What’s Good on TV in Germany? Posted by on Dec 11, 2013 in Practice, Television

What better way to start this post than with a show-stopping musical number?

That, my friends, was the first five minutes of the first episode of the new German TV show Neo Magazin mit Jan Böhmermann. Don’t feel bad if you didn’t get all the jokes. Even a fluent German speaker would have to already be familiar with who that guy is to understand all the references. Just to give you the gist, the song tells the story of Herr Böhmermann reaching rock bottom after the “failure” of his previous talk show Roche & Böhmermann, but then he is visited by the spirit of Markus Lanz, who gives him the courage to try hosting his own show.

*I’ve included the transcript and translation of the first verse at the end of this post, in case you wish to follow along and find new vocabulary.*

Why don’t we ever see anything German on TV in America? NBC had such great success with BBC’s The Office that adapting UK shows like The Inbetweeners  and Skins was a no-brainer for MTV. And then in 2011 AMC found moderate success with the Danish series The Killing (hot on the hype of Scandinavian crime drama started by The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo).  So it’s not just the language barrier preventing television exports from Germany to the USA. I think that in the end the networks just aren’t seeing anything being made in Germany as profitable among American audiences.

Until very recently, that was a big bummer for anyone in the USA wondering what’s on TV in Germany. But now we have the Internet! Problem solved. As I mentioned Friday, part of my goal with this blog will be to expose readers to quality programming being offered in Germany these days. Thanks to the viewing habits of the youth of today, German networks have moved to put a great deal of content online to watch at any time on their Mediatheken. For instance, you can watch full episodes of Neo Magazin on the ZDF Mediathek by following this link:

Semi-Pro Lernen Tip #1: If you want to learn a language, it is extremely important to hear that language as much as possible. Even if you don’t understand what is being said, merely giving your ears practice with the rhythm and melody of the language will do wonders for your own pronunciation.

What do you use to practice listening? It took me a very long time to get to the point where I could understand what was being said on the radio or what the lyrics were to German songs. I’ll keep sharing more of the good stuff I found through practicing in future posts. Any suggestions you have are welcome in the comments!

Bis bald,


“…was bisher geschah” = “…the story so far”

Was ist los? Willst du reden? = What’s wrong? Do you want to talk (about it)?

Nein! Ich möchte singen! = No! I want to sing!

Die Studiolampe brennt nicht mehr = The studio lamp is no longer lit

Die Mikrophone… abgebaut. = The microphones… dismantled.

Die Wucht des Schicksals traf mich schwer = Fate’s impact hit me hard

Ich glaube, ich habe es versaut. = I think I screwed it up.


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About the Author: mickeymickey

Mickey was born in 1987 in Chicago, IL. He plays the oboe and loves Calvin & Hobbes. His favorite Beatles song is "Something", but his favorite Beatles album is A Hard Day's Night.


  1. jamie:

    Cool. I’d love any other links to german TV shows on the web for free.

    • mickeymickey:

      @jamie I’ll work on getting a more comprehensive list of recommendations together for a future post! -Mickey

  2. Maegen Fariss:

    I’d think audiobooks are a good way to listen to the language too. Now if only I can find a way to get some…

    • mickeymickey:

      @Maegen Fariss Hi Maegan,
      Audiobooks are great. I love listening to them in English, especially back when I was commuting a lot by car. I haven’t actually listened to any in German yet, but that’s definitely a good way to get exposure. Have you read any books in German?

  3. Allan Mahnke:

    Actually, we do have occasional German television series (if all too few!), all Krimi, on MHZ broadcast in Washington, D.C., but they stream live on the internet ( Most recently we saw Verbrechen based on Ferdinand von Schirach’s marvelous work and also Der Kommissar ind das Meer. I highly recommend their broadcasts. Es lebe MHZ!

    Audiobooks are available from among other sources.

    • mickeymickey:

      @Allan Mahnke Hi Allan,
      I’d never actually heard of MHZ before! That seems like an awesome station. I will for sure check it out. Do they ever show Tatort? That’s the most popular German Krimi-series…

  4. Sean:

    If you’re a gamer, there are a lot of play-through videos of video games in German on YouTube. For example, I have been watching one that’s playing the new Tomb Raider.

    So you get the German audio from the game (with German subtitles in this example), and audio from the player, which is good for hearing how Germans react to things and certain slang and insults.

    • mickeymickey:

      @Sean Hey Sean, that’s such an awesome tip! I’ve heard of game play-throughs, but I never thought about how listening to them in a foreign language would be good practice. It makes so much sense! Watching a video like that, you have a certain context, so you’re able to hear what the person is saying without being totally lost. Great idea. Plus, you never know when you need slang or insults, haha.

  5. Maegen Fariss:

    for translated German, I have read Inkheart (I haven’t gotten to the rest of the trilogy yet). I have not read any books in German, and can understand spoken German better than written German. 🙂

  6. Henry:

    Thanks for the post. I love this blog looking forward to more of your posts.

  7. Maegen Fariss:

    found the Chronicles of Narnia audiobooks on youtube, in case anyone else was interested:

  8. Glyn:

    Personally I listen to Internet radio news station SWR, ; all talk, no pop music. Granted I am a short way into learning German but the number of times I suddenly think “I understood a bit of what that presenter said!” shows I am progressing in a small way.

  9. Gerry:

    Lots of German channels also have subtitles, in German. I find reading then while listening to the dialogue really helpful.