German Language Blog

Wetten, dass…? The forgotten Game Show of German TV Posted by on Sep 8, 2015 in Culture

Top, die Wette gilt! With this sentence Thomas Gottschalk would start the various Wetten (bets) in the TV show Wetten, dass…? (Wanna bet?). It ran for 34 years in the German-speaking world, from 1981 to 2014, and was known as “größte Fernsehshow Europas” (largest TV show of Europe).

Thomas Gottschalk, of course, was not the only host of the show, but he did present most episodes. It all started with Frank Elstner, in 1981. He had the idea, which came to him over night. Gottschalk took over in 1987, with a two-year break in the early 90s, however. He only passed it on to Markus Lanz in 2012, who hosted the show for just another two years. It was then discontinued, as viewer numbers dwindled.

Though still, it was one of the most successful Saturday night shows ever. At its peak, well over 20 million people were watching Wetten, dass…? – not bad at all!

What is this show about?

The idea is quite simple. There are individual contestants, who bet that they can do something spectacular. They can be from anywhere, not just Germany. They bet against a guest invited to the show. The guest either decides in favor of the contestant, or against. If the guest is wrong, he or she has to do something for it. This is the Wetteinsatz (the stake). Often, this was collecting money for charity, or that they donate money, or do something live during the show.

So who are these guests? Since the show was so big, it could afford to invite very high-profile, international guests, like Michael Jackson. This was also a reason for more viewer numbers, obviously. Often, the entire couch would be filled with such VIPs.

At the end of the night, the viewers could by vote decide which contestants becomes the Wettkönig (bet king) of the night.

Thomas Gottschalk with Samuel Koch, a contestant that became paraplegic after his bet at the show in 2010. (Image by Christliches Medienmagazin Pro at under CC BY-SA 2.0)


The franchise was also sold to many other countries, including the United States. However, none of these held nearly as long as the German original.

Here is a summary of all the years of Wetten, dass…?, with some great highlights!



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About the Author: Sten

Hi! I am Sten, both Dutch and German. For many years, I've written for the German and the Dutch blogs with a passion for everything related to language and culture. It's fascinating to reflect on my own culture, and in the process allow our readers to learn more about it! Besides blogging, I am a German-Dutch-English translator, animator and filmmaker.