Disgust Alfred? That was a liberation. How did you have this constant post-war stuffiness in German at the beginning of the 1970s? TV fed up: Cheerful women foresters, blissful Habsburg Empire, green is the heath and cheerful the hotel on Lake Wolfgang. It was the heyday of Marika and Liselotte, Helmut and Hansi. But then, exactly 50 years ago, the North Rhine-Westphalian warehouse manager Alfred Tetzlaff appeared in the living room for the first time, in the TV series “A Heart and a Soul”. And how he tore them down, the pretty scenes of the mendacious Ohnsorg Millowitsch comedy world!
For younger people, his sayings are of course difficult to understand, almost unbearable. But even classical philologist Walter Jens came across this in 1974 – as he did in a TV review for the time called – “bottom, breast and pee clothes”. In fact, the absolutely humorless Hitler beard wearer from Wattenscheid, embodied by Brecht actor Heinz Schubert in 25 episodes, demands a lot from the viewers. He insults his wife as a “dumb cow” and praises his “Germanic fathers” because on their “excursions” they liberated southern Europe from “corrupt customs, gay men and whorish women”. The series, which is considered Germany’s first sitcom, was aired at WDR recorded in Cologne. In contrast to disgust Alfred, those who had received one of the coveted 80 tickets for the recording almost threw themselves away laughing in the studio. Even with later repetitions, “A Heart and a Soul” attracted millions of viewers to the screens. Only: Can one still laugh today at someone who, based on his whole habitus, can be assigned at least to the lateral thinker, if not even to the Reichsbürger scene?
That was exactly what the series, based on the British model “Till Death Us Do Part” (“Until death do us part”), wanted to say from author Wolfgang Menge to Germany: Watch out, dear people, because beyond Heintje and Helga, Heino and Hannelore, something is brewing. Do you really not notice the old Nazis in your football club? Don’t you notice the anti-Semitic sayings in the corner pub? The xenophobia? The misogyny?
Alfred Tetzlaff, that was Germany in 1973. Just a corporal in the Wehrmacht and a Russian fighter, now picturereader and completely overwhelmed with his son-in-law’s hippieism. One of those people who are always afraid of strangers. For him, “the Left” were simultaneously “Socis”, “Communists”, “Anarchists” and “Bolsheviks”.
50 years after the first disgusting Alfred episode, there is significantly less Black Forest girl in the program today. Bayerischer Rundfunk no longer opts out of cabaret shows, ZDF even broadcasts Böhmermann voluntarily, and if you can’t cope, you can stream “Emily in Paris” on Netflix. But Tetzlaffs like Alfred still exist. They are mostly digital. Sometimes they even storm a parliament. What a shame that they still haven’t learned to laugh, especially laughing at themselves.