German-language Buddy Cop Police Procedural Action Adventure Series about plainclothes detectives working for the Nordrhein-Westfalen Autobahnpolizei, a police agency responsible for patrolling the Autobahn superhighways in North-Rhine Westphalia.note
Just visualise it: This is a petrol-exploding, collaterally-damaging, bullet-spurting take on the legendary hardcore profession of... writing traffic tickets.note
A Guilty Pleasure that combines the dead-serious tone and high production values of the CSI franchise with car stunts worthy of Michael Bay or The Dukes of Hazzard. Nearly every episode has at least two or three frenzied chase sequences and at least one multi-car pileup. It's said that the producer had it added to his contract that he could make at least one pileup and ensuing explosions in each episode.
During Germany's version of Cash for Clunkers, this show was happy to help you, deliberately paying you for your car so that you could later see it being blown up or crashed spectacularly.
This series provides examples of:
- Abridged Series: The comedy show Freitag Nacht News, which was produced by the same network, regularly featured an alternate dub parody.
- Actor Allusion: in the opening Chase Scene of "Operation Gemini," Semir commandeers a tanker truck to go after the escaping bad guys. (This being Cobra 11, it later crashes and explodes.) The truck is lettered for a fictional company, "Atalay GMBH". Semir is played by actor Erdogan Atalay.
- A Day in the Limelight: The show is pretty generous about featuring the supporting cast members.
- Air-Vent Passageway: A laundry chute is used as this in "Das Versprechen".
- Anyone Can Die:
- Being Semir's partner is a dangerous job! Andre Fux, Tom Kranich, Chris Ritter.
- Ingo Fischer, Semir's predecessor
- Two of Tom Kranich's girlfriends.
- Both Horst Herzberger and Dieter Bonrath.
- Bash Brothers: Semir Gerkhan and each of his many partners.
- Big Damn Heroes: Semir Gerkhan will often save the day in the nick of time.
- Bus Full of Innocents: Played straight in "Todesfahrt der Linie 834"; subverted in "Tulpen aus Amsterdam", where the folks on the bus were part of the conspiracy.
- Cardboard Boxes: The show is particularly fond of cargo falling off of trucks during Chase Scenes.
- Car Fu: A fine example in "Lauras Entscheidung," with Tom using the door of Semir's speeding Bimmer to wallop a bad guy as they blow past him.
- Chase Scene: At least Once an Episode, usually two or three times.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Frank Stolte until his return in "Risiko"; also Jan Richter after "Extrem".
- Cool Car:
- Semir's 3-series BMW, Horst & Diether's Porsche 911 patrol car.
- In a case of Cool Special Guestcar, one episode ("Freundschaft") featured the Maybach Exelero.
- Dead Star Walking: Rainer Strecker as Ingo Fischer, one of the first two detectives. Strecker left the series after just two episodes, being replaced by Erdoğan Atalay's long-running Semir Gerkhan.
- Demoted to Extra: Andrea, after she married Semir; she reappers only occasionally as a guest star.
- Domestic Abuse: Featured in episodes such as "Zivilcourage" and "Hasen und Igel;" Laura in "Lauras Entscheidung" arranged her disappearance to escape this.
- Double-Meaning Title: "Alte Schule" ("Old School"). Semir investigates the murder of one of the teachers from his old high school; because his usual partner (Chris Ritter) is in the hospital, he's paired up with an older officer (Diether Bonrath) who does things the "old school" way.
- Everybody Owns a Ford:
- Averted, different brands are used. And to take it literally, the main characters' cars are not Fords, even though they work for the cops in the city where Ford of Germany is based.
- Played straight when BMW sponsored many cars. Aside the 3 series, BMW showcased several brand new cars and bikes in episodes. Examples are the BMW X1 in "Das Ende der Welt", the BMW 5 series in "Lackschäden" and the BMW X5 in "Tote kehren nicht zurück".
- Every Car Is a Pinto: And so is every truck, bus, trolley, railroad car, and building in the Federal Republic of Germany. Who knew Mercedes-Benzes blow up that easily?
- Fair Cop: Andrea Schäfer, Petra Schubert, Susanne König, and Susanna von Landitz from "Team 2" are all young and attractive.
- Flashed-Badge Hijack: With the amount of pursuits that happen, this occurs nearly every week.
- Impressive Pyrotechnics: From all the Stuff Blowing Up, with a particular fondness for exploding tank trucks.
- Instant Convertible: At the beginning of the "Die Braut" episode, a drowsy driver crashes his truck in front of Semir's car and he is unable to stop before the impact of the trailer rips off the roof.Semir: My car!
Ben: You always wanted a convertible.
- It's Personal:
- Semir, when pursuing Tom Kranich's killer in "Auf Leben und Tod", when trying to bring Chris Ritter's to justice in "Auf eigene Faust", and when his illegitimate daughter, Dana, is kidnapped in Brussels in "Auf Eigene Gefahr".
- Also, Tom Kranich in "Doppelter Alptraum"; Horst in "Alte Freunde."
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique and Truth Serums: In "Auf eigene Gefahr", in Brussels, Semir and Alex hijack an ambulance carrying a man involved in kidnapping of Semir's daughter Dana. Alex then proceeds to drive the ambulance through Brussels, while Semir injects the suspect with adrenaline, to make him confess where Dana is. All that while they're pursued by the Belgian police.
- Just Keep Driving: Almost in every episode the main characters overtake several cars while shooting at the bad guys or doing other dangerous stuff. But when the hell breaks loose and everyone crashes, cars that were overtaken before also crash into the pileup, which makes one wonder, why didn't they stop when they saw someone shooting?
- Lampshade Hanging: In nearly every episode, at least one Dienstwagen (official vehicle)—usually Semir's 3-series BMW or his partner's E-Class Mercedes—is demolished. In later seasons, the show has begun lampshading this:
- In the episode "Im Aus," the new Chefin (precinct captain), on her first meeting with Semir, berates him for wrecking so many Dienstwagen.
- In an Affectionate Parody of CSI and other criminal shows, made by the same program, Semir and his partner are seen at a fast food stand with Semir announcing "Hey, this is the first time we didn't wreck our car!". Cue the movies Chase Scene to happen right there and subsequently, crashing into their car.
- There's a promo in which Semir calls the Chefin to request a new Dienstwagen. Hilarity Ensues.
- Law of Conservation of Detail: If there's a car pulling a trailer and a tanker truck with hazmat placards in an Establishing Shot of the Autobahn: There will be a crash, a vehicle will crash through the trailer, and the tanker truck will explode.
- Licensed Game: Several video games based on the series have been made, under the name "Crash Time."
- Ingo Fischer gets shot from a shotgun in only the second episode - "Rote Rosen, schwarzer Tod".
- Double with Andre Fux. First time in "Ein einsamer Sieg", he is shot in the chest with a harpoon in Mallorca and falls into the sea. However, his body was never found.
- Then in "Auferstehung", he suddenly returns 14 years later, and is reunited with Semir. It turns out that he had washed to the shore, where he was found and tended to by a fisherman, and since then he has lived a new life as a BKA undercover agent. However, as it turned out in the end, he also worked for a criminal organization and is killed for good at the end of the episode.
- Tom Kranich in "Auf Leben und Tod".
- Chris Ritter in "Unter Feinden".
- Meaningful Background Event: In any in-the-car scene where the camera is looking at Semir and his partner through the windshield, watch the traffic in the rear window. You'll often see a plot development coming up behind them.
- Mexican Standoff: In "Schmölders Traum", occurred between three cars running doorhandle-to-doorhandle at freeway speed.
- Mistaken for Cheating: "Unter Verdacht," in which Semir is framed for murder and made to look unfaithful in one fell swoop.
- Monumental Battle: Urban action sequences often have the Cologne Cathedral or Rhine river bridges in the background. In "Kein Weg zurück", there is a chase sequence involving the Dortmund "H-Bahn" monorail◊.
- No OSHA Compliance: One episode showed an abandoned factory in which no one apparently ever bothered to drain the propane tanks or remove the hazmat inventory.
- Once an Episode: The big Chase Scene, with cars crashing and flying through the air and Impressive Pyrotechnics from all the Stuff Blowing Up.
- Opening Narration:
- The opening titles of the first 158 episodes (1996-2006) had the following:Ihr Revier ist die Autobahn (Their precinct is the Autobahn)
Ihr Tempo ist mörderisch (They work at break-neck speed)
Ihre Gegner: Autoschieber, Mörder und Erpresser (They're up against car thieves, burglars, and extortionists)
Einsatz rund um die Uhr für die Männer von Cobra 11 (They're on call around the clock, the men of Cobra 11)
Unsere Sicherheit ist ihr Job (Our safety is their job).
- During episodes 159-243 (2007-2012), the opening narration was:Ihr Revier ist die Autobahn (Their precinct is the Autobahn)
Ihr Einsatz heißt: volles Tempo (Their mission: Full speed)
Ihre Gegner von heute: extrem schnell und gefährlich (Their enemies today: Extremely fast and dangerous)
Verbrechen ohne Limit Jeder Einsatz volles Risiko (Crimes without limit every job at full risk)
für die Männer von Cobra 11 (For the men of Cobra 11).
- During episodes 244-261 (2013-2014), 268 (2014) and 285 (2015) the opening narration was:Ihr Revier ist die Autobahn. (Their precinct is the Autobahn)
Ihre Gegner: extrem schnell und gefährlich. (Their enemies: Extremely quick and dangerous)
Verbrechen ohne Limit. (Crimes without limit)
Jeder Einsatz - volles Risiko (Every job: At full risk)
für die Männer von Cobra 11. (For the men of Cobra 11)
- Since episode 262 (2014-), the opening narration has been:Ihr Revier ist die Autobahn. (Their precinct is the Autobahn)
Ihre Gegner: extrem schnell und gefährlich. (Their enemies: Extremely quick and dangerous)
Verbrechen ohne Limit (Crimes without limit)
Volles Risiko (Extremely risky)
für die Männer von Cobra 11. (for the men of Cobra 11)
- The opening titles of the first 158 episodes (1996-2006) had the following:
- Papa Wolf: Semir in "Auf eigene Gefahr", when his illegitimate daughter Dana is kidnapped in Brussels. With total disregard for all international laws, Semir travels to Belgium all by himself and gets occasionally in trouble with the Belgian police to rescue his daughter.
- Put on a Bus: Several:
- Frank Stolte after "Endstation für alle". Also a case of Chuck Cunningham Syndrome as he disappeared inadvertently. Until The Bus Came Back 300 episodes later in "Risiko".
- Tom Kranich leaves the force in "Abschied" after his pregnant girlfriend was killed in a car bomb meant for him. He then returned two years later in "Comeback".
- Jan Richter after "Extrem". Also same as Frank Stolte, minus that he hasn't returned yet.
- Ben Jäger leaves for Hollywood to start his singing career in "Einsame Entscheidung", with a guitar signed by his teammates.
- Alex Brandt/Rickert leaves for Brazil to find his mother, after his father is killed in "Windspiel".
- Also Paul Renner; his actor Daniel Roesner announced in March 2019 that he will leave the show midway through Season 24, which will premiere in Fall 2019note .
- Retcon: Many flashbacks, especially those to ca. 1995-1998. Back in the day, the series were filmed in Berlin-Brandenburg area. Especially many at the beginning of "Cobra, übernehmen Sie!" aired April 7, 2016:
- In a flashback to April 7, 1996, Semir suddenly has a beard and is wearing a black leather jacket, neither of which he had in the 1996 episodes (Season 1).
- Also, he calls for Andrea on the radio, except in 1996, Andrea wasn't working at Cobra 11 yet.
- He drives a silver BMW 3 Series (E36) with license plate NE-DR 8231, a license plate featured in his BMWs from season 3 to 11 (in production order, 5 to 21 in airing order). He did drive the BMW E36 in Season 1, albeit it was black and with license plates B-PV 185 or HVL-S 199.
- The license plates bring us back to the fact that the early season were filmed in Berlin area. In Germany, the first 1-3 letters of license plates before the vehicle safety test and regisration seal stickers indicate where the car is registered. NE is reserved for Rhein-Kreis NEuss, a district (Landkreis) directly to the south of Düsseldorf (and north of Köln in NRW). Meanwhile, B is reserved for Berlin, and HVL means HaVeLland, a Landkreis directly to the west of Berlin.
- Shout-Out: "Rhein in Flammen" featured what might be called a "Miami Vice tribute montage," complete with the theme music.
- Skeleton Key Card: Autobahnpolizei ID cards seem to be quite useful for this.
- Tank Goodness: The stolen Leopard 2 main battle tank in "Ein Leopard läuft Amok."
- There's No Kill Like Overkill: The first big action sequence in "Auf eigne Faust." A police convoy carrying a key witness to the courthouse is shot up by associates of the organized crime boss on trial—using attack helicopters.
- Treasure Map: "Die schwarze Madonna", a charming mash-up of Indiana Jones and The Maltese Falcon on the Autobahn with ninjas and Stuff Blowing Up!
- Under the Truck: Often done during pursuits. All the more impressive is that it's often done with a car.
- Up to Eleven: The first big action sequence in "Auf eigne Faust." A police convoy carrying a key witness to the courthouse is shot up by associates of the organized crime boss on trial—using attack helicopters.
- Wacky Marriage Proposal: Happens in "Die Autobahnpolizei", when Klaus Weller shows off a spectacular way to propose to his girlfriend Tina; he drives down the highway at 230 km an hour with a fake license plate on the car and wearing a rubber pig mask, a climbs out the car's sunroof and perches on the top of the vehicle, pulling back his jacket to reveal a T-shirt with the message in German "Tina, do you want to marry me?" Of course, this causes a spectacular traffic pileup behind Klaus, but he gets away with it unscathed.
- When All You Have Is a Hammer...: The resolution to most episodes seems to require a high-speed chase down the nearest Autobahn.
- With My Hands Tied: In "Hals- und Beinbruch", Semir nearly defeats a bad guy in hand-to-hand combat despite having one leg in a cast.
- Word Salad Title: Averted. It may look like one without the umlaut, but it merely translates as "Emergency for Cobra 11".