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Series / Tatort

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"Ta-daaa... Ta-daaa.... Ta-daaa...!"

Tatort ("Crime Scene") is a German Police Procedural series. Even after more than 1000 episodes, having started in 1970 (making it the longest German series ever and 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 (since 1971), and German-speaking Switzerland (since 1990). Of the current teams, these five have been active the longest time:

  • Ludwigshafen (Lena Odenthal and Mario Kopper) since 1989
  • Munich (Ivo Batic and Franz Leitmayr) since 1991
  • Cologne (Max Ballauf and Freddy Schenk) since 1997
  • Bremen (Inga Lürsen and Nils Stedefreund) since 1997
  • Vienna (Moritz Eisner and Bibi Fellner) since 1999

The series is usually broadcast on Sundays during Prime Time on the German channel Das Erste, the Austrian channel ORF 2, and SRF 1 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 Title Theme Tune was composed by Klaus Doldinger.

The series is described as "the last great campfire of television"note  and has a cult following in German-speaking countries. 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. One particularly bizarre aspect of Tatort fandom is that despite the self contained nature of the individual episodes (you can really watch any given Tatort on its own), there are almost no casual viewers. People usually watch (and love) every single one of them or don't watch any at all. Some people have switched from the former to the latter within mere weeks. To fans missing "even one episode" is Serious Business.

A great many modern high profile German actors have appeared in the series, usually as one of their early acting credits or as The Cameo.

Tatort provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion:
    • In one episode of the Ludwigshafen Tatort, Kommissarin Lena Odenthal (Ulrike Folkerts) was shadowing a suspect sitting in a car with a female colleague. In order to allay suspicion, the two women kissed, an allusion to Ulrike Folkerts' real-life sexual orientation and gay activism (Lena Odenthal is written as a heterosexual).
    • In another Lena Odenthal episode, Tod im All ("Death in Space", 1996) the murder victim was an author writing on UFOs and space aliens; he was played by Dietmar Schönherr, whose best-remembered role was that of Commander McLane from the 1960s science-fiction series Raumpatrouille.
    • Lena Odenthal's car has the registration number "LU-FO 1405" - the letters stand for Ludwigshafen Folkerts and Odenthal, and Ulrike Folkerts' birthday is 14th May.
    • Prof. Dr. Karl-Friedrich Boerne is capable of speaking accent-free, fluent Russian, but the series never gives any explanation why he can. Jan Josef Liefers, the actor playing him however is a former GDR citizen from Dresden, thus learning the language in school instead of English first.
  • Affectionate Parody: Many cases of the Weimar duo, especially the Western parody "Der höllische Heinz", which borders on Trope Overdosed with Shout-Out flying around your ears left and right.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: HAL. (Duh. Contains loads of Shout-Out to 2001: A Space Odyssey.) Set 20 Minutes into the Future (a novum for Tatort), "Bluesky", a self-learning surveillance program, revolts against his creator by hanging a murder on him and even is responsible that he is shot by the police.
    • KI (the German abbreviation for AI): Less so, but the AI Maria, set free by a hacker, doesn't know much of morals and thus, without malice, sets off a maelstrom of suicide, murder and revenge, ruining six lives.
    • Mord Ex Machina: Less AI, more technically possible - a self-driving car gets hacked and used as murder weapon.
    • Maleficius: Honorable Mention. A medicine professor, fan of transhumanism, is implanting brainchips to enable quadripleges to walk again (with an exoskeleton). He even claims that merging brain and AI is the only way for mankind to survive the AI age. And That's Terrible, we are in future-critical Germany after all. His guinea pig turns into The Zombienator and kills two people. Mr. Frankenstein evidently goes scot-free in the end.
  • Almost Dead Guy: Mord Ex Machina. The victim just ran over a cliff in his hacked self-driving car, and crashes on the pavement ten meters below. (Even if the airbags were hacked too, any German will instinctively assume "Hey, it's a German car, he might have survived that!") The German is right, he survived at least as long to have a talk with his murderer, which gets filmed by another hacker, which does the murderer in at the climax of the film.
  • 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 practically always from the homicide divisionnote .
    • Subverted in the case "Mordgedanken" ("Murder Thoughts"). If the title wasn't spoilering enough - although everyone and his uncle had motivs enough for a murder, what happened actually was merely the desecration of a corpse by people who wanted to cover its murder...that they supposed but never happened in the first place.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Hauptkommissar Frank Thiel's father Herbert (Claus Dieter Clausnitzer), an old "68er" who grows his own weed and occasionally gets involved in slightly illegal activities, although most of the time he works as a taxi driver - which often comes in handy because Thiel does not have a driver's license, being from Hamburg and a transplant to famously bike-friendly Münster.
  • Amicably Divorced: One of the early Tatort investigators, Essen Kommissar Heinz Haferkamp (Hansjörg Felmy), would often discuss cases he was working on with his ex-wife Ingrid (Karin Eickelbaum), and it was implied that the two occasionally still slept with each other. The Leipzig team of Hauptkommissare Eva Saalfeld (Simone Thomalla) and Andreas Keppler (Martin Wuttke) used to be married to each other, but got divorced a few years before their first episode.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: "A Fistful of Pantazium"...wait, no, this western parody was called "Der höllische Heinz". Selfsame Pantazium note  is supposed to be a more-worth-than-gold-in-internet-times rare earth. Sorry, folks, there are no holes in the periodic system.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: Indirectly. In "Der höllische Heinz", a poor mutt drops down an unprotected borehole...and keeps on living there. Played for Black Humor in the whole episode.
  • Bedmate Reveal: In "Der höllische Heinz", selfsame Heinz wakes up beneath the head of his beloved longhorn Eddie. To add insult to injury, Kommissar Lessing is completely unfazed, and in some in-universe version of Viewer Gender Confusion calls Eddie a cow. note 
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Subverted with forensic medical scientist (not pathologist, which is taught with anatomy) Professor Dr. Karl-Friedrich Boerne (Jan Josef Liefers) and his assistant Silke "Alberich" Haller (ChrisTine Urspruch), who are 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.
    • In the Kommissar Stoever episode Habgier (Greed) 1999, football legend Berti Vogts holds a rabbit and saves a family from being killed in a gas explosion.
    • Roger Moore was seen starting a six-days cycle race in the Bremen episode Schatten (2002).
    • More football people, including DFB president Theo Zwanziger, men's and women's national team coaches Jogi Löw and Silvia Neid, women's world cup organizer Steffi Jones and international player Célia Okoyino da Mbabi appeared in Im Abseits ("Offside"), a soccer-themed Lena Odenthal episode produced to coincide with the Women's World Cup in 2011.
    • Klaus Doldinger (the series' main theme's composer) appeared in the Köln-set spinoff Ballauf und Schenk as a Street Musician, playing said theme with his sax.
  • Canon Immigrant: Stuttgart-based investigator Ernst Bienzle (Dietz-Werner Steck) was created as the protagonist of a series of crime novels by Felix Huby before being put on the small screen in Tatort.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: Lupo in "Der höllische Heinz". He tries to play undercover cowboy in an urge to protect undercover Kira. Not his first idiotic idea - he drinks one glass of whisky and keels over on the spot.
  • Caught with Your Pants Down: In "Treibjagd", Kommissar Falke crashes into the room of his son Torben, who frantically clicks away teh Internets. Leading to this memorable dialog (translated freely):
    Falke: Whatchadoing?
    Torben: Writing my application papers.
    Falke: One-handed?
    Torben: Left-handed.note 
  • 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.
  • Chekhov's Skill: As the regular cast of the Münster Tatort contains not one, but two ace forensic medical scientists — Professor Dr. Karl-Friedrich Boerne and his assistant Silke Haller — and one of them is one of the two main protagonists, it is not surprising that episodes set in Münster involve murders by poisoning, questions of paternity, missing bodies or old cases where only the bones of a victim are left more frequently than others. Boerne's skills in riding and fencing have also proved useful in at least one episode each. There are also surprisingly many instances where Boerne is either helped or hampered by his upper class connections and his past in a Studentenverbindung (the German version of fraternities, only much more elitist and right leaning - at least in public perception).
    • Chekhov's Classroom: It's a university lecture hall, but right in the second Münster episode, Thiel pulls Boerne out of his lecture to discuss the current case, much to the professor's annoyance (Thiel had been so far not very forthcoming in the case). Later, his team finds a gun that may or may not have been used for one of the murders in the episode; first thing Thiel does is checking if there was blood sucked into the barrel because that is what Boerne had lectured would happen when you put the gun right to the head.
  • Clear My Name: The plot of some episodes.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Schimmi's most frequently used word seems to be Scheisse ("shit"). It is also the last word he says in a Tatort.
  • Characterization Marches On: In the first Münster Tatort, Der Dunkle Fleck, Professor Boerne implies to be rather averse to hunting for sport. A more recent one(No. 21), Fangschuss, however, has him studying for a hunting license because his favourite golf course is being swamped by the plebs.
  • Cool Car: Several investigators at different locations, but most notably Freddy Schenk, who is a lover of US muscle cars and is not above using impounded vehicles as his new service car, and Professor Boerne, who happens to be a car maniac in a city full of cyclists.
    • Boerne seems to collect those, most of them in dark blue, black or silver. A (not complete) list:
      • Jaguar S-type (Der Dunkle Flecknote  and Fakten, Fakten… note )
      • Audi A4 Cabriolet (Dreimal Schwarzer Katernote  and Sag nichtsnote )
      • Mercedes SLS
      • Mercedes SLK (Höllenfahrtnote )
      • Porsche 911 Cabriolet (Der doppelte Lottnote , and others)
      • Wiesmann MF-3note 
      • Jaguar XK 5.0 V8 Cabriolet
      • Maserati Ghibli (Herrenabendnote )
  • The Coroner: Prof. Dr. Karl-Friedrich Boerne (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.
  • Crossover:
    • 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 Kriminalhauptkommissare Horst Schimanski (Götz George) and Christian Thanner (Eberhard Feik), and their East Berlin opposite numbers, led by Kriminalhauptkommissar Peter Fuchs (Peter Borgelt) and Kriminaloberkommissar Thomas Grawe (Andreas Schmidt-Schaller).
    • To celebrate Tatort's 30th anniversary, the special episode Quartett in Leipzig was produced where a case took the Cologne team of Kriminalhauptkommissare Max Ballauf (Klaus J. Behrendt) and Alfred "Freddy" Schenk (Dietmar Bär) to Leipzig, where they got to solve it in conjunction with the local team of Hauptkommissare Bruno Ehrlicher (Peter Sodann) and Kain (Bernd Michael Lade), who had become involved in the same case from another incident. Two years later in the episode Rückspiel ("Return Game"), Kain and Ehrlicher traveled to Cologne for another joint investigation.
    • In the Münster episode Der doppelte Lott Professor Boerne does some investigative work in Cologne and interacts with Ballauf and Schenk, as well as with his Cologne counterpart Josef Roth. It emerges they know each other from university.
    • A two-part story, Kinderland and Ihr Kinderlein kommet (2012), was another Cologne/Leipzig crossover, teaming up Ballauf and Schenk with the new Leipzig team of Hauptkommissare Eva Saalfeld (Simone Thomalla) and Andreas Keppler (Martin Wuttke).
    • Another two-parter, In der Familie 1 + 2, is a Crossover between the Dortmund and the Munich teams, made on the occasion of the 50 years anniversary of Tatort.
    • Not quite a crossover, but a strong allusion: The pathologist of the Stuttgart team, Dr. Vogt, goes to Münster for a few days to participate in a conference. When he returns, he complains about his "Münster colleague" who wouldn't stop going on and on about their science in self-praise — his description of said colleague strongly implies he's talking about Boerne.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Most protagonists in the Münster Tatort are this to some extent, but nobody does it with more flair than Professor Boerne.
  • The Determinator: Kommissar Murot, while mortally wounded, still tries to get the information from a cellular of a suspect. Which is kinda pointless, since he could have easily waited for the next iteration of the "Groundhog Day" Loop...
  • Dirty Kid: It's told that Heinz from "Der höllische Heinz" took (in either sense of the word - it's not stated) photos of his nudist aunt and sold them at school.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Angriff auf Wache 8. A botched police raid starts it all. A special commando, armed to the teeth, storms an illegal poker round (obviously of organized crime, they also have a few handguns laying on the table, but it's hardly a deadly offense). A few seconds of fascinated staring, then the stupid pet dog of the crooks barks angrily. The police immediately shit their pants and pump everybody (except the dog, who ends up unscathed) with about 1000 rounds of lead. (Afterwards the police speakernote  says they had been lured into a trap.)
  • Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: Thiel always proved to be compassionate to rape victims and also tried to comfort a young woman who had been sexually extorted by her father. Cut to Das ewig Böse where a young man fathered his stepmother's child back when he was thirteen. Thiel doesn't seem to care that she can't be punished for that crime anymore since it's statute-barred by now, he never once uses the word "abuse" for what happened; hell, he laughs initially when he finds out.
  • Drives Like Crazy/Badass Driver: Well, it kind of depends on the point of view which trope applies more, but Professor Boerne of all people is actually both; he is a chronic speeder in the bicycle city Münster who takes a warning that a traffic light is about to go red as invitation to hit the gas, and would drive a Porsche 911 cabriolet across a golf course (Justified though, to stop a murder from happening). This trait is so well-known with the Münster team most members tend to warn him of his "points in Flensburg" note  from time to time. Amazingly, the only thing he's ever run over is a wild boar (at over 150km/h though), and he managed to perform an accident-free Car Chase through a no-car-zone right in the first Münster episode. He does temporarily die in a car accident once but then that was due to being given an insulin overdose by the perpetrator of the week.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: No matter where a Münster episode is set, even if it is in the suburbs or a village in the environs, there will always be a sequence involving the Prinzipalmarkt and the church St. Lamberti, and often Thiel or Boerne will also pass the cathedral. Episodes set in Cologne will usually show Cologne cathedral; here it helps that Ballauf and Schenk are regular customers at a fast-food trailer directly across the river from the cathedral.
    • This may in part be due to the fact that many of the Tatort episodes are only partially shot in the city they are set in (Munich being the one big exception) and thus local landmarks have to be shown to throw less attentive watchers of the scent of the California Doubling.
  • Fish out of Water: Hauptkommissar Frank Thiel (Axel Prahl) — who, while having been born in Münster, grew up in Hamburg — in the much smaller and deeply Catholic Münster.note  Other Tatorts also have such characters, for instance in the new Nuremberg-based one the two leading investigators are Paula Ringelhahn (Dagmar Manzel) from Guben in East Germany and North German Felix Voss (Fabian Hinrichs).
  • Foreshadowing: In Mord Ex Machina, the later victim threatens "Ich werde den Karren gegen die Wand fahren!" (literally: drive the car against the wall, metaphorically in this context: let your business crash). The self-driving car he drives away with gets hacked and he ends, OK, not against a wall, but ten meters below.
  • For Want Of A Nail: "Der höllische Heinz". It's complicated. The bad guy has a show duel in a Western theme town. One of his victims has swapped the opponents gun. But luckily that guy aimed like a stormtrooper, giving him only a flesh wound. Unluckily, the further plot avalanche gets now two persons killed, including the baddie, and two police investigators only escape with a close shave.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: The episode "Weil sie böse sind". ("Because They're Evil")
  • Groin Attack: Done by Kira to her husband and co-worker Lessing in "Der höllische Heinz" to establish her undercover persona (a downplayed preemptive version of If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten!). Has the effect that Lessing walks cowboy-like through the rest of the episode (and later snarks "One child is enough anyway").
  • German Humour: Given that the teams are from nearly every region of the German cultural range, expect German Humour in any regional variant.
  • The Ghost: Boerne is the Vice-Chair of his institute, as established in the first Münster episode, but beyond the occasional mention of that, we never see his actual boss.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: "Murot und das Murmeltier" (already the title references it, the German title of Groundhog Day is "Und täglich grüßt das Murmeltier")
  • Hates Their Parent: Adam from Tatort Saarbrücken hates his abusive father to the point of having him saved under the name "Drecksack" ("Scumback") in his phone contacts.
  • The Hero Dies:
    • "Wo ist nur mein Schatz geblieben?" Stedefreund does a Heroic Sacrifice for his colleague.
    • "Der feine Geist": Lessing is shot and killed hunting a suspect, and although he appears to Kira and Lupo as a ghost through the rest of the episode, he is definitely dead.
    • "Liebe mich!": Martina Bönisch is shot during the final confrontation and dies in Faber's arms.
    • "Das Mädchen, das allein nach Haus' geht": After helping Julia Bolschakow to escape through Berlin airport and boarding the plane to leave the country,Nina Rubin is fatally shot by one of the Russian mafia members who pursued them. She dies in Karow's arms.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: "Angriff auf Wache 8". Brenner, claiming he won't make it anyway, covers the retreat of the heroes and then blows the baddies and the whole scenery to kingdom come.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight / It Was with You All Along: Mord Ex Machina. A hacker highly suspicious of the murder gets arrested. Being the Jerkass with a dash of For the Evulz type, he had already filmed the real killer, uploaded the material to an USB stick, and smuggled it under the seat of the Kommissar's bike. Now he boasts: "You sat with your ass on the clue all the time!"
  • How Unscientific!: The Ludwigshafen Tatort episodes usually focus on realism, sociopolitical issues and psychology, which makes the 1997 episode "Tod im All" ("Death in Space") stand out all the more. Here Odenthal and Kopper had to investigate the murder of a ufologist, and were fed information from a mysterious source, apparently the aliens with which the ufologist had communicated. The episode ended with a special-effects scene where a watertower transformed into a spaceship and took off!
  • Iconic Outfit: Schimmi's beige-grey M-1965 field jacket.
  • Identification by Dental Records: In the Münster episode "Herrenabend"note  a man faked his death in a house fire in South Africa by having his dentist tamper with his dental records. Since Professor Boerne was the one thus fooled into signing a false death certificate, and thus threatened with suspension/removal from his post as Coroner for Münster by Klemm, he took this personally and went to the extra trouble and expense of reconstructing the face from the skull found in the burned-down house to identify the victim's real identity, much to the dismay of Thiel, who had thoroughly enjoyed seeing Boerne so flustered.
  • I Didn't Mean to Kill Him - happens quite often
  • An Immigrant's Tale: A number of Tatort investigators have Migrationshintergrund ("migration background"), for instance Munich-based Kriminalhauptkommissar Ivo Batic (Miroslav Nemec) was born in Zagreb, Croatia, and for him xenophobia can become a Berserk Button. Mario Kopper (Andreas Hoppe) in Ludwigshafen is the son of a German father and an Italian mother. Nadeshda Krusenstern (Friederike Kempter) is an ethnic German born in Russia who came to Münster with her parents (who find it much harder to assimilate to West German society than her). Hamburg-based Cenk Batu (Mehmet Kurtuluş) is the first leading Tatort investigator with Turkish roots. A real life example comes in the form of Vladimir Burlakov, who plays lead investigator Leo Hölzer in Tatort Saarbücken, who was born in Russia and came to Germany aged 9.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Guardian Angels were flying deep in Angriff auf Wache 08. The asshole gang running amuck has already offed an icecream seller (for no reason - except being assholes). A father and his daughter want to buy an ice when they see the dead seller on floor of the car. The assholes come back just then, such rotten timing. They shoot the father immediately, but why not the daughter? Not because of Wouldn't Hurt a Child, because the killer slowly follows the girl who ran into the ice wagon. Too bad for him she finds a gun besides the dead vendor, is a much smaller target to hit and has faster reactions...And still his buddy assholes do not immediately riddle the ice wagon with their automatic weapons after that, but let her escape to a police museum.
  • Inconsistent Episode Lengths: In the first twenty years, the length of episodes varied, up to two hours; more recently things settled on about one and a half hours.
  • The Infiltration: The mission of undercover investigator Cenk Batu (Mehmet Kurtuluş) from Hamburg; this was the first Tatort franchise not to use a Whodunit format.
  • Insufferable Genius: Professor Dr. Karl-Friedrich Boerne, hands down.
  • Ironic Echo: Mord Ex Machina. "Nothing ever disappears on the Internet!" Said by the murderer to mock the non-tech-savvy Kommissar. At the end, a video of the murder resurfaces.
  • Irregular Series: 1971 saw 11 episodes, 2008 saw 31, and not evenly distributed to boot.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Also Boerne. Sure, the guy tramples on most people's sensitivities with his arrogant, elitist behaviour whenever he speaks, but at the same time, he actually apologises for the presence of a TV filming team to a young woman who has come to his morgue for identification in the very first Muenster episode. In the same episode, he does not hesitate to comfort the same young woman after she was told that her lover is in fact her father, much to the surprise of Thiel. Boerne seems to be well aware of this contradictory streak of his, and comments that "come morning, [he'll] be back to [his] usual nasty self".
  • Jurisdiction Friction: The Stuttgart episode Stau has a hit-and-run driver caught in a traffic jam. The Kripo knows this to a degree (it's the only way out of Stuttgart) but absolutely nothing about his identity, and desperately tries to check out on all 200+ drivers and cars before everyone gets away (they can narrow it down to 20 or so, but it's still a needle in the haystack, as they can only rely on circumstantial evidence - there was no reliable eyewitness of the crime), even suggesting the traffic workers to slow down a bit on the water pipe break that completely blocks the road. This gets them at loggerheads with the local traffic cops (not to mention the drivers, who are one SUV short of starting an upheaval).
  • 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 chief district attorney approaches Brawn Hilda status.
  • Leitmotif: The 1920s song Auf der Reeperbahn nachts um halb eins functions as one for Hauptkommissar Thiel as he uses it as his ringtone and, as a Hamburg tune, it sticks out like a sore thumb in Münster.
  • LGBT Fanbase: Tatort Saarbrücken, due to the the many Ho Yay Moments between Schürck and Hölzer.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: Not exactly name, but to the same effect. In "Der höllische Heinz", undercover Kira is asked with riding jobs she did. She reads one off a poster and tops it with the assertion that she did a Finnish Horses-on-Ice show named "Hyvää Paivää" note .
  • Mad Lib Thriller Title: The Weimar (Dorn and Lessing) series, which is called "The [adjective] [surname]" (with slight variations allowed).
  • Meaningful Name: The Berlin duo of Till Ritter ("knight", played by Dominic Raacke) and Felix Stark ("strong", played by Boris Aljinovic) as well as the Saxon one of Ehrlicher ("honest one") and Kain (the German spelling of Adam and Eve's son Cain). A bit more veiled, Felix Murot (played by Ulrich Tukur), the family name being an anagram of "tumor". (He had a very plot-relevant brain tumor.)
  • Meta Fiction: 2015 episode "Wer bin ich?", Ulrich Tukur plays Ulrich Tukur playing his role just to run into his role going Rage Against the Author...or something like that...If you feel a brick falling on your head, that was the Fourth Wall collapsing over you.
  • Mind Screw: 2018 episode "Meta" technically is no Meta Fiction. OK, in this film we have a film inside a film, also called "Meta". Which tells the story of this film. But not exactly, and the Kommissar is slowly getting bonkers about it. (Which happens to the Kommissar at the end in the film in the film, whoops, very minor spoiler.) If your head didn't asplode yet, it also mixes meta-level with Taxi Driver. Oh, and of course "Meta" in "Meta" has to show another version of "Meta". And the usual opening credits happen in a cinema. And the credits of "Meta" in "Meta" lists some of the same actors as "Meta" (wait, but who plays the Kommissar in "Meta" in "Meta" in "Meta"?). Oh, they just saw Douglas Hofstadter running screaming out of the cinema. (You are strongly advised to take the stance of the colleague of the Kommissar who is the Scully to his Muldering - none of the events in the film(s) need a meta- or supernatural explanation.)
  • The Movie: Kommissar Schimanski appeared in two cinema films, Zahn um Zahn ("A Tooth for a Tooth", 1985) and Zabou (1987).
  • 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.
  • No Name Given: Hauptkommissar Kain's first name was never mentioned. Neither do we ever learn Lessing's first name.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: "Böser Boden". A fracking poisoning (Word of God admitted it sounds preposterous) turns the village people definitely not into zombies. But Word of God also admitted the film purposely leans on the rules and conventions of the Z genre.
  • 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.
  • Only the Leads Get a Happy Ending: "Der höllische Heinz". Here is a complete list to prove it: Baddies, Total Party Kill: Wolfgang, starting corpse. Nick and Heinz note , kaboom. Ellen, Destination Defenestration (possibly murdered before). Judith, Incurable Cough of Death. Minor characters: Since Wolfgang has no family (another gas leak), the, rare, Pantazium mine will fall to the state and all the Western fans surely be evicted. And Lupos bike got turned into a puzzle and Lessing's mom won't make her visit due to a fake measle epidemy.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: "Blut". Of course, there is no actual vampire, only a poor girl with a sun allergy, but she bites the investigator and a nasty infection due to contaminated blood conserves plus superstition and too much imagination turns him into a nervous hallucinating wreck who believes he turns into a vampire too. Exhibit A for the thesis that Psychological Horror is the most scary one.
  • Overly Long Name: Gotthilf Bigamiluschvatokovtschvili, called "Der wüste Gobi" (which is also the title of that episode and a lousy Pun).
  • Platonic Life-Partners: On the Ludwigshafen Tatort, Lena Odenthal (Ulrike Folkerts) and her colleague Mario Kopper (Andreas Hoppe) share an apartment.
  • Precision F-Strike: Schimanski was the first Kommissar in the history of the show to use swear words—to the point when "Scheiße!" became sort of his Catchphrase. The backlash caused by the first Schimi episodes shouldn't surprise anyone, considering this happened in The '70s.
  • Prisoner Performance: The episode "Borowski und der gute Mensch" starts with some inmates performing a scene from The Robbers by Friedrich Schiller. Unfortunately, this gets out of hand, and one of the imprisoned inmates—Kai Korthals, a Serial Killer—is able to start a fire and use the ensuing chaos to escape the facility.
  • Prophetic Name: In the earliest Münster episodes, Hauptkommissar Thiel had a second assistant called Bulle. The word means "bull", but it is also slang for "policeman", equivalent to "cop", while being a bit more derogatory.
  • Rearrange the Song: The theme song was re-arranged in 1979.
  • Running Gag: Several which are location-and-team-specific.
    • Münster:
      • Despite Boerne's obvious medical background, it happens all too often that Thiel or other policemen will call for a doctor in the Professor's presence when warranted, much to his annoyance or confusion.
      • Oberstaatsanwältin Wilhelmine Klemm is a heavy chain smoker that continuously ignores the smoking ban in public buildings, and will leave her cigarette butts behind just about anywhere, leaving the police colleagues with the clean up. Her smoking habit is so well-known that inquiries concerning her whereabouts at a crime scene are answered with "just follow the smoke signals", and that people usually bet against her when she makes the resolution to quit smoking (which she manages for a whole year and afterwards keeps faking it). The only place she doesn't smoke at is Boerne's morgue, likely because it is attached to the university hospital and after all, it's Boerne's morgue.
      • The one time she didnote , she ended up owing Thiel one because it caused a fire hazard alert (with her being drenched), and Boerne (and the other doctors) would have been furious at her if the policeman had opted to tell them, as the alert causes the institute personnel to evacuate, leaving their (often time-sensitive) work unattended.
  • Screen-to-Stage Adaptation: Stuttgart-based Kommissar Ernst Bienzle (Dietz-Werner Steck) appeared in the play Bienzle und der Mord am Neckar (2006). Berlin-based Franz Markowitz (Günter Lamprecht) even appeared in two small-stage plays.
  • 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 '70s: The opening sequence and theme tune have seen minimal change.
  • Shout-Out: In one Münster episode, Frank Thiel, in order to get a criminal's goat, goes through a lovingly done "Oh, uh, one more thing..." routine (complete with characteristic hand movements) before flourishing the damning piece of evidence.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: A returning occurence because each team has at least one Deadpan Snarker, often more. Honorary mentions go to the Münster team, Boerne and Thiel, and the Munich Team, Batic and Leitmayr who've been snarking at each other for a good thirty years.
  • Spinoff: After leaving the police force, Horst Schimanski became a private investigator in the series Schimanski (1997-2013).
    • Starting in 2008, a monthly series of radio plays, Radio-Tatort is broadcast on ARD radio stations. Episodes last 55 minutes each.
  • Stealth Pun: In "Der höllische Heinz", the last words of Nick, who first turns on the gas stove to kill selfsame Heinz...and then the light after Chekhovs door latch trapped him in the junk room. Of course any German should know "Mehr Licht!" and that Weimar (where the Kommissare work) was his hometown...but the house exploding the next second is somewhat of a distraction.
  • Suicide by Cop:
    • The fanatic killer in "Gefallene Engel" tries this, being too Catholic to kill himself. Batic refuses, shooting him in the leg and arm instead and thus rendering him unable to pose a further threat.
    • The Munich team again in "Der traurige König", in which the suspect forces Leitmayr to fatally shoot him in order to cover up his mother's part in an accidental death. Leitmayr has one hell of of an emotional fallout from that.
  • Suicide, Not Murder: In Das Herz der Schlange, Adam's father deliberately sets up his death this way to make it look like Adam killed him.
  • Tar and Feathers: In the Western parody "Der höllische Heinz", Kommissar Lessing is eavesdropping on the subjects. A directional microphone would have been a better idea than climbing on a convenient shaky scaffold. He promptly crash-lands in a convenient tar barrel. (Admittedly no feathers, because a surplus chicken stampede or whatnot would have stretched it. note 
  • Teacher/Student Romance: The central plot element of "Reifezeugnis", one of the most controversial episodes to date.
  • 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 suspect, which usually does not end well. One of the rare aversions is the Weimar-based team of Kriminaloberkommissare Lessing (Christian Ulmen) and Kira Dorn (Nora Tschirner), who have a child together.
  • That Reminds Me of a Song: Starting in 1996, the Hamburg team of Paul Stoever (Manfred Krug) and Peter Brockmöller (Charly Brauer) would sing a jazz standard in the course of each episode, which was loved by the audience as they did it well enough (Krug had been a popular jazz singer in East Germany before leaving for the West). A compilation of the 17 songs was successfully produced as a CD.
  • Theme Mobile: Some teams had quite remarkable vehicles.
    • Schimanski is famous for driving a Citroën CX, especially the GTI Turbo 2. A German cop having a foreign car is rather unusual all by itself. Thanner preferred Ruhrpott-made cars (Ford Taunus, Ford Granada, Ford Scorpio).
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: "Im Schmerz geboren", where 50 people bite the dust. (More a case of Audience Reactions - in Germany and Tatort such a bodycount is seen as extremely unusual.)
  • Trademark Favorite Food: For Heinz Haferkamp (Essen) it was Frikadellen (frikadeller in English), for Horst Schimanski (Duisburg) Currywurst.
  • The Unintelligible: Actor Til Schweiger has always been known to deliver his lines in a very mumbling fashion. As Hamburg's Hauptkommissar Nick Tschiller this has become memetic.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: In Münster both the relationship between Professor Karl-Friedrich Boerne and Hauptkommissar Frank Thiel, and that between Boerne and Alberich qualify.
  • Waking Up at the Morgue: Subverted. Boerne was once knocked out by a bad guy with a sword (It Makes Sense in Context) and then woke up in his familiar morgue. His assistant Silke Haller had brought him there and put him on a table to stitch his wound and wait until he regained consciousness.
  • Weaponized Allergy: The victim in "Babbeldasch" dies from an allergic reaction to poppy seeds. It turns out poppy was injected into her food and her emergency kit was stolen.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: Angriff auf Wache 8, already title-wise you know. Reference Overdosed, natch.
  • Working with the Ex: The permanent setup for the Leipzig team of Eva Saalfeld and Andreas Keppler.
  • You Didn't Ask