 2010 though, one of the stunts pushed the limits and ended quite tragically. Samuel Koch, a 23-year-old stuntman, attempted to jump over five moving cars while wearing spring-loaded stilts. After clearing four cars, Koch hit the windshield of the fifth and was left paralyzed from the neck down… all of this occurring during a live broadcast.
Due to the shows massive popularity early on, it quickly became the show to be on for top American celebrities wanting to promote their latest movie or album in the German market, often leaving them somewhat confused as to what was taking place in front of their eyes thanks to language and culture barrier. Over the years, famous guests have included Michael Jackson, Madonna, Brad Pitt, David Beckham, Bill Gates, Tom Hanks and Justin Bieber.
Early on, “Wetten Dass..?” reached a high of more than 23 million viewers in 1985, but as the years have passed the show has become somewhat dated, and so has its audience. When it was announced that the show would come to an end in December of this year, less than seven million viewers tuned in to hear the news.
ZDF program director Norbert Himmler released a statement stating that over the years entertainment shows in general have declined in popularity in Germany and, while the decision wasn’t easy, the network realized that the cost of producing the show did not match up with the limited audience.
For diehard “Wetten Dass..?” fans though, Himmler offered a slight glimmer of hope. ZDF has decided to hold on to the rights for the show, and believes the concept is still quite unique, leaving Himmler to say that no one should rule out the shows return, although don’t expect to see it happen in the foreseeable future.