Every day – from Monday to Friday at 7:45 pm – about 4 Million people in Germany turn on their TV sets to watch Germany’s most popular Seifenoper (soap opera) “Gute Zeiten, schlechte Zeiten” (Good times, bad times). I wonder why this show is so successful nowadays because when the first episode was broadcasted on 11 May 1992 no one would have believed in those days that this series would ever attract such a broad audience.
Originally, the show was an adaption of the Australian series “The Restless Years”, which was produced in Australia from 1977 to 1981. The Australian show did not only serve as a Vorbild (model) for the German TV show, but also supplied the Drehbücher (scripts). Although the Dialoge (dialogues) were translated into German the Schauspieler (actors) were not very convincing regarding their authenticity and credibility. I guess the lacking persuasiveness of the actors, based on the dialogues, was one major reason why the program did not draw people’s attention. Obviously, Germans could not identify with the dialogues’ content.
This changed a long time ago. After a year on air the Produktionsfirma (production company) had decided that German Drehbuchautoren (script writers) should write the scripts from then on. This was undeniably a good Entscheidung (decision). In 1999, the series won the Bambi Award and, in 2003, the “Deutsche Fernsehpreis” (“German Television Award”).
“Gute Zeiten, schlechte Zeiten” tells stories about the everyday life of a group of young people, their friends and families. Although some Handlungsstränge (storylines) appear rather unreal, the Serie (series), however, tries to refer to prevalent social issues, which first of all young people have to face such as schulische Probleme (school problems), Berufswahl (choice of occupation), Überschuldung (indebtedness) of young people as well as, of course, Liebeskummer (pangs of love) and Trennungsschmerz (pain of separation). Further, now and then the show even picks up taboo subjects such as homosexuality, Drogenmissbrauch (drug abuse), Spielsucht (gambling), and alcoholism.
While initially the story was set in a fictitious place, now the Handlungsort (setting) is unmistakably Berlin. Districts of Berlin are often eingeblendet (slotted in) as transitions between the scenes. This may contribute to the fact that people can easily identify with the characters. Sometimes I can even overhear people discussing the characters’ actions, developments and intentions as if they were real friends or acquaintances.
Although there is a high fluctuation of actors, three of them are part of the team since the very first Folge (episode). These are Lisa Riecken, who plays the role of Elisabeth Meinhart, Frank-Thomas Mende, who portrays the character Clemens Richter, and Wolfgang Bahro, who plays Joachim “Jo” Gerner.
Below you can find find a gallery of all current actors. The name in parentheses are their characters’ names in “Gute Zeiten, schlechte Zeiten”.
Here is a complete episode of the series. Unfortunately, there are no English subtitles but maybe you can understand something.
Now I am curious. What is your first impression? Can you understand why this soap opera is so popular in Germany? Would you watch it daily?
die Seifenoper – soap opera
das Vorbild – model
das Drehbuch – script
der Drehbuchautor – scriptwriter
die Produktionsfirma – production company
der Dialog – dialogue
die Entscheidung – decision
die schulischen Probleme – school problems
die Berufswahl – choice of occupation
die Überschuldung – indebtedness
der Liebeskummer – pangs of love
der Trennungsschmerz – pain of separation
der Drogenmissbrauch – drug abuse
die Spielsucht – gambling
der Handlungsort – setting
einblenden – slot in
der Handlungsstrang – storyline
die Serie – series
die Folge – episode