Posts tagged ‘RTL’


RTL orders Blitzkrieg on Alarm für Cobra 11 fan community prior to the show’s 20th anniversary

10.03.2016

With the lead-up to the 20th anniversary of the German TV show Alarm für Cobra 11: die Autobahnpolizei, a fan group I run—the largest unofficial community on Facebook for the series—has been the subject of a Blitzkrieg by RTL. Trailers, which made up the majority of the uploaded videos, are indeed copyrighted material, but have resided happily there since 2008. But in their determination to have every video cleansed from Facebook, individual members’ copyrighted material, as well as videos that do not even belong to RTL, have been the subject of their claims.
   As someone who is usually on the complainant’s side in DMCA cases, I have a lot of sympathy for their position—but I’ve never gone to a website to lay claim to material that isn’t ours. You would think that a company as well resourced as RTL would be able to tell the difference, if a far smaller firm like ours can, but it appears there are keyboard warriors even in the largest TV networks. A reply, therefore, is needed, and it’s going to be a nice weekend sans Facebook, where I have been barred for three days without their usual counterclaim procedure operating. Luckily, I had set up a back-door account to administer pages and groups, after Facebook’s anti-malware malware incident, which is practically all I do there these days anyway.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Today we note that all videos uploaded to the largest Facebook group about the TV series Alarm für Cobra 11: die Autobahnpolizei (https://www.facebook.com/groups/autobahnpolizei/) have been the subject of complaints by you, causing them all to be removed.
   We acknowledge that some of these videos contain content from Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland and Action Concept. They have resided there since 2008 without a single complaint, and the overwhelming majority (over 90 per cent) are trailers that you have permitted not only on this group, but all fan groups.
   Our group is non-profit and promotional in nature. Contractors to and employees of RTL and Action-Concept have happily been members for years, so it is clearly known to your organization.
   You have also permitted fan edits to your material on YouTube for years, where derivative works have been created and reside.
   Derivative works include subtitled, reworked Bulgarian translations to your trailers by Mr Hristian Martinov that feature new graphics, fan edits by Herr Thorsten Markus Grützmacher featuring the history of the series, and fan videos by Herr Stefan Wilke made in 2002 and 2004. Given RTL’s own stance on these elsewhere, principally on YouTube, there is an appalling double standard that you have applied to this Facebook group.
   We acknowledge that on a strict legal interpretation, some of these can be subject to your copyright claims and, had we been approached privately, we would have removed them. However, we are deeply concerned over content that Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland falsely and deceptively laid claim to, and is no concern of yours.
   You have stated to Facebook that these are videos that you or your organization created. In the cases detailed below, this is not true.
   We have two reporting numbers provided to us by Facebook, 1687808734841713 and 235243696819825, although numerous others relating to this group apply.
   Among those are videos that you have falsely and deceptively laid claim to include those shot by individual members on set on visits to Action Concept, videos shot privately by Herr Grützmacher while he was contracted to Action Concept, advertisements made by Kia Motors Deutschland GmbH which feature Alarm für Cobra 11 characters, news articles covering Alarm für Cobra 11 that are not owned by RTL but by their respective news networks, and an advertisement for Daimler AG that has no connection whatsoever to Alarm für Cobra 11, Action-Concept, or RTL.
   Please be advised that Facebook operates on US copyright law, which the above items do not fall foul of as they relate to RTL; even if they do, they are outside the scope of copyrighted material that you have any authority to file complaints about. The notion of German moral rights in copyright do not apply in the United States in this respect.
   Your actions have caused accounts to be disabled and while this may be warranted in the cases that concern RTL material, it is not warranted in cases where you have made false claims to Facebook. Your statements are not only inaccurate in these cases, they are also defamatory in nature and we consider them libellous.
   We are prepared to vigorously defend our position.
   Nevertheless, we are reasonable, and we propose a fair solution. As there is no way to compile every reporting number over eight years of material that has vanished in the space of 24 hours, we request that all the material you have reported on this group to be reinstated in full. Once that is done, the group’s moderators work alongside you to remove, individually, only the content that belongs to you. Reinstatement should occur within a week of this email, while removal of all RTL trailers, promotional material, and direct clips from the show—the last of which are indisputably RTL copyrighted material—will be done over the following week.
   Facebook notes that you are under no obligation to respond. Please be advised that this message will be openly published, and will also be sent to you as hard copy, with other parties cced.

Yours faithfully,

Jack Yan, LL B, BCA (Hons.), MCA

ccs for Action Concept and Facebook, under separate cover

   What an innovative way to generate goodwill for a TV series in the days before the network kicks off its 20th anniversary tributes (on March 12).

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, internet, TV | 1 Comment »


Alarm für Cobra 11 changes direction again, with Daniel Roesner as Paul Renner

18.08.2015
First publicity photograph of Daniel Roesner as Paul Renner, photographed by Frank Hempel/RTL.

First publicity photograph of Daniel Roesner as Paul Renner, photographed by Frank Hempel/RTL.

Poor Vinzenz Kiefer. The co-star of Alarm für Cobra 11: die Autobahnpolizei, which commemorates its 20th anniversary next year, will be written out of the show, and not by his choice.
   Since the departure of Tom Beck as Ben Jäger a few years ago, the producers of the long-running German action series decided to take a darker turn. Cobra 11 has always been able to reinvent itself with the times, hence the long run, and the light comedy that crept in to such awful episodes as ‘Babyalarm’ or the predictable “bad guys with automatic weapons” plots of ‘Codename Tiger’ (which even had a homage to Michael Bay) was deemed to be at odds with what viewers wanted. Out with Beck. In with Kiefer, a grittier looking young actor who had had a single guest outing in Cobra 11 some years earlier in another role, as a troubled young offender called Dennis Kortmann out to avenge the death of his younger brother.
   The new character of Alex Brandt (incredibly close in name to Kommissar Rex’s Alex Brandtner, played by another short-lived Cobra 11 co-star, Gedeon Burkhard) seemed tailor-made for Kiefer, now 37, a deep, highly talented actor. Brandt had a back-story, caught amongst corrupt police officers which saw him go to prison, something that Cobra 11 producers tried to inject in the mid-2000s when Gedeon Burkhard replaced the ever-popular Réné Steinke. The writers and story editors introduced story threads that spanned the whole season. It was all in keeping with the Zeitgeist, but, ratings dropped, despite a spectacular season finalé inspired by Vantage Point but much more cleverly executed within the 45-minute running time. We finally saw some acting chops from the entire cast: star Erdoğan Atalay got to exercise his not inconsiderable talent as family man and cop Semir Gerkhan, and there was even a hint of “will they or won’t they?” between Brandt and Katrin Heß’s Jenny Dorn—who had previously been in a relationship with Niels Kurvin’s Hartmut Freund character. Yet on occasion, Alarm für Cobra 11 was even beaten by Germany’s Next Top Model, a show which it usually trumped. And Kiefer is the fall guy.
   Burkhard, too, presided over what was considered a darker, moodier season of Cobra 11 in 2007–8, yet ratings fell, and he was given the axe.
   It’s a given that the reinventions help the series, but the obsession with ratings has meant Cobra 11 returning to a level of humour and escapism each time the network, RTL, panics. In a Facebook poll this author set up with 786 respondents, fans regard Tom Beck as the best co-star (565 votes), with Kiefer a distant second (116). Old stars such as Steinke still hold up (67) despite their departure nearly a decade ago.
   Why ‘poor Vinzenz Kiefer’? Today, his successor, Daniel Roesner (top) was announced, which means Kiefer has to complete and, later, promote his work knowing that Alex Brandt may well be killed off (the fate of less popular co-stars) and that he’s on his way out. Alex Brandt may be the gloomy, moody DCI, but behind-the-scenes photos shared by Atalay and Heß show that there are plenty of hijinks, with everyone getting on well. Heß posted her sadness at the announcement her colleague would be given the boot on Instagram and Facebook, and Atalay ceased posting to his social media altogether (although whether that was the reason is unknown).
   Roesner has the ingredients for the escapist audience: he excels in light comedy, he has a friendlier face, and he is already known to Cobra 11 audiences for playing Tacho, whom we first met in 2010 while at the police academy. His character, along with Axel Stein’s Turbo, was so popular that he was brought back for a second guest spot in 2011, and Action Concept, the makers of the series, attempted a TV pilot called Turbo und Tacho, where it is revealed that his full name is Andreas Tachinski.
   Roesner won’t be playing Tachinski this time; instead, after a haircut and a new wardrobe, he’ll be playing a cop called Paul Renner, and whether he designed Futura or not while working at the Bauhaus has not yet been explained. His presence will likely see a return to the escapist, self-contained scripts, with the characters turning more two-dimensional again.
   Beck’s years proved that the show can rebound, but the past two with Kiefer gained him a loyal following, too. The core may well want escapism but Kiefer probably brought viewers who could leave; assuming they knew Cobra 11 had transformed to begin with. Do we want our TV heroes to be light while things are tough; or do we want them to reflect the hard times we have today? Whether RTL has calculated correctly or not will be seen when Roesner’s episodes start with the 20th anniversary of the series; but it will be looking to reclaim the Thursday night prime-time slot more regularly than Cobra 11 has been doing in the last year. Expect huge promotions for the 20th—and to establish Roesner in the new role as RTL attempts to get its audience back.

This piece first appeared in Lucire Men.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, culture, internet, TV | No Comments »


A year of random thoughts: 2014 in review

29.12.2014

For the last few years, I’ve looked back at the events of the year in a tongue-in-cheek fashion. (In fact, in 2009, I looked back at the decade.) Tumblr’s the place I look at these days for these summaries, since it tends to have my random thoughts, ones complemented by very little critical thinking. They tell me what piqued my interest over the year.
   These days, I’ve been posting more about the TV show I watch the most regularly, the German Alarm für Cobra 11: die Autobahnpolizei. A good part of my Tumblr, at least, and of Danielle Carey’s, whom I first connected with via this blog, features screen shots and other photographs from it. But Cobra 11 aside—and for those “cultured” Germans who tell me it’s the worst show on their telly, may I remind you that you still make Das Traumschiff?—I still will be influenced by everyday events.
   So what do I spy?
   Sadly, despite my intent in wanting to blog humorously, it turns out that 2014 doesn’t necessarily give us a lot to laugh about. And we’ve had over a year after that Mayan calendar gag, and 13 years after Y2K. It’s still not time to laugh yet.

January
I made a spoof English Hustle poster given all the hype about American Hustle, which seems to have, prima facie, the same idea. It meets with Adrian Lester’s approval (well, he said, ‘Ha,’ which I gather is positive).

   I post about Idris Elba giving a response about the James Bond character. (Slightly ahead of my time, as it turns out.)
   Robert Catto wrote of Justin Bieber’s arrest: ‘So, J. Biebs is arrested for racing a rented Lamborghini in a residential neighbourhood while under the influence (of drugs and alcohol) while on an expired license, resisting arrest, and a bunch of previous stuff including egging a neighbour’s house. With that many accusations being thrown at him, this can only mean one thing.
   ‘The race for Mayor of Toronto just got interesting.’
   I wrote to a friend, ‘If there was a Facebook New Zealand Ltd. registered here then it might make more sense ensuring that there were fewer loopholes for that company to minimize its tax obligations, but the fact is there isn’t. Either major party would be better off encouraging New Zealand to be the head office for global corporations, or encourage good New Zealand businesses to become global players, if this was an issue (and I believe that it is). There is this thing called the internet that they may have heard of, but both parties have seen it as the enemy (e.g. the whole furore over s. 92A, first proposed by Labour, enacted by National).
   ‘Right now, we have some policy and procedural problems preventing us from becoming more effective exporters.
   ‘It’s no coincidence that I took an innovation tack in my two mayoral campaigns. If central government was too slow in acting to capture or create these players, then I was going to do it at a local level.’
   And there are $700 trillion (I imagine that means $700 billion, if you used the old definitions—12 zeroes after the 700) worth of derivatives yet to implode, according to I Acknowledge. Global GDP is $69·4 (American) trillion a year. ‘This means that (primarily) Wall Street and the City of London have run up phantom paper debts of more than ten times of the annual earnings of the entire planet.’

February
The Sochi Olympics: in Soviet Russia, Olympics watch you! Dmitry Kozak, the deputy PM, says that westerners are deliberately sabotaging things there. How does he know? ‘We have surveillance video from the hotels that shows people turn on the shower, direct the nozzle at the wall and then leave the room for the whole day.’
   Sports Illustrated does an Air New Zealand safety video.
   This was the month I first saw the graphic containing a version of these words: ‘Jesus was a guy who was a peaceful, radical, nonviolent revolutionary, who hung around with lepers, hookers, and criminals, who never spoke English, was not an American citizen, a man who was anti-capitalism, anti-wealth, anti-public prayer (yes he was Matthew 6:5), anti-death penalty but never once remotely anti-gay, didn’t mention abortion, didn’t mention premarital sex, a man who never justified torture, who never called the poor “lazy”, who never asked a leper for a co-pay, who never fought for tax cuts for the wealthiest Nazarenes, who was a long haired, brown skinned (that’s in revelations), homeless, middle eastern Jew? Of course, that’s only if you believe what’s actually in the Bible’ (sic). For those who want a response, this blog post answers the points from a Catholic point of view, but the original quote’s not completely off-base.

March
My friend Dmitry protests in Moskva against Russia’s actions in the Crimea. This was posted on this blog at the time. He reports things aren’t all rosy in Russia when it comes to free speech.
   Another friend, Carolyn Enting, gets her mug in the Upper Hutt Leader after writing her first fictional book, The Medallion of Auratus.
   MH370 goes missing.
   And this great cartoon, called ‘If Breaking Bad Had Been Set in the UK’:

April
I call Lupita Nyong’o ‘Woman of the Year 2014’.
   A post featuring Robin Williams (before that horrible moment in August), where he talks about the influence of Peter Sellers and Dr Strangelove on him. I seem to have posted a lot of Robin that month, from his CBS TV show, The Crazy Ones.
   A Lancastrian reader, Gerald Vinestock, writes to The Times: ‘Sir, Wednesday’s paper did not have a photograph of the Duchess of Cambridge. I do hope she is all right.’
   A first post on those CBS TV attempts to create a show about Sherlock Holmes set in the modern day in the US, partnered with a woman: on 1987’s The Return of Sherlock Holmes.

   The fiftieth anniversary of the on-sale date of the Ford Mustang (April 17).
   The death of Bob Hoskins. Of course I had to post his last speech in The Long Good Friday, as well as the clip from Top Gear where Richard Hammond mistook Ray Winstone for Hoskins. They all look the same to me.

May
Judith Collins’ story about what she was doing in China with Oravida collapses.
   Someone points out there is a resemblance between Benedict Cumberbatch and Butthead from Beavis and Butthead.

   Jean Pisani Ferry’s view on the origins of the euro crisis in The Economist: ‘Suppose that the crisis had begun, as it might easily have done, in Ireland? It would then have been obvious that fiscal irresponsibility was not the culprit: Ireland had a budget surplus and very low debt. More to blame were economic imbalances, inflated property prices and dodgy bank loans. The priority should not have been tax rises and spending cuts, but reforms to improve competitiveness and a swift resolution of troubled banks, including German and French ones, that lent so irresponsibly.’

June
British-born Tony Abbott says he doesn’t like immigration, or some such.
   This humorous graphic, made before the launch of the five-door Mini, on how the company could extend its range:

   Sir Ian McKellen says, ‘Did I want to go and live in New Zealand for a year? As it turns out, I was very happy that I did. I can’t recommend New Zealand strongly enough. It’s a wonderful, wonderful place, quite unlike [the] western world. It’s in the southern hemisphere and it’s far, far away and although they speak English, don’t be fooled. They’re not like us. They’re something better than us.’
   Lots of Alarm für Cobra 11 posts.

July
Sopheak Seng’s first Lucire cover, photographed by Dave Richards, and with a fantastic crew: hair by Michael Beel, make-up by Hil Cook, modelled by Chloé Graham, and with some layout and graphic design by Tanya Sooksombatisatian and typography by me.

   Liam Fitzpatrick writes of Hong Kong, before the Occupy protests, ‘Hong Kongers—sober, decent, pragmatic and hardworking—are mostly not the sort of people who gravitate to the barricades and the streets. Neither do they need to be made aware of the political realities of having China as a sovereign power, for the simple fact that postwar Hong Kong has only ever existed with China’s permission. In the 1960s, the local joke was that Mao Zedong could send the British packing with a mere phone call.
   ‘With that vast, brooding power lying just over the Kowloon hills, tiny Hong Kong’s style has always been to play China cleverly—to push where it can (in matters such as education and national-security legislation, where it has won important battles) and to back off where it cannot.’
   It didn’t seem completely prescient.

August
The General Election campaign: National billboards are edited.
   Doctor Who goes on tour prior to Peter Capaldi’s first season in the lead role.
   The suicide of Robin Williams.
   Michael Brown is killed. Greg Howard writes, ‘There was Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., and Oscar Grant in Oakland, Calif., and so many more. Michael Brown’s death wasn’t shocking at all. All over the country, unarmed black men are being killed by the very people who have sworn to protect them, as has been going on for a very long time now …
   ‘There are reasons why white gun’s rights activists can walk into a Chipotle restaurant with assault rifles and be seen as gauche nuisances while unarmed black men are killed for reaching for their wallets or cell phones, or carrying children’s toys.’
   Like so many things, such a statement of fact became politicized in months to come.
   Darren Watson releases ‘Up Here on Planet Key’, only to have it banned by the Electoral Commission. With his permission, I did a spoken-word version.
   Journalist Nicky Hager, who those of us old enough will remember was a right-wing conspiracy theorist, is branded a left-wing conspiracy theorist by the PM because this time, he wrote about National and not Labour. The Deputy PM, Bill English, who commended Hager’s work 12 years ago over Seeds of Distrust, and even quoted from it, remained fairly quiet.
   It wasn’t atypical. I wrote in one post, ‘In 2011, Warren Tucker said three times in one letter that he told PM John Key about the SIS release. Now he says he only told his office but not the PM personally—after an investigation was announced (when the correct protocol would be to let the investigation proceed) …
   ‘Key did not know about GCSB director Ian Fletcher’s appointment (week one of that saga) before he knew about it (week two).
   ‘Key cannot remember how many TranzRail shares he owned.
   ‘Key cannot remember if and when he was briefed by the GCSB over Kim Dotcom.
   ‘Key did not know about Kim Dotcom’s name before he did not know about Kim Dotcom at all.
   ‘Key cannot remember if he was for or against the 1981 Springbok tour.’
   Some folks on YouTube did a wonderful series of satirical videos lampooning the PM. Kiwi satire was back. This was the first:

   Matt Crawford recalled, ‘At this point in the last election campaign, the police were threatening to order search warrants for TV3, The Herald on Sunday, RadioNZ et al—over a complaint by the Prime Minister. Over a digital recording inadvertently made in a public space literally during a media stunt put on for the press—a figurative media circus.’
   Quoting Robert Muldoon in 1977’s Muldoon by Muldoon: ‘New Zealand does not have a colour bar, it has a behaviour bar, and throughout the length and breadth of this country we have always been prepared to accept each other on the basis of behaviour and regardless of colour, creed, origin or wealth. That is the most valuable feature of New Zealand society and the reason why I have time and again stuck my neck out to challenge those who would try to destroy this harmony and set people against people inside our country.’
   And my reaction to the Conservative Party’s latest publicity, which was recorded on this blog, and repeated for good measure on Tumblr: ‘Essentially what they are saying is: our policy is that race doesn’t matter. Except when it comes to vilifying a group, it does. Let’s ignore the real culprits, because: “The Chinese”.’

September
The passing of Richard ‘Jaws’ Kiel.
   John Barnett of South Pacific Pictures sums up Nicky Hager: ‘Hager is a gadfly who often causes us to examine our society. He has attacked both the right and the left before. It’s too easy to dismiss it as a left wing loony conspiracy. We tend to shoot the messengers rather than examine the messages.’
   New Zealanders begin vilifying Kim Dotcom: I respond.
   I blog about Occupy Central in Hong Kong—which led to a television appearance on Breakfast in early October.

October
I’m not sure where this quotation comes from, but I reposted it: ‘A white man is promoted: He does good work, he deserved it.
   ‘A white woman is promoted: Whose dick did she suck?
   ‘A man of color is promoted: Oh, great, I guess we have to “fill quotas” now.
   ‘A woman of color is promoted: j/k. That never happens.’
   Facebook gets overrun by bots: I manage to encounter 277 in a single day. (I eventually reach someone at Facebook New Zealand, who is trying to solicit business for one of the fan pages we have, and point this out. I never hear back from him.) The trouble is Facebook limits you to reporting 40 a day, effectively tolerating the bots. It definitely tolerates the click farms: I know of dozens of accounts that the company has left untouched, despite reports.
   Kim Dotcom’s lawyers file a motion to dismiss in Virginia in United States v. Dotcom and others, and summarize the case so far: ‘Nearly three years ago, the United States Government effectively wiped out Megaupload Limited, a cloud storage provider, along with related businesses, based on novel theories of criminal copyright infringement that were offered by the Government ex parte and have yet to be subjected to adversarial testing. Thus, the Government has already seized the criminal defendants’ websites, destroyed their business, and frozen their assets around the world—all without benefit of an evidentiary hearing or any semblance of due process.
   ‘Without even attempting to serve the corporate defendants per the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the Government has exercised all its might in a concerted, calculated effort to foreclose any opportunity for the defendants to challenge the allegations against them and also to deprive them of the funds and other tools (including exculpatory evidence residing on servers, counsel of choice, and ability to appear) that would equip robust defense in the criminal proceedings.
   ‘But all that, for the Government, was not enough. Now it seeks to pile on against ostensibly defenseless targets with a parallel civil action, seeking civil forfeiture, based on the same alleged copyright crimes that, when scrutinized, turn out to be figments of the Government’s boundless imagination. In fact, the crimes for which the Government seeks to punish the Megaupload defendants (now within the civil as well as the criminal realm) do not exist. Although there is no such crime as secondary criminal copyright infringement, that is the crime on which the Government’s Superseding Indictment and instant Complaint are predicated. That is the nonexistent crime for which Megaupload was destroyed and all of its innocent users were denied their rightful property. That is the nonexistent crime for which individual defendants were arrested, in their homes and at gunpoint, back in January 2012. And that is the nonexistent crime for which the Government would now strip the criminal defendants, and their families, of all their assets.’
   Stuart Heritage thinks The Apprentice UK has run its course, and writes in The Guardian: ‘The Apprentice has had its day. It’s running on fumes. It’s time to replace it with something more exciting, such as a 40-part retrospective on the history of the milk carton, or a static shot of someone trying to dislodge some food from between their teeth with the corner of an envelope.’

November
Doctor Who takes a selfie and photobombs himself.

   Andrew Little becomes Labour leader, and is quoted in the Fairfax Press (who, according to one caption, says his mother’s name is Cecil): ‘I’m not going to resile from being passionate about working men and women being looked after, having a voice, and being able to go to work safe and earn well. That’s what I stand for.
   ‘The National party have continued to run what I think is a very 1970s prejudice about unions … We have [in New Zealand] accepted a culture that if you are big, bold and brassy you will stand up for yourself. But [this] Government is even stripping away protections [from] those who are bold enough to do so.
   ‘I think New Zealanders are ready for someone who will talk bluntly about those who are being left behind. That’s what I’ll be doing.’
   I’m not a Labour voter but I was impressed.
   I advise my friend Keith Adams in Britain, who laments the driving standards there, that in order to have the road toll we have, they’d need to kill another 2,000 per annum. ‘The British driver is a well honed, precision pilot compared to one’s Kiwi counterpart.’

December
Julian Assange on Google, and confirmation that the company has handed over personal data to the US Government. He calls Eric Schmidt ‘Google’s secretary of state, a Henry Kissinger-like figure whose job it is to go out and meet with foreign leaders and their opponents and position Google in the world.’
   The Sydney siege and the tragic deaths of Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson.
   The killing of NYPD officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu. The NYPD doesn’t look very white to me, but a murderer used the death of Eric Garner as an excuse to murder a Dad and a newlywed.
   My second post on those CBS TV attempts to create a show about Sherlock Holmes set in the modern day in the US, partnered with a woman: on 1993’s 1994 Baker Street.

   Craig Ferguson hosts his last Late Late Show. And more’s the pity: he’s one of the old school, never bitter, and never jumped on the bandwagon attacking celebrities.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, China, culture, Hong Kong, humour, interests, internet, media, New Zealand, politics, publishing, TV, typography, UK, USA | 2 Comments »


Alarm für Cobra 11: a 15th birthday celebration

12.03.2011

Today marks the 15th anniversary of Alarm für Cobra 11: die Autobahnpolizei, a German show I have followed for just over a half of its run.
   I’ve watched it through budget cuts and some naff storylines of late. It’s of some interest to chart the course of the show over these many years.

Alarm für Cobra 11
Alarm für Cobra 11
Above, from top: Rainer Strecker and Johannes Brandrup: Alarm für Cobra 11 is made up of a short guy and a tall guy. A stunt involving an anchor and a Ford Scorpio.

The première episode, ‘Bomben bei Kilometer 92’ (1996)
Back in the day, no one believed Germany could do an action series. It was accepted that that was the province of the Americans. An English director of photography was hired for the first Cobra 11, and Action-Concept, the company that now produces the entire show, was called in just to do the stunts. Modern fans wouldn’t recognize it: Cobra 11 was a regular German Krimi, there is one nude scene, and the two stars—Johannes Brandrup and Rainer Strecker—have an Audi 100 (C3) and a Ford Sierra, in the pre-product placement days. Slow-paced by modern standards, but then, there are fewer holes in the story. Some similarities are there: a female boss (Almut Eggert) and the pairing of a tall guy and a short guy. The theme tune, by Reinhard Scheuregger, is in place—it is this version that remained till the 159th episode with Gedeon Burkhard, many years later. There seems to be a real difference in the filming styles of the drama and the action, given that two companies (Polyphon and Action-Concept) are involved. Ten million viewers watch the première on RTL.

Alarm für Cobra 11Episode 3: ‘Der neue Partner’
Contrary to some belief, actor Erdoğan Atalay, playing Semir Gerkhan, was not there from the beginning of the series. He was hired for the third entry, after Strecker’s Ingo Fischer character was killed off. Atalay looks youthful in his first outing, playing the apprentice to Brandrup’s experienced Frank Stolte character—very different to the mature family man in current episodes. This first season netted an average of 7·7 million viewers in Germany—numbers that the more recent seasons have not achieved, largely due to increased competition.

Episode 10: ‘Shotgun’, and the formula is set
For the second season, a new lead actor is hired to replace Brandrup. Mark Keller, as André Fux, is brought in; Atalay continues playing the sidekick. Charlotte Schwab, as Anna Engelhardt, is hired to replace Eggert, as the squad’s new boss. She has a secretary, Andrea Schäfer, played by Carina Wiese. Two supporting regulars are added: uniformed policemen called Horst Herzberger (Dietmar Huhn) and Dieter Bonrath (Gottfried Vollmer). Apart from actor changes, these six roles remain constant throughout the series, with a science lab geek (Hartmut, played by Niels Kurvin) added as a regular in 2004, probably with the success of American shows such as CSI.

Episode 32: ‘Die letzte Chance’, and the stuntmen take over
Action-Concept takes over all duties at the start the third season and cranks up the stunts. No longer filmed in Berlin, the show is moved to its new home base, nearer to Action-Concept HQ in Nordrhein-Westfalen. The stories are still plausible, but you can trace the stunts getting bigger from this point. Keller would see out the third season, with the last episode filmed in Majorca, to escape the German winter. Unlike Brandrup, Keller’s character is killed off in front of his partner Semir—a trend, sadly, whenever a lead actor exits the show.

Alarm für Cobra 11
Above: René Steinke, as Tom Kranich, in his final episode (for now).

Episode 48: ‘Höllenfahrt auf der A4’, and the début of Tom Kranich
Long-time fans speak admirably of the pairing of actor René Steinke (as Tom Kranich) with Atalay, and to many, this is the definitive team, commencing 1999. The stories, at this point, still have some semblance of reality, and it could be argued that the Cobra 11 franchise reached its peak during this era. While the Semir Gerkhan role remains the sidekick, it is maturing, especially with the on–off relationship he has with the secretary, Andrea. The stunts continue to become more impressive, easily beating out anything emerging from weekly American television.
   In 2001, requiring more episodes, a spin-off was created, Alarm für Cobra 11: Einsatz für Team 2. Since Steinke and Atalay had reached the maximum working hours under German employment law, two other actors were hired. The supporting cast remained the same, but the spin-off essentially dealt with two other cops—a male and an aristocratic female this time—who worked when the regulars didn’t. The series was successful—5·5 million viewers per episode—but sank without trace.
   Steinke, arguably, helped draw a big audience. My female friends all seem to agree that the actor is ‘hot’, rating him more highly versus his predecessors and successors.

Alarm für Cobra 11
Above: Christian Oliver and Erdoğan Atalay.

Episode 98: ‘Feuertaufe’, and Erdoğan Atalay is promoted to lead
With Tom’s fiancée, Elena, blown up in her Range Rover at the close of the sixth season, he leaves the force. The producers were, with hindsight, fortunate to keep the character alive, rather than kill him off in the same way as Fux. Christian Oliver, as Jan Richter, is the first new actor to be junior to Erdoğan Atalay’s Semir Gerkhan, finally promoted to lead. The dynamic changes slightly as a result.
Alarm für Cobra 11   At the beginning of the eighth season, Semir and Andrea are married, in a two-hour pilot film, ‘Fur immer und ewig’. The scripts are beginning to show some implausibility, and the villains begin to be more cartoonish.

Episode 126: ‘Comeback’, and Tom Kranich comes back
Richter disappears without trace, leading to the rehiring of actor René Steinke, who has to rejoin the force to help solve the opening crime. It’s not a two-hour pilot this time, but a fairly routine episode about a terrorist bomber. The scripts continue to have a mixture between a traditional crime show and ever-extreme stunts. Eagle-eyed viewers will see an Opel Calibra dressed up with a Mercedes CLK front and rear for storylines that require the car to be destroyed, and Toyota provides extra product placement.
   Atalay continues to have his name first, and the two characters are now equal partners.
   Wiese, leaving the show as a regular, has her Andrea Gerkhan character become a full-time mother. Martina Hill is brought in, after guesting at the start of the 10th season.

Alarm für Cobra 11
Above: Gedeon Burkhard and Erdoğan Atalay share top billing—the order changes depending on episode.

Episode 158: ‘Auf Leben und Tod’, and the guy from Kommissar Rex
When Steinke wishes to leave the show a second time, the producers decide to kill him off—so a second comeback is now out of the question. He comes back for the start of the 11th season to film his death scene, and Gedeon Burkhard, from Kommissar Rex, becomes Semir’s new partner. The on-screen relationship is more strained initially, and Burkhard’s Chris Ritter character is the first chain-smoking lead in the series. Ritter is used to undercover work, so the stories become grittier and darker, with the emphasis on characterization. A new introduction and rearranged theme song are introduced, and depending on episode, either Burkhard or Atalay gets top billing.
   Hill also leaves, replaced by Daniela Wutte as Susanna König.
   A disturbing development begins in production. While BMW and Mercedes-Benz now supply new cars to be written off, it’s during the Burkhard era that crashes from earlier episodes are inserted into the action.
   And Burkhard’s presence is limited. Claiming that he wanted to be closer to his daughter, the actor quits. Chris Ritter is also killed off at the end of the 12th season, this time by a Dutch criminal, and, like Kranich, dies in the presence of Semir Gerkhan.

Alarm für Cobra 11
Alarm für Cobra 11
Alarm für Cobra 11
Above, from top: Ben Jäger (Tom Beck) and Semir Gerkhan (Erdoğan Atalay) can see the sky out of Semir’s BMW 3er-Reihe. In ‘Die Braut’, aired March 12, 2009. A new Mercedes-Benz C-Klasse police car rolls in the opening chase in ‘Der Anschlag’, the season première aired September 2, 2010. And just to show how outrageous the stories have become, that is a nuclear warhead Semir has disarmed, in ‘Codename Tiger’, aired April 22, 2010.

Episode 180: ‘Auf eigene Faust’, and the Tom Beck era
With the introduction of new co-star Tom Beck, as Ben Jäger, the series takes on more fantastic elements. The action sequences pay tribute to the likes of Michael Bay—not exactly the best role model—and some very obvious inspirations from American films begin appearing. Lethal Weapon 4, Live Free or Die Hard, Assault on Precinct 13, and Bay himself (a US air base is named after him in one episode) are referenced, and the villains become even more cartoonish. The early episodes are transitional, but it’s discovered that Beck has good comedic timing, so a few more scenes are played for laughs.
   The show has become more of a caricature, though the occasional good story still surfaces.
   Schwab leaves the show, replaced yet again by a female boss, played by Katja Woywood (who, in fact, guested on Team 2, but played another character).

Episode 219: ‘Bad Bank’, the 15th anniversary episode
Which brings us to 2011 and the 219th story (I’ve used the production order, not the broadcast order). It’s supposedly the 15th anniversary episode. ‘Bad Bank’ sees Ben blinded in the opening chase, though his blindness heals very rapidly. A villain has such bad aim that he fails to shoot Semir despite the use of an automatic weapon, while Semir’s handgun blows up a helicopter. People move in slow motion to be cool. The action is passable though, in a recession, it’s not as extreme as it once was. There’s a rumour that Dietmar Huhn’s character—the second-longest-running in the show, after Atalay’s—will be killed off.
   Atalay believes the show will go on, although he has a film to shoot as well as his Cobra 11 episodes this year. The viewers seem to like Beck, and 5·5 million are still drawn to the show each week in Germany. It remains the top-rated show in its timeslot, beating off reality TV programmes. However, as a long-time fan, I’m hoping for some better stories or stunts—as there’s a feeling that Alarm für Cobra 11 peaked a while back. The numbers certainly did: ‘Bad Bank’, an exercise in style over substance, netted only 5·07 million against strong competition—though that’s up considerably from figures a few years ago that had Cobra 11 stuck between 3 million and 4 million. It does seem to be recovering its market share.
   On that note, I wish the show a happy birthday—15 years and 222 finished episodes are nothing to be sneezed at. It’s been renewed for autumn 2011, which is no surprise, given it continues to bring in the numbers, especially the crucial 14–49 age group. It’s brought us many good memories and continues to be fun, escapist viewing on RTL and, more recently, RTL Now.

Some links
Alarm für Cobra 11 international Facebook group
Cobra 11 Fanabteilung
Hank-Gert’s Alarm für Cobra 11 Homepage
Official site

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in cars, culture, interests, internet, media, TV | No Comments »


A guide to writing an Alarm für Cobra 11 episode

27.04.2010

BMW 330i

Since my campaign fund-raiser on the 15th, I’ve had to take a back seat from blogging, though there is a lot to discuss about work, our city and other matters. And I would get back in to serious mode but for a nasty stomach bug that has kept me down—and taken away a bit of brain power.
   Till then, I feel compelled to write a non-sensical post, one that requires a little more energy than the images I have been sticking up on Tumblr.
   Though you have come to expect greater analysis from me on this blog.
   Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, and especially to the German waitress at Elements in Lyall Bay who believes Alarm für Cobra 11: die Autobahnpolizei is the worst show on her home country’s telly, I present my guide to writing an episode.
   This is not my dissing the show. I love the fact there is a formula, and apparently so do a lot of Germans, which explains why it’s been on since 1996 and is sold in over two dozen countries. About the only major language it is not dubbed in to is English, yet it surpasses most actioners made in the Anglosphere. As a matter of fact, I dislike it when they depart from the formula because it’s become a comfortable old friend since I began watching the show in the early 2000s (and have had to catch up on the 1990s’ ones). If I don’t get my three car chases per episode, I get moody.
   In episodes where they focus on a particular character, then put his or her name in instead of ‘Semir and Ben’.
   I have used the word ‘Ben’ for Semir’s sidekick below to remain current, though if you look back, these comments could apply to André, Jan, Tom and Chris. I never saw the first two with Ingo and Frank. Susanne could be Andrea in earlier episodes; Kim could be Anna or Katharina.

Semir and Ben are chilling out / driving / at a roadside shop / getting petrol / getting food
|
Semir and Ben witness a murder / are overtaken by crooks / receive an emergency call / see something unusual
|
Semir and Ben give chase
|
Crooks kill someone / destroy an innocent party’s car
|
Semir and Ben have to stop due to crashed cars / crashing their own car / rendering assistance to motorists / someone having been injured or killed
|
Crooks get away

Opening titles: Ihr Revier ist die Autobahn, etc.

Squad investigates clue left behind / murder victim / number plate
|
Kim briefs Semir and Ben / Susanne perves at Ben (or, in earlier episodes, Andrea is concerned about Semir)
|
Semir and Ben follow the clue / get a call and get to the crooks’ first hideout / location of registered car / murder victim’s home
|
Crooks are there, covering up / hiding / stealing stuff
|
Semir and Ben / Dieter and Hotte give chase in town / on the Autobahn
|
Semir and Ben / Dieter and Hotte lose the crooks in a funny way / in a serious way / in a way that involves someone flipping the bird
|
At the scene, Semir and Ben / Dieter and Hotte find more clues from the crooks / from the victim
|
Hartmut analyses the clues
|
At the station, Kim, Semir and Ben figure out what the crooks / the victim were / was planning
|
Susanne figures out where the crooks / the victim were / was planning their / his / her robbery / conspiracy / releasing a bomb / releasing chemicals / kidnapping / other crime
|
Crooks are carrying out their plan
|
Semir and Ben rush there
|
Crooks get in to their vehicle(s) and head to the Autobahn / country lane / forest
|
Semir and Ben give chase by car together / are separated and one takes a car and the other takes a helicopter / motorcycle / jeep / truck / horse / jumps on to the crooks’ remaining vehicle to have a fight
|
Semir and Ben catch the crooks
|
Kim / Dieter and Hotte are / are not there and Ben gets / does not get a snog
|
Semir and Ben make some funny comments regardless of who is there

End credits

   To those friends in Germany who have seen more episodes than I have, is this about right?

Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in cars, culture, humour, interests, TV | 10 Comments »


First trailers for Alarm für Cobra 11’s next season

25.02.2010

Is it just me, or does it feel like the budget for Alarm für Cobra 11: die Autobahnpolizei has been cut even more? This preview does not seem as spectacular as the last two seasons’ (and last season felt cheaper already). And where are Dieter and Horst?
   Back on March 11 on RTL.

Tags: , , , ,
Posted in interests, TV | 2 Comments »