“Place of carelessness”: What makes the TV garden special?

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Presenter Andrea Kiewel during the live show “ZDF-Fernsehgarten” under the party motto “Mallorca vs. Oktoberfest”. © Hannes P. Albert/dpa

Live and outside: Andrea Kiewel represents the German summer feeling on TV. Your ZDF “TV Garden” was particularly successful this year. What actually makes the “TV garden” republic?

Mainz – It is part of the German attitude to life like the Oktoberfest, carnival, rifle festivals and Mallorca holidays – and for decades it has been a fixture on television like only “Sportschau”, “Tatort”, “Aktenzeichen XY” or “Who wants to be a millionaire? “: We are talking about the ZDF “television garden”.

The open-air show from Mainz’s Lerchenberg was particularly talked about in 2022, for example as a forum for the controversial summer hit “Layla” or with the allegedly blabbed supposed gender obligation on ZDF. On Sunday (September 25th) comes the last of 19 issues of this season. What makes this show so successful between May and September?

“Your good mood guarantee on Sunday mornings” is how ZDF advertises its series of open-air events, which have been around since 1986. In 2000, the now 57-year-old Andrea Kiewel took over the summer show, which Ilona Christen and Ramona Leiß had previously moderated, among others.

Two million viewers every Sunday

Around two million tune in on Sundays from 12 noon. That doesn’t sound like a top rate at first. However, unlike Sunday evening with “Tatort” and Co., Sunday midday is generally the time for many things other than television – and that’s why this number usually means a 20 percent market share. In other words, every fifth person who watches television at all at this time does so at the “Fernsehgarten”.

Even if they no longer go to church, many spend Sundays cultivating their family life, friendships or hobbies, sleeping late, having brunch, cooking extensively, playing something, doing sports or going on excursions.

But a few million also like to turn on the television. And many TV viewers who watch ZDF at 12 noon are already skipping over from the first one, because since 1995 the ZDF “Fernsehgarten” has had an ARD sister who has danced across the screen earlier on many summer Sundays: the entertainment show “Immer wieder Sunday”. Folk musician Stefan Mross has been presenting them since 2005.

Ambience between allotment gardens and state horticultural show

The television and media scientist Christian Richter says that the “TV garden” presents itself “as a mainstream brought to life”. In the ambience between the allotment gardens and the state horticultural show, spectators could “feel like they belong to a broader middle of society”. The “TV Garden” brings topics, trends and music that take place more on fairgrounds than in the feuilleton. He stands for “honesty and simplicity”. “That may sound disrespectful, but it’s nothing reprehensible at first.”

The “TV Garden” conveys an attitude towards life of “well, if so!”, says TV expert Richter, who wrote the book “Television – Netflix – Youtube: On the television quality of on-demand offers”.

“The fans say to each other: ‘It may be that our music and themes are perceived as trivial, here we are among ourselves. Here we are allowed to be who we are and don’t have to justify ourselves. Here we are also allowed to sing ‘Layla'” .” The edition with the performance of DJ Robin & Schürze with the Ballermann hit “Layla” was one of the most watched in recent years: around 2.3 million tuned in.

Debates without a political dimension

Current debates and hot topics in society are not treated in their political dimension in the “Fernsehgarten”, but at most as a service topic, as Richter explains. “They are then treated as a trend that has tips on how to get on board. The program in no way blocks itself from the changeability of the world. It is not per se a reactionary place of standstill. The show isn’t progressive either. It is a carefree place where what is allowed in is filtered very carefully.”

Richter emphasizes: “The fact that the show comes on Sundays during the summer vacation period, far away from everyday life and the world of work, favors the staging as a place of carelessness.” With its continuity of 36 years, it also has “a meaning in times of great change, in which everywhere longing for bygone, supposedly simpler days”.

Andrea Kiewel – also known as Kiwi – makes a significant contribution to this because she appears unpretentious, wears simple outfits, has chummy conversations and lets herself be carried away by her own programme.

Where other entertainment formats such as Jan Böhmermann’s “ZDF Magazin Royale”, the “heute-Show” or “Die Carolin Kebekus Show” tried to achieve a social impact (i.e. social and societal influence), the “Fernsehgarten” delivered easily accessible entertainment without Depth, says Richter. “And the show never pretends to want to be something else.” dpa

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