Germany is often described as the land of poets and thinkers. Although, when it comes to TV, it is probably not the first country that comes to mind in terms of innovative storytelling. However, during my recent trip to Berlin, I discovered some cutting-edge transmedia projects.
Alongside high-quality German newspapers praising Zeit der Helden/ La semaine de vérité – a joint project by public broadcaster ARD and Franco-German TV network ARTE – I also overheard people on the street endlessly discussing this new TV series. While ARTE has been known in the past for setting new trends with web docs and transmedia projects, to date ARD has not really been considered as internet-savvy and pioneering by comparison. At first sight, Zeit der Helden seems pretty dull, too. The show is about two couples and a rich single guy who hires an escort and we watch as they experience midlife crises. So far, so dull. But…
The uniqueness of Zeit der Helden is derived from the fact that the nine episodes are portrayed in real-time. A bit like 24 with Kiefer Sutherland, which is the only TV series I have watched in one go, because it was so exciting. The same applies here, but while you wait impatiently for the next episode, you can explore the show’s dedicated website. The audience is able to engage with the story, discovering new aspects of the characters. In order to further promote Zeit der Helden, selected Twitter users receive a tweet which includes a link to a personalised video on YouTube. At the end of the video a link is displayed, which directs the viewer to the show’s website.
The second project I came across is still in production, but something to look forward to in 2014. ZDF, teamWorx and UFA Lab are currently working on the sequel to Rescue Dina Fox! (original German title: Wer rettet Dina Foxx?). The first part of this interactive crime story came out in April 2011 and was a winner; not only at TV festivals, but also with the ZDF audience. Rescue Dina Foxx! was a TV crime thriller revolving around the dangers of digital identity theft. At the end of the TV movie, Dina Foxx was arrested for murder, but claimed she was innocent and that her world had been manipulated by a digital doppelgänger. The TV movie ended with unanswered questions and the audience was invited to solve this mystery. By starting a public investigation both online and in reality, Rescue Dina FoxxbecameGermany’s largest alternate reality game to date and lasted for six weeks.
The Fiction category of this year’s International Digital Emmy Awards Nominees consists of conspiracy and clue hunting multi-platform experiences, in sync with TV series like Rescue Dina Foxx! Maybe next year a quieter, seemingly banal production such as Zeit der Helden will be nominated, too, and noticed worldwide. In any case, the future of (German) TV already looks engaging, active and exciting.