Between the pause kittens and an iconic walrus, TV in Germany has long been a cultural experience. Here are our picks for the cutest animals in German TV.
1. Pausenkatzen (Pause kittens)
The “Pausenkatzen” was perhaps the most adorable way to pass time in between TV programs in the 1970’s, when it took an inordinate amount of time to switch broadcasts. The litter of kittens was found by a local worker at the Hessen TV station. Afraid that the kittens would be put down for lack of families to take them, the worker brought the kittens to the studio and the Pausenkatzen were born. For a glorious 3-10 minutes between shows, the Pausenkatzen would play, jump, and meow around a Hessen-themed house. The great soft jazz in the background made the experience even more relaxing.
Video available at: http://youtube.com/watch?v=qXmFDRwEpv0.
2. Antje the Walrus
Not to be outdone, the Northern Germany Network (NDR) responded with an adorable animal of their own: Antje the Walrus. While perhaps not as cuddly and relaxing as the Pausenkatzen, Antje has a charm of her own. Also, instead of distracting the viewer with uneccessary music, the NDR allows it’s viewers to be serenaded with the lovely noises of a real live walrus. Enjoy!
Video available at: http://youtube.com/watch?v=VZju7NZpe7U.
3. Unser Charly (Our Charly)
Get ready for chimpanzee hijinx! The German TV networks took the basic sitcom model and made it better by adding a chimp. How can you go wrong? Charly lives in a vet office and manages to get himself in trouble in every episode, but in the end, of course, everything is better with him there. Think I Love Lucy or Jeeves and Wooster, but, again, so much better with an ape. Eat your heart out, Mr. Ed and Lassie.
Video available at: http://youtube.com/watch?v=VzD2ChUyqqM.
4. Die Biene Maja (Maya the Bee)
Maya the Bee was first born in a book that was first published in 1912. Later, she appeared in a comic book series and in the 70’s was made into a cartoon show that is still on TV today. The story revolves around Maya and her pals, Willy the bee and Flip the grasshopper as they navigate the tumultuous world of bee society. The wonderful song, coupled with a distinct Czech accent, is well known to Germans of all ages. In other words, German TV was the first to give a voice to bug nation.
Video available at: http://youtube.com/watch?v=o-mCm7V7Jxo.
5. Die Sendung mit der Maus (The Show with the Mouse)
“The Show with the Mouse” is, and has been for over 40 years, the most popular children’s program in Germany. The ridiculously over-sized mouse and curiously small elephant appear in small shorts in between “Laugh and Learn Stories”. Not only are the cartoon mouse and elephant iconic in Germany, it is probably the only kid’s TV show where you can learn how holes make it into swiss cheese, how tea gets packed in tiny teabags, and,in one well-known episode, learn what death is. Anyone who knows Germany also knows “die Maus”!
Video available at: http://youtube.com/watch?v=M1RigInNkro.
6. Äffle und Pferdle (Ape and Horse)
The Äffle und Pferdle was the solution in Baden-Württemberg to a German law that at the time required a pause between broadcast and commercials. Many states filled the pause with various entertaining shorts. Baden-Württemberg chose the Äffle und Pferdle, who, apart from having super distinct voices, also ushered in a renaissance of regional dialect. Don’t worry, even those of us who speak German have trouble understanding this pair!
Video available at: http://youtube.com/watch?v=MYEB7cEH0u8.