Just like every other country, Germany has its fair share of reality television shows. The likes of "Next Top Model", "Big Brother" and "Idol" have all been translated onto German television screens. One might also imagine that, like the audiences in so many other countries, Germans might get sick of these kinds of "casting shows."
But no, "Supertalent 2009" -- similar to shows like America's Got Talent and Britain's Got Talent -- remains one of the most popular series, even after seven long seasons. According to commercial television channel RTL, which broadcasts the series, around 37,000 candidates applied to show off their talents on the little screen and over 6 million viewers watched the preliminary rounds of the series. On Saturday evening the final, which featured 12 acts, was watched by an estimated 9 million viewers.
In the past on the English-speaking versions, contestants like unprepossessing pop opera tenor Paul Potts and plainly styled but moving Scottish singer Susan Boyle have made headlines, garnered millions of Internet hits and become highly successful in their own right. And on the German show, several similar acts looked like they might have a chance of taking away the 100,000 prize money just in time for Christmas. For example, there was Oliver Roemer, an unemployed 41 year old from Bremen, whom the local Weser Kurier newspaper described as "corpulent, halfway bald and wearing old fashioned glasses." But the guy could sing. As could the so-called "super kids." Ten-year-old Richard Istel sang the Leonard Cohen-composed song "Hallelujah" and 10-year-old Carlotta Truman sang the more family friendly "Imagine" by John Lennon. There were also acrobats with a golden ball, a pyrotechnic artist with a burning back and a guitar that shot sparks alongside the likes of 28-year-old Petruta Krüpper who played the pan pipes.
So who would it be? Would Germany's most promising talent be a chubby unemployed guy, a pretty girl playing a deeply uncool instrument or a pre-teen singing a song that should possibly come with a parental guidance rating? None of the above. Germany's super talent is -- wait for it -- a dog.
Reality Show Goes to the Dogs
The German audience voted for Yvo Antoni, 31, and his Jack Russell terrier, Prima Donna. During the final the terrier, who was rescued by an animal welfare league before she found a new home with Antoni, chased her own tail, walked on her hind legs, jumped through hoops and climbed atop Antoni before finally taking a bow. The studio audience gave the pair a standing ovation and the performance saw them winning the grand prize by a narrow margin, inching ahead of their fellow competitors by only 0.1 percent of vote.
The jury was so surprised they were almost speechless, another German television channel, NTV -- the news channel owned by the RTL group -- reported during a news broadcast. "We have a dog as Germany's super talent. I didn't count on that," one of the somewhat flabbergasted judges, musician and producer Dieter Bohlen, told the channel.
Usually the winner of the competition receives a recording contract and goes on tour around Germany. "We won't be making a record," Antoni told reporters. "But we will do a tour."
As for Prima Donna, she seemed to have been as upset about the outcome as various television critics around Germany. Shortly after the results were announced she jumped out of Antoni's arms and ran out of the studio.
"It could have been a sign," Gordon Repinski wrote for SPIEGEL Online. "The audience picked a dog. The victor ran away. Maybe it's time to start reading books again."