“Gute Zeiten, schlechte Zeiten” Posted by on Aug 18, 2010 in Culture, Language

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.


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

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About the Author: Sandra Rösner

Hello everybody! I studied English and American Studies, Communication Science, and Political Science at the University of Greifswald. Since I have been learning English as a second language myself for almost 20 years now I know how difficult it is to learn a language other than your native one. Thus, I am always willing to keep my explanations about German grammar comprehensible and short. Further, I am inclined to encourage you to speak German in every situation. Regards, Sandra


  1. Hazem Khalaf:

    Sounds interesting… your topics are interesting and educational (For my german level at least )

    Keep it up….!

  2. Malcolm James Thomson:

    I found your post telling the world about GZSZ very sweet (*hubsch*)! Funny to be reiminded of the change in setting (*Handlunsort*)… when was producer of the series in the early nineties we called the town Entenhausen! Try explaining ‘Ducksburg’ and ‘Mouseton’ to your English speaking readers!

  3. Dale:

    Why can’t we have something like this in the United States? You bet your butt I’d watch it, and, if I couldn’t see it at air time I would DVR the episodes. The closest that we’ve had to this in recent years was Queer as Folk; but that stopped a long time ago. Looks like we’re still playing catch up on this side of the pond in the US.