Monday, December 6, 2010

Wir Wetten, Sie Können Nicht Sehen

Right then, I advise that you start by watching the following video clip. Fair warning, this clip features a Chinese man swearing in English on a German game show.

This is from a show called Wetten, Dass...? The show features members of the public attempting to perform various stunts, ranging from the bizarre to the nerve-wracking, but always difficult. Meanwhile, big-name celebrities come on the show to small talk with the host, and try to bet whether the MOTPs will be successful or not, with a forfeit attached to incorrect guesses. (For example, in the clip above, Jackie Chan incorrectly bet that the girl would be able to break the bricks without breaking an egg in her hand, so he had to perform the task himself. He did it a bit too well, I think.)

The Jackie Chan clip was not my first exposure to the show, although it was one of the first. My first Wetten, Dass moment was a man balancing a stack of Jenga blocks on a pole on his forehead, while his partner proceded to play the game of Jenga on a raised platform, trying to raise the height of the tower from 10 blocks to 15. They succeeded, but with some incredibly tense moments when the man had to stop his partner while he regained balance of everything. Sadly, the clip is no longer online, though I do have it saved on my computer. If you're looking for more ridiculous bets, I'd recommend this one, this one,, and... oh what the heck, this one.

Wetten, Dass...? has been on the air for 29 years now, although only showing six or seven episodes per year (not unlike the previously-reviewed Schlag den Raab). In its history, the show has been riddled with a few controversial moments, but has still stayed strong and popular as ever. At one point in time, the Wikipedia page boasted that the show would regularly attract over 2/3 of all German-speaking viewers (the show airs in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland), a rating comparable to the finale of M*A*S*H or a Super Bowl, except every other month. To give you an idea of how ridiculously popular the show is, Pope John Paul II offered to appear on the show via a video link. (The offer was declined, on the grounds that it would set the precedent for future celebrities to appear only via video instead of in person.)

For the record, there was a short-lived American version on ABC a couple years ago. It wasn't anything special. Moving on, then...

Obviously, there's a reason why I bring this show up, and here it is. On an episode that aired this weekend, Samuel Koch attempted a bet in which he would jump over four out of five moving cars using special spring-loaded shoes. Dangerous stunts of this nature had been attempted before, but, spoiler warning, never had there been a failure of this nature before. After having cleared the first and third car (and cancelling the second car when he realized he didn't get enough speed), Koch clipped the windshield of the fourth car with his head, which caused him to over-rotate his flip, landing him flat on the ground in no subtle fashion. As far as I know at this point, Koch is still in critical condition. If you care to watch the video of the incident, click here, however, be forewarned that though the accident itself is not graphic, it's still incredibly hard to watch. The accident occurs about halfway into the video.

Whether or not you watch the clip, there's something I really want to point out about this incident. After the accident occurs, the cameras do not return to Koch, except for one zoomed-out split second, which I would assume to be a mistake. The rest of the time that the cameras are rolling (five or six minutes' worth), the shots focus on wide audience shots and celebrity reactions, and the host giving a few final words. The live feed was cut, and a back-up episode was put in its place.

What I really appreciate about this scenario is the deference given to the injured Koch. In a rather un-American fashion, the cameras do not scramble around him to get close-ups of his silent suffering, but stay completely out of the way, and avoid catching a glimpse of him at all costs. I could only imagine that if this were American television, the director would sic the cameramen on the limp body, trying to get shots of his anguish from every angle. Then, we'd be treated to numerous slow-motion replays and once the body was out of the way, the show would continue normally. As an overly-broad example of this, think of most injuries you see during a football game on TV and how they're managed on-camera. I'm really glad that was not how Koch's situation was handled.

Surprisingly, this is actually the second instance of this sort of respect for the injured I've seen on German game shows. (Surprisingly, I watch German game shows.) On an episode of Schlag den Raab from sometime this summer, a BMX bike-racing event saw a number of crashes taking place, between both Stefan and his opponent. However, in one moto, both Stefan and his opponent crashed on the same obstacle, a small bridge of some sort, if I remember right. Stefan's opponent recovered fairly quickly, but Stefan had some rather brutal injuries and was effectively "out" for a few minutes. During this time, while the host's audio continued, the only camera shot shown was a zoomed-out overhead shot of the course, with the emergency crews helping Stefan just on the edge of the screen. No close-up shots were used until Stefan had recovered from his crash a few minutes later. (Replays of the crash would be used later, but with tasteful restraint.)

Koch's accident (and how it was handled) really makes me think about the standards by which our media operates. I can't remember where I heard it, but someone once uttered the phrase "If it bleeds, it leads," in regards to journalism in America. Part of me wants to believe that we have higher standards than that, but yet I know we don't. To a certain extent, I'd be willing to bet that this story wouldn't have made it onto Yahoo! News if Justin Bieber weren't supposed to perform right after Koch's bet (Ta, David at Bother's Bar for the link). It's this sort of incident that makes me wonder if we're doing something wrong with our media. It's rather late now, so I'm not exactly able to wrap up my point how I wanted to, but this incident is something to consider.

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