Posts tagged ‘anniversary’


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


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Surely something all Chinese can agree on

18.01.2011

It’s 2011, which, by my calculations, is the centenary of China kicking out the corrupt Ching dynasty.
   It’s the one event that both Republicans and Communists can agree on as being positive. It’s why Dr Sun Yat-sen is such a uniting figure for all Chinese, as the father of the nation.
   I can’t speak for all expatriates, but personally, I think this is an anniversary worth celebrating.
   Twenty-eleven might be the time to put aside the usual animosity and all the political rhetoric. Like New Year, we can look forward to some unity surrounding the formation of a Chinese republic.
   And since we’re unlikely ever to get the two sides agreeing on much more, then maybe a Chinese commonwealth is an idea we should entertain?


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Bonne 50e anniversaire, Renault 4

13.01.2011

Before there was the Twingo, there was the Renault 4. It celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, as I was reminded on Tumblr earlier today. From Autocade:

Image:Renault_4.jpgRenault 4 (R1121). 1961–94 (prod. 8,135,424). 5-door estate, utility convertible. F/F, 603, 747, 782, 845, 956, 1108 cm³ (4 cyl. OHV). Replacement for 4CV conceived as a response to Citroën 2CV, which was overtaking the Renault in sales. Soft suspension for rural buyers who might use 4s on the farm; front-wheel-drive transmission and four-wheel independent suspension. Separate chassis and body, rather than 4CV’s monocoque, for simplicity. Four-speed gearbox from 1968, the year of the 4’s facelift. GTL with 1·1-litre from 1978. Additional models added, such as fourgonette in 1962; limited-edition Parisienne in 1964 with a tartan pattern, in association with Elle magazine; Plein Air from 1968 to 1970; Rodeo from 1970 to 1987. Rebodied 4, called the Renault 6, from 1968, but the utilitarian 4 managed to outlive it. Billancourt production ceased 1987, with Slovenia the last country to put out a 4 in 1994.

   There was also its lesser known sibling, the Renault 3, a sort of poverty version of the 4:

Image:Renault_3.jpgRenault 3 (R1121). 1961–2 (prod. 2,526; other source lists 2,571). 5-door estate. F/F, 603 cm³ (4 cyl. OHV). Entry-level Renault based on the 4, but without any luxuries—no hubcaps, interior door trims, third side window, or grille. Engine in the 3CV class in France, but since a Renault 4L cost little more, most customers opted for the better specified car. Rugged and simple, rivalling base 2CVs as intended by Renault.


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Happy birthday, Lucire

21.10.2010

Lucire home page, October 20, 1997
Above The first issue of Lucire in 1997. Below right Lucire’s first iPad cover.

[Cross-posted at Lucire] An hour ago, we turned 13. Normally this wouldn’t have merited much of a mention, since 13’s not the sort of number people tend to celebrate. But I happened to be up, after a long day catching up on emails post-election, while head designer Tanya Sooksombatisatian sorted through our New York Fashion Week images.
   Earlier this evening, fashion editor Sopheak Seng and I attended a fashion show for La’ Shika Bridal, held at the Museum Hotel in Wellington, and had good chats to the bridal designers and jewellery designer Victoria Taylor, sister of Rebecca.
   I sat at a similar desk in 1997 when we started Lucire and uploaded the new home page, replacing a placeholder, at precisely midnight NZDT on October 21. (I even timed it.) That translated to October 20 at 6 a.m. in New York. At the time, the US market was the primary one online, so I tended to notice what the time was over on their east coast.
   It was a 386 running Netscape 1-point-something that displayed Lucire’s first edition here. The monitor had a resolution of 1,024 by 768 pixels. We developed it on Windows 3·1, but tested it on various Power Macs. I coded the home page by hand and did the first graphics.
   We’ve gone through a lot—a print edition from 2004, a short-lived venture in Romania in 2005–6, and we now face 2011 with print in four countries and an iPad app that will go live any day. A cellphone edition has been around for a little while, though it never took off. I was in it for the long haul, but I really didn’t think specifics. We had a general direction, and we seized the opportunities as they came.
   There have been many times when I have publicly thanked the people who got us here, and many of those who I named in December 2008, when I celebrated 21 years in business, were responsible for getting Lucire to where it is. Since then, Andrew Matusik, Victoria Jones, Sopheak Seng, Rola Saab, Jon Moe, Seka Ojdrović-Phillips, Samantha Hannah, Joseph Ungoco, Leyla Messian, Ashleigh Berry and Sylvia Giles must be added to the list. The many Massey University graduates who have tirelessly helped—Roanna Bell, Uma Lele and Brigitte Unger come to mind—as well as Gemma Conn from Waikato Institute of Technology.
   I won’t say the journey has been easy: in fact, it’s been very tough. But I’m very glad that Lucire has been a medium through which many people have been brought together to do something we all love. We have been a change agent in the past, and that’s something I’m conscious we need to continue, through being on the forefront of new media. And we’ve introduced our fair share of labels, many of which have become big names. We’ve provided many people with coverage when others ignored them—discovering then that all they needed was that leg up to get to the next stage.
Lucire Ipad edition cover, photographed by Andrew Matusik   I still remember the fact that we were one of the first to interview Zac Posen and Kathryn Wilson as she graduated from university, and covered Rebecca Taylor at Gen Art. Lucire published the first series of sustainable style editorials in an international fashion magazine with Summer Rayne Oakes in the earlier part of the century.
   To all our readers, thank you for being with us on this journey. I am mindful that we are merely stewards of the Lucire brand, and that it belongs to us not in law, but in spirit. We’re going to keep engaging and we plan to be with you for many more anniversaries to come.


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How could the Chinese republic celebrate its centenary?

21.02.2010

Next year marks the centenary of the founding of the Chinese republic. We got rid of our rather hopeless Ching Dynasty, and ushered in Asia’s first democracy.
   Both the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China see 1911 as an important year, and Dr Sun Yat-sen as the founder of the nation (here is a page from the Zhongshan government on Dr Sun which—shock—even mentions democracy). As the father of the country, his legacy one of the few things nationalists and communists agree on, even though technically the two sides remain in conflict and are in a state of Civil War. The Republic began on October 10, 1911, a date which tends to be celebrated by many, though it was formally declared on January 1, 1912.
   So, what might 2011 bring in terms of perspective?
   Idealists might point to some possibilities:

  • that closer economic ties across the Taiwan Strait mean the eventual formation of a Chinese commonwealth, with both sides maintaining the political impasse;
  • a review of the ideas of the republic as espoused by Dr Sun, and the greater acceptance of the political structure he believed in, which included cooperation between nationalists and communists;
  • that both sides of the political argument agree there are more commonalities than differences between all Chinese peoples.
  •    I doubt we’ll see political unity while Beijing is still governed by the Communist Party, which sees little point in changing its own structure to accommodate territories it considers its own. We see a similar view, officially, within the Kuomintang, interpreted in its favour. The regular triumph of ideology over practicality and the prospect of a joint future growth of ‘China’ gets in the way; the idea of an economic union or commonwealth might be the easiest way forward.
       Never mind what you call it internally, it is a solution in which both sides can claim victory, preserve face, and avoid bloodshed. The fact that no armistice has been signed by both signs is actually an advantage—because it means this difference of opinion can be solved technically as an internal matter, not one between two sovereign states.
       This is not an idea that the diehards like, so let the name-calling begin in the comments.
       But remember in whatever debate we enter, we should think of this question: since we all dislike what the Ching Dynasty did to China, what is the best way to honour the memory of the founding father of the nation in 2011?


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