Late-night talk show
|Created by||Frank Elstner|
|Presented by||Main Host:
Frank Elstner (1981–1987)
Thomas Gottschalk (1987–92, 1994–2011)
Wolfgang Lippert (1992–93)
Markus Lanz (2012–14)
Michelle Hunziker (2009–2011)
Cindy aus Marzahn (2012–2013)
|Country of origin||Germany
|No. of episodes||151 (Gottschalk)
|Running time||150 minutes|
|Original channel||ZDF, ORF, SF DRS|
|Picture format||576i (4:3 SDTV) (1981–2007)
576i (16:9 SDTV) (2007–2010)
720p (16:9 HDTV) (2010–2014)
|Original release||February 14, 1981– December 13, 2014|
Wetten, dass..? (German for "Wanna bet that..?") was a long-running German-language entertainment television show. It was the most successful Saturday television show in Europe. Its format was the basis for the British show You Bet! and the US-American show Wanna Bet?.
The shows were broadcast live six to eight times a year from different cities in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. There were also seven open-air summer shows, broadcast from Amphitheatre Xanten, Plaça de Toros de Palma de Mallorca, Disneyland Paris, Waldbühne Berlin, and Aspendos Roman Theatre. Each of the shows, which were shown without commercial interruption, were usually scheduled to last for about two hours, but it was not uncommon for a show to run as much as 45 minutes longer.
On 14 February 1981, the German channel ZDF broadcast the first episode in cooperation with the Austrian broadcaster ORF and the Swiss channel SF DRS. The inventor of the show, Frank Elstner, hosted the show until its 39th episode in 1987. Wetten, dass..? has since been hosted by entertainer Thomas Gottschalk, except during a brief interval from 1992 to 1993, when nine episodes were presented by Wolfgang Lippert. Gottschalk hosted his 100th episode of the show on 27 March 2004.
In summer 2007, Wetten, dass..? had its first show in 16:9 widescreen. Since late 2009, Michelle Hunziker has assisted Gottschalk in hosting the show. The show on 27 February 2010 was the first show broadcast in HD. Thomas Gottschalk left the show on 3 December 2011, the end of the 2011 season, because of an accident involving Samuel Koch, a 23-year old man who became a quadriplegic due to a stunt which he performed on the show of 4 December 2010.
After long speculations who would take over the show, ZDF announced on 11 March 2012 that Markus Lanz would be the next presenter. His first show was on 6 October 2012 and the last show was on 13 December 2014.
List of hosts
|Host||From||To||Notes||# of episodes|
|Frank Elstner||March 14, 1981||38||April 4, 1987||44||creator and the 1st host||39|
|Thomas Gottschalk||September 26, 1987||37||May 2, 1992||41||longest running and most popular host||36|
|Wolfgang Lippert||September 26, 1992||40||November 27, 1993||41||shortest running host||9|
|Thomas Gottschalk||January 15, 1994||43||December 3, 2011||61||Michelle Hunziker (co-host from 2009–2011)||115|
|Markus Lanz||October 6, 2012||43||December 13, 2014||45||Cindy aus Marzahn (co-host from 2012–2013)||12|
- Lighting a pocket lighter using an excavator's shovel (19 February 1983)
- Assembling a V8 engine from parts and making it run within 10 minutes (2 November 1991)
- 13 swimmers towing a 312-tonne ship over a distance of 25 meters (7 October 1995)
- Recognising 5 of 6 (out of a total of 75) species of birds blindfolded by feeling a single feather (9 November 2002)
- A Chinese martial artist pushing a car with a spear, the tip of which was resting on his throat
- A nine-year-old boy from Vienna computing the shortest bus and railcar routes throughout the city from memory
- A blindfolded farmer recognizing his cows by the sound they made while chewing apples
The other major attraction of the show was the top-ranking celebrity guests, with considerable screen time given to the host greeting and chatting with them. Each of the guests had to bet on the outcome of one of the performances and offer a wager, in recent years usually a humorous or mildly humiliating, originally more charitable, activity to be carried out if they lose. Until 1987, each of the celebrities bet on all the performances and the most accurate one was selected to be that show's Wettkönig ("bet king"). Ever since, one of the people performing the task is selected by a telephone vote. Celebrities that have appeared on the show included a vast range of personalities, with repeated guests including the likes of Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt, Naomi Campbell, Michael Douglas, Michael Jackson, Jennifer Aniston, David Beckham, Hugh Grant, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Claudia Schiffer, Heidi Klum, Bill Gates, Karl Lagerfeld, Mikhail Gorbachev and Gerhard Schröder.
Additionally, until 2001, members of the audience could offer bets against the host to find a certain number of unusual persons (e.g. 10 ladies over the age of 65 driving motorbikes). One of these was selected at the beginning of the show and had to be fulfilled by its end. Since 2001, the host bets against the entire city where the show is held.
Between the bets and the celebrity smalltalk, there were musical performances by top-ranking artists like Jennifer Lopez, Coldplay, OneRepublic, Rihanna, Kiss, t.A.T.u., Whitney Houston, Katy Perry, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Anastacia, Avril Lavigne, Christina Stürmer, Bryan Adams, Shakira, Britney Spears, Scorpions, Bon Jovi, Meat Loaf, Elton John, Tokio Hotel, Miley Cyrus, Ashley Tisdale, Joe Cocker, Lady Gaga, Luciano Pavarotti, Celine Dion, Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey, Robert Plant, Status Quo, Leona Lewis, David Bowie, Bruno Mars, Cher and Tina Turner.
In the Netherlands, a version was broadcast between 1984 and 1999 under the name Wedden, dat..? by the AVRO and (from the early nineties) RTL 4. The Dutch shows were hosted by Jos Brink until 1993, after which Rolf Wouters took over. Reinout Oerlemans presented the show for one season in 1999.
Wetten, dass..? inspired the British series You Bet!. It was produced by London Weekend Television and was broadcast on ITV from 1988 to 1997. The hosts were Bruce Forsyth (1988–1990), Matthew Kelly (1991–1995), and Darren Day (1996–1997).
In October 2004, Wetten, dass..? also started in the Chinese television under the title Wanna Challenge (as gambling is illegal in China). It is shown once a week and reaches 60 million viewers each episode.
In early 2000s, a Slovenian version of Wetten, dass..? started weekly on POP TV under the title Super Pop hosted by Stojan Auer. There were initiations of close production connections with the original Wetten, dass..?, but the show was canceled because of high production costs before any further common productions were made.
In 2005 and 2006, a Polish version was broadcast under the name Załóż się.
In 2006 and 2007 a Russian version was broadcast on the Channel One under the name Большой спор (Bolshoy Spor, literally A Big Betting). The host was Dmitry Nagiev. The show was closed after the 7th episode due to its low popularity.
Wetten, dass..? also had a Spanish version which run on Spain's national broadcaster TVE 1 between 4 May 1993 and 30 June 2000. The show titled ¿Qué Apostamos? was fronted by Ramón García, accompanied by Ana Obregón (1993-1998), Antonia Dell'Atte (1998-1999), and Raquel Navamuel and Mónica Martínez (2000). The Spanish federation of regional TV stations operating under the FORTA umbrella later recovered the format in 2008, hosted by Carlos Lozano and Rocío Madrid, but the revival was short lived and was swiftly axed due to low ratings and the high cost of producing the programme.
In 2006, ABC signed with reality producer Phil Gurin of The Gurin Company to develop an American version of the show. Six episodes were broadcast in July–September 2008, hosted by British duo Ant & Dec. This is not the first time the show has been produced for American audiences; in 1993, CBS broadcast a pilot called Wanna Bet?, hosted by Mark McEwen, which was not picked up as a full series.
- There was an instance where Frank Elstner lost a private bet himself; he had bet with his family that his colleague Kurt Felix would never fool him. (Kurt Felix ran a show similar to Candid Camera, called Verstehen Sie Spaß? ("Can You Take a Joke?"). On the 29th show (21 September 1985), after an outdoor challenge which involved painting the ZDF logo onto the roof of a car with a paintbrush fixed to a helicopter's skid, the pilot was invited – along with the guests – for a drink of champagne. But the contents of the bottle turned out to be pure vinegar, as Elstner discovered when he was the first to take a sample, and the red-haired and bearded pilot revealed himself to the laughing audience as Kurt Felix in disguise.
- In a special on German TV, Elstner said, Wetten, dass..? had the chance to have Pope John Paul II on the show, but only via video link, not direct in person. Elstner refused, because this could be precedent for future celebrities and famous people to come on the show via video link and not appear in person on the set. Elstner regretted the once-in-a-lifetime chance to have the pope on his show and said it was the greatest mistake of his career.
- In the 25th show on 15 December 1984, environmental activists ran in front of the cameras with a banner that read "Nicht wetten – Donauauen retten" ("Don't bet – save the Danube wetlands"). When they were pulled out of the way by the show's security, Frank Elstner commanded that no one was to be thrown out of his show. He let the activists make their request and they left the show peacefully. The banner was for the then Austrian chancellor Fred Sinowatz, who was a guest on that show.
- In the 48th show on 3 September 1988, an editor of the German satirical magazine Titanic, Bernd Fritz, sneaked into the show as a contestant under the pseudonym Thomas Rautenberg. The real Thomas Rautenberg, a graphic artist from Munich, offered his bet to Wetten, dass..?, to see how the ZDF would react. He claimed to recognize the colour of crayons by tasting them. Bernd Fritz took the bet to the show and won the bet. However he admitted he was cheating and the solution of how he did it could be read in the next issue of Titanic. Gottschalk then told the audience that he would read the magazine, and tell the trick in the next show, so that the magazine wouldn't get the publicity from this stunt. It was later explained that the blacked ski goggles that contestants wear if they need their vision removed for the bet, were adjusted by Fritz so he could peek through a gap along his nose to see the colour of the crayon. The showmaster tested the visibility through the goggles by faking punches against Fritz eyes and seeing if he would try to dodge them, but after the test it seemed as if Fritz adjusted the goggles to a more comfortable position before he attempted the bet. Since then, swimming goggles with a rubber sealing that sticks to the skin have been used.
- In the 102nd show on 8 December 1996, a live bet at the Russian space station Mir was planned. The cosmonauts wanted to decorate a Christmas tree in zero gravity in two minutes. Because of technical problems, however, the station couldn't be contacted during the show.
Samuel Koch incident
Samuel Koch, a 23-year old aspiring stuntman, became a quadriplegic during a stunt performed on the show on December 4, 2010. The incident was broadcast live. The contestant took on a bet in which he was to try to jump over five moving cars using spring-loaded boots. The cars were of gradually increasing length. While the first three attempts were successful, the stunt went horribly wrong during the fourth try, when the man failed to clear the car, driven by his own father. Koch's head hit the windshield while he was inverted, and he then landed awkwardly on the studio floor, taking the impact on his head. The contestant fractured two cervical vertebrae and damaged his spinal cord.
Koch was transported to a nearby hospital, where emergency surgery was performed upon him. Koch survived but is now paralyzed from his neck down. The episode was interrupted and terminated prematurely about 20 minutes later, for the first time ever in the program's history. The ZDF has stated that both the episode and the segment depicting the accident will never be broadcast again. In the follow-up Wetten, dass..? episode, Thomas Gottschalk announced his decision to resign as the show's host after the last installment of the 2011 season, with the accident being a major motivation to do so.
Following Gottschalk's retirement, ZDF TV host Markus Lanz has taken over the hosting of the show (debuting on October 6, 2012). However, his approach to the show did not meet public or critical approval, causing the show to experience a drastic ratings loss.
Eventually, with the conclusion of the 2014 Offenburg show (April 5, 2014), it was announced that the show would be cancelled at the close of 2014, official statements claiming "out-moded concepts" as the main reason for this decision. This announcement drew protests from both Frank Elstner and Thomas Gottschalk. However, it was also stated that an eventual revival would be considered.
The 215th and last show was broadcast on December 13, 2014 from Nürnberg, with Samuel Koch - who never blamed Wetten, dass...? or Gottschalk for his condition - being one of the prominent guests.
- "Gottschalk retires from "Wetten Dass" after accident with Samuel Koch". The Daily Herold – DailyHerold.tv. 12 February 2011. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
- "Markus Lanz übernimmt "Wetten, dass..?"" (in German). Meldung auf ZDFheute. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
- Type=Artikel "Show mit Markus Lanz: ZDF verkündet Ende von "Wetten, dass..?"" (in German). Spiegel online. Retrieved 6 April 2014.
- Howdy there, Geordie lads!
- Peer Schader, "Unfall bei Wetten, dass: Ein Sturz, ein Schock und viele Fragen" ZDF Heute.de magazin. (December 4, 2010) Retrieved December 4, 2010 (German)
- "Contestant Samuel Koch" Yahoo News. (December 4, 2010) Retrieved December 4, 2010
- "Warten auf ein Wunder"
- Tagesspiegel.de: "Wetten, Dass...??" Ratings Plunge: Lanz Can't Do It? (German). June 06, 2013. Retrieved July 07, 2013.
- Tagesschau.de: "Wetten, Dass...?? Will Be Discontinued" (German). April 6, 2014. Retrieved August 04, 2014.