Wetten, dass..? (German pronunciation: [ˈvɛtn̩ ˈdas]; German for "Wanna bet, that..?") was a 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 American show Wanna Bet?
Late-night talk show
|Created by||Frank Elstner|
|Presented by||Main host:|
Frank Elstner (1981–1987)
Thomas Gottschalk (1987–1992, 1994–2011)
Wolfgang Lippert (1992–1993)
Markus Lanz (2012–2014) Sidekick:
Michelle Hunziker (2009–2011)
Cindy aus Marzahn (2012–2013)
|Country of origin||West Germany (1981–1990)|
|No. of episodes||153 (Gottschalk)|
|Production locations||West Germany (1981–1990)|
|Running time||150 minutes|
|Original network||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
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 on 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.
The show was rebooted as a satirical homage with fake bets in 2016 for two episodes of 45 minutes each. It was hosted by comedian Jan Böhmermann.
List of hosts
|Host||From||To||Notes||# of episodes|
|Frank Elstner||14 March 1981||38||4 April 1987||44||Creator and first host||39|
|Thomas Gottschalk||26 September 1987||37||2 May 1992||41||Most popular host||37|
|Wolfgang Lippert||26 September 1992||40||27 November 1993||41||Shortest running host of the original show||9|
|Thomas Gottschalk||15 January 1994||43||3 December 2011||61||Michelle Hunziker (co-host from 2009 to 2011)||116|
|Markus Lanz||6 October 2012||43||13 December 2014||45||Cindy aus Marzahn (co-host from 2012 to 2013)||12|
The core gimmick of the show was the bets: ordinary people offer to perform some unusual (often bizarre) and very difficult task. Some examples, all of which were performed successfully, include:
- Lighting a pocket lighter using an excavator's shovel (19 February 1983)
- Assembling a V8 engine from parts and making it run within 9 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 Take That, 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, Justin Bieber, 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 1998, 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.
The show was also broadcast with great success in Italy by Rai 1 from 1991 to 1996 (and then in 1999, 2001, and 2003) with the title Scommettiamo che...?. In 2008 it was taken up again by Rai 2. It has had ten seasons.
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.
¿Qué Apostamos? was the Spanish version of the show. It originally run on Spain's national broadcaster TVE 1 between 4 May 1993 and 30 June 2000. The show was fronted by Ramón García, accompanied by Ana Obregón (1993–1998), Antonia Dell'Atte (1998–1999), and Raquel Navamuel and Mónica Martínez (2000). If the audience bet was completed, the person that placed the bet had to be drenched in water, and if it was not completed one of the presenters or guests had to take the water shower. In 2008, the Spanish federation of regional TV stations operating under the FORTA umbrella later recovered the format, 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.
|United Kingdom||You Bet!||ITV||Bruce Forsyth (1988–1990)|
Matthew Kelly (1991–1995)
Darren Day (1996–1997)
|20 February 1988||12 April 1997|
|United States||Wanna Bet?||CBS (1993)|
ABC (21 July – 2 September 2008)
|Mark McEwen and Gordon Elliott (1993)|
Ant & Dec (2008)
|21 April 1993||2 September 2008|
|Wedden, dat..?||AVRO (1986–1989)|
RTL 4 (1990–1995, 1999)
Veronica TV (1996–1997)
|Jos Brink (1986–1992)|
Rolf Wouters (1993–1997)
Reinout Oerlemans (1999)
|France||Toute la ville en parle||TF1||Guillaume Durand (October – December 1992)|
|10 October 1992||20 February 1993|
|Spain||¿Qué apostamos?||La 1 (4 May 1993 – 30 June 2000)|
FORTA (2 February – 31 May 2008)
|Ramón García and Ana Obregón (1993–1998)|
Ramón García and Antonia Dell'Atte (1998–1999)
Ramón García, Raquel Navamuel and Mónica Martínez (2000)
Carlos Lozano and Rocío Madrid (2008)
|4 May 1993||31 May 2008|
|Alpha TV||Viki Kagia||2008||2008|
Xiang tiaozhan ma?
|Pervyi Kanal||Dmitri Nagiev||17 February 2006||8 July 2007|
|Slovenia||Super Pop||POP TV||Stojan Auer||1998||1998|
|Poland||Załóż się||TVP 2||Steffen Möller and Anna Popek|
|2 September 2005||16 June 2006|
|Italy||Scommettiamo che...?||Rai 1 (1991–2003)|
Rai 2 (2008)
|Fabrizio Frizzi and Milly Carlucci (1991–1996)|
Fabrizio Frizzi and Afef (1999–2000)
Fabrizio Frizzi and Valeria Mazza (2001)
Marco Columbro and Lorella Cuccarini (2003)
Alessandro Cecchi Paone and Matilde Brandi (2008)
|6 April 1991||28 May 2008|
|Vuoi scommettere?||Canale 5||Michelle Hunziker with Aurora Ramazzotti||17 May 2018||14 June 2018|
- There was an instance where Frank Elstner lost a private bet himself; he had bet with his family that his colleague and friend 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 a successful outdoor challenge which involved uncorking a bottle of wine and filling four glasses with a gripper claw fixed to a helicopter's skid within the space of 3 1⁄2 minutes, the pilot was invited – along with the guests – for a drink of wine. 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. As Felix would later admit in one of his later Verstehen Sie Spaß? broadcastings, it was he and his production team who had sent the bet to the ZDF in the first place.
- 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.
- Actor Karl-Heinz Böhm initiated his long-time charity project Menschen für Menschen in the 3rd show: Regarding a famine in the Sahel, he said at the end of the show: I bet that not even one third of our viewers in Austria, Switzerland and the Federal Republic of Germany will donate one Deutsche Mark for the starving people in the Sahel. And I want to lose this bet. If he lost, Böhm added, he would himself travel to Africa to hand over the money. Even though Böhm won the bet, as total donations were only around 1.2 million DM, he traveled to Africa and started his aid project for Ethiopia.
- 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, snuck 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 pencils 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 pencil. The host 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 a show in 1992, actress Whoopi Goldberg came onto the show for a bet. Goldberg lost and as a result, she had to cast Gottschalk in her next movie. That movie was Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit where Gottschalk played the German cook, Father Wolfgang.
- 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.
- Salma Hayek is credited for restarting the popular trend of wearing Trachten (German for costumes, specifically Lederhosen for men and Dirndl for women). Wearing Trachten to the Oktoberfest wasn't fashionable for several decades after the second World War, and most of visitors wore the regular clothes. She appeared on the show on 5 October 2008. Salma would have to dress in a Dirndl if she was wrong. Salma decided that the boy would not be successful in assembling a tower of 20 beer crates placed upon one after one and climbing up. The boy failed his mission so Salma didn't have to wear the Dirndl presented to her. In a surprise move, Salma indicated she would like to try on Dirndl and see how it looked on her. The audience erupted in applause as she walked off the stage. When she returned to the stage with her Dirndl, Karl Lagerfeld was applauding so loudly and couldn't stop looking at her Dirndl. Salma commented how besotted she was about Dirndl and wanted to keep it.
Samuel Koch incident
Samuel Koch, a 23-year-old aspiring stuntman, became a quadriplegic during a stunt performed on the show on 4 December 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 size. While the first and the third jumps were successful (the second one was aborted), the stunt went wrong during the fourth jump when Koch 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 for life 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 took over the hosting of the show (debuting on 6 October 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 (5 April 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 regular show was broadcast on 13 December 2014 from Nuremberg, with Samuel Koch – who never blamed Wetten, dass..? or Gottschalk for his condition – being one of the prominent guests.
On 28 July 2018, ZDF announced a one-evening revival of Wetten, dass..?, owing to the occasion of Gottschalk's upcoming 70th birthday (18 May 2020). It was later announced that the special would not happen in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will instead air live in 2021.
- "ZDF verkauft "Wetten, dass..?" nach Amerika". Quotenmeter. 20 March 2007. Retrieved 19 February 2020.
- "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.
- "Show mit Markus Lanz: ZDF verkündet Ende von "Wetten, dass..?"" (in German). Spiegel online. Retrieved 6 April 2014.
- SPIEGEL, Anja Rützel, DER. "Jan Böhmermann moderiert "Wetten, dass..?": Schamoffensive einer krustigen Showmumie - DER SPIEGEL - Kultur". www.spiegel.de. Retrieved 19 February 2020.
- ""Wetten, dass..?" nun auch in Indien?". Quotenmeter. 10 April 2007. Retrieved 19 February 2020.
- "K.-H. Böhm: Wetten, daß...?". Die Zeit (in German). 22 May 1981. Retrieved 5 June 2017.
- Klein, Stefan (17 May 2010). "Die Rolle seines Lebens" [The role of his life]. Süddeutsche Zeitung (web) (in German). Retrieved 5 June 2017.
- "Salma Hayek - Wetten Dass ...?". YouTube Video. 5 October 2008.
- Peer Schader, "Unfall bei Wetten, dass: Ein Sturz, ein Schock und viele Fragen" ZDF Heute.de magazin. (4 December 2010) Retrieved 4 December 2010 (in German)
- "Contestant Samuel Koch" Yahoo News. (4 December 2010) Retrieved 4 December 2010
- "Warten auf ein Wunder". stern.de. 19 January 2011. Retrieved 19 February 2020.
- Tagesspiegel.de: "Wetten, Dass...??" Ratings Plunge: Lanz Can't Do It? (German). 6 June 2013. Retrieved 7 July 2013.
- Tagesschau.de: "Wetten, Dass...?? Will Be Discontinued" (German). 6 April 2014. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
- Der Spiegel: "Wetten, Dass...??" One Last Time (German). 28 July 2018. Retrieved 29 July 2018.
- Focus Online: He Will Do It Again: "Wetten, Dass...??" Coming Back with Thomas Gottschalk (German). 28 July 2018. Retrieved 29 July 2018.
- Official website (in German)
- "Wetten, dass..?" at IMDb
- ZDF.de: Thomas Gottschalk announces departure from "Wetten, dass..?" (in German)