German Television: 1966 – Perspectives in East and West

German Television: 1966 in 66 Minutes

February 12 to May 1, 2016


At one time television was much like YouTube is today. Now permanently entrenched in the daily lives of many people, in the mid-1960s the still nascent medium oscillated between being a radical experimental stage and the boob tube or telly for the masses. Accompanying the Berlinale Retrospective Germany 1966 – Redifining Cinema, the Program Gallery at the Museum für Film und Fernsehen is devoting itself to its own special presentation called “Fernsehjahr 1966” (TV Year 1966). In 66 minutes, six television installations recall the “television Cold War” (Thilo Koch) in equal measure to the “hot television Summer” (Walter Ulbricht). They take up the themes of blockbuster hits like Francis Durbridge’s thriller MELISSA and formal experiments, such as Samuel Beckett’s HE JOE. Using numerous forgotten and unforgotten screen moments, six television stations look back at a German-German television era in transition. In addition, more than 30 full-length broadcasts can be seen.

Access at the Touch of a Button
Station 1: Window on the World (Reports & Documentation)

A television set is now in every second household, and it synchronizes lifestyles. Particularly in rural areas, reports on current events and popular themes, screen adaptations of theater and exhibition reviews serve to balance the locational disadvantages of the provinces when compared to cities.

The Class Enemy Sits on the Roof
Station 2: Window on One’s Neighbor (East/West Overspill)

Germany’s television audiences remained a society that largely continued to watch what they wanted even five years after the Berlin Wall went up. In 1966 up to 85% of viewers in the GDR still switched on “West TV.” Much information that was withheld from GDR citizens nonetheless found its way across the border.


Films for One’s Living Room
Station 3: The Boob Tube (Television Films)

In 1966 experiments with West German television plays went in all directions: Peter Lilienthal shot scenes at a real fair; Samuel Beckett staged works without pan shots and cuts; and Rainer Erler provoked such a reaction with a farce that the Bayerische Rundfunk left the collaborative project during repeats.

To be continued …
Station 4: Blockbusters (Series and Mini-Series)

In the interim, television has become a natural nighttime activity, which for many viewers begins with the evening news. Regularly recurring broadcasts consequently became both a success and style principle of the new medium, with lavishly filmed mini-series advancing to become its royal class.


Good Evening, Ladies and Gentlemen
Station 5: House Calls (Addressing the Audience)

Its direct form of public address separates television from radio and distinguishes it from the cinema. The presenter of a television program is simultaneously a host in his own studio and a guest in the living rooms of his audience.


Playing without Boundaries
Station 6: Putting Their Hearts into It (Entertainment Shows)

Neither our advanced civilization nor the joy in experimentation can really explain the success of the new medium, but rather its many forms of light entertainment: Music programs, sportscasts and all types of interactive broadcasts enjoy the greatest popularity. So, whoever sits alone in front of a television screen nevertheless feels like they are part of a larger community.

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