Series: Tatort

Tatort ("Crime Scene") is a German Police Procedural series. Even after more than 900 episodes, having started in 1970 (making it the oldest still going crime show in the world), it's still one of the most popular German TV series and regularly wins the battle for the highest Ratings.

An especially noteworthy feature of the series is the fact that there isn't just one single core cast of protagonists. Instead, it features many different teams of police investigators who take turns from episode to episode. Imagine CSI, CSI: Miami and CSI: NY, but with a lot more teams, different locations and less Hollywood Science.

Each team is based in a different city, representing many different settings all across Germany, Austria, and German-speaking Switzerland.

The series is usually broadcast on Sundays during Prime Time on the German channel Das Erste, the Austrian channel ORF 2, and SF1 in German-speaking Switzerland. You can expect to see reruns of older episodes on some of the regional tv stations about every other day.

The series has a cult following. In many cities, groups of people will gather in a bar every Sunday at 8:15 p.m. to watch the screening of the latest episode together.

Tatort provides examples of:

  • Alternate Company Equivalent: Polizeiruf 110 was launched by the television of the GDR to provide a socialist alternative to the West German blockbuster Tatort. The format is similar, with different investigators in different places. Polizeiruf continues to be produced after German reunification, now produced by a number of the regional stations of the ARD both East and West of the former Iron Curtain. The two series share a time slot in The Berlin Republic, and produced a crossover episode in October 1990, "Unter Brüdern", to celebrate the reunification.
  • Always Murder: Nearly every case involves a murder, often also more than one. Suicide is less common. Justified, because the cops are from the homicide division.
  • Amicably Divorced: One of the early Tatort investigators, Kommissar Haferkamp (Hansjörg Felmy), would often discuss cases he was working on with his ex-wife.
  • Badass: Schimi tries to be this, and is at least good enough for his episodes only being shown at late night.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Subverted with coroner Karl-Friedrich Boerne and his assistant Silke "Alberich" Haller, who actually not romantically interested in one another. Although they did once meet anonymously on an internet dating forum and became interested. Then they fixed a date in a restaurant, discovered who they were dealing with, and that was the end of that.
  • Big Fancy House: The murders often take place in the milieu of the middle to upper class, resulting in the witnesses/culprits/victims inhabiting accordingly spacious places.
  • The Cameo: Numerous celebrities already have had small parts in Tatort.
  • Central Theme: Many episodes embed sociopolitical issues into the plot, e.g. the waste export to Africa or wage dumping at discount stores. The two investigators occasionally have opposing opinions regarding said issue, and discuss them.
  • Clear My Name: The plot of some episodes.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Schimi's most frequently used word seems to be "shit". It is also the last word he says in a Tatort.
  • The Coroner: Prof. Karl-Friedrich Boerne (played by Jan-Josef Liefers) from Münster is one half of the investigator duo, even though Kommissar Thiel doesn't like this very much; Dr. Joseph Roth (played by Joe Bausch, who is a physician in a German prison in real life) can often be seen in the Cologne Tatort.
  • Cross Over:
    • As part of the celebration of Germany's re-unification in 1990, Tatort crossed over with its East German counterpart series, Polizeiruf 110, for the episode "Unter Brüdern" ("Among Brothers"). In this episode, a dead man is fished out of the river in Duisburg and is found to have a tattoo marking him as a former Stasi officer, leading to a joint investigation between the Duisburg team, led by Schimi and Thann, and their East Berlin opposite numbers, led by Peter Fuchs and Thomas Grawe.
    • To celebrate one of the Tatort anniversaries, a special episode was produced where a case took the Cologne team of Ballauf and Schenk to Leipzig, where they got to solve it in conjunction with the local team of Ehrlicher and Kain, who had become involved in the same case from another incident. Some time later in another episode (entitled Rückspiel, or "return game"), Kain and Ehrlicher traveled to Cologne for another joint investigation.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Professor Boerne of the Münster Tatort.
  • Fish out of Water: Hauptkommissar Frank Thiel (Axel Prahl) - a lapsed Protestant from Hamburg (Germany's second-largest city) in the much smaller and deeply Catholic Münster.
  • Grey and Grey Morality: The episode "Weil sie böse sind". ("Because They're Evil")
  • I Didn't Mean to Kill Him
  • The Infiltration: The mission of undercover investigator Cenk Batu from Hamburg.
  • Insufferable Genius: Professor Karl Friedrich Boerne oh so much.
  • Lady Looks Like a Dude: Or sounds like one. When Kommissar Thiel first spoke on the telephone to Oberstaatsanwältin Wilhelmine Klemm (Mechtild Großmann), her gravelly voice made him think he was dealing with a man. In some episodes the heavily-smoking district attorney approaches Brawn Hilda status.
  • Meaningful Name: The Berlin duo of Ritter ("knight") and Stark ("strong") as well as the Saxon one of Ehrlicher ("honest one") and Kain (the German spelling of Adam and Eve's son Caine). In the earliest Münster episodes, Hauptkommissar Thiel had a second assistant called Bulle. The word means "bull", but it is also slang for "cop".
  • Naked People Are Funny: In one episode, Schimanski is knocked out (again); when he awkens, he finds himself naked lying in the middle of the playing field of Duisburg's football stadium.
  • Named After Somebody Famous/Famous-Named Foreigner: Thiel's assistant Nadeshda Krusenstern (Friederike Kempter) is an ethnic German who immigrated from Russia with her parents. Her surname is that of the Baltic-German admiral who commanded the first Russian circumnavigation of the Earth, Nadezhda ("Hope") was the name of one of his two ships.
  • N-Word Privileges: Professor Boerne's assistant Silke Haller is a little person (ChrisTine Urspruch, who plays her, is 132 cm tall) and Boerne not only gave her the nickname Alberich, but continually makes short jokes about her. "Alberich" returns the favour and sees his jokes as a sign that he respects her for her competence and does not pity her. But woe to anybody who actually laughs at Boerne's jokes - then Boerne will make him or her feel deeply embarrassed.
  • Platonic Life Partners: On the Ludwigshafen Tatort, Lena Odenthal and her colleague Mario Kopper share an apartment.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: "Do you know who I am?" and "I regularly play golf with the Chief of Police" do crop up from time to time.
  • The Seventies: The opening sequence and theme tune has never been changed.
  • Spinoff: Schimanski.
  • Temporary Love Interest: As a rule, Tatort investigators are single or divorced, definitely unlucky in love because practically the only kind of romantic subplots they tend to get is with a suspects, which usually does not end well.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: In Münster both the relationship between Professor Karl-Friedrich Boerne and Hauptkommissar Frank Thiel and that between Boerne and Alberich qualify.
  • You Didn't Ask
  • You Look Familiar: Sibel Kekilli had a guest role before becoming regular character Sarah Brandt.