Fun Stuff > Humour
CSI is a most popular mainstream TV show, dealing with "Crime Scene Investigation", followed by interrogation, speculation and revelation. Thinking of classic spoofs of the metier, the term "Crime Scene Irritation" comes to mind. What do Police Major Adolf Kottan, Inspector Sledge Hammer and Private Investigator Max Mueller have in common? Cult status and a license to laugh? Especially Kult-Kiberer resp. cult-cop Kottan has amused us with his prayer-mill-like clarification: "There is no inspector!" The Austrian TV comedy hit in disguise of a "Columbo"-style whodunit-crime story was making fun of local authorities until it was cancelled apruptly in the early 1980's.
Truly Viennese Da Capo. The second Mundl-movie "Echte Wiener 2 - True Viennese 2", would once more reassemble the cast of the legendary 1970's TV saga "Ein echter Wiener geht nicht unter - A true Viennese doesn't go down" some 30 years after its cancellation. An unusual mixture of ranting, rap music and nostalgia, one of the few highlights of the spin-off would be an encounter of a special kind. Protesting vehemently at the nearby police station against a filed complaint, Edmund Sackbauer, unmistakably played by Karl Merkatz, brings together two Austrian TV police detective legends. Actor Walter Boeck, for a change not hanging out at the Viennese Carmelite Market with a horse-livercheese sandwich, starts the inevitable dialogue: "Kottan, you here?" Franz Buchrieser responds: "Look, Trautmann, I am incognito!"
The Carmelite Market ("Karmelitermarkt") is located in the second district of Vienna at the corner of Leopold Lane and Crooked Tree Lane (Krummbaumgasse... I know). The market area offers a lot, but most of all memories to the TV-series "Trautmann". It's all right there, from the horse butcher with the police inspector's favourite livercheese sandwich to Gardener's market cafe, where the detective meets up with an informant for a drink at a late evening, up to Tubic' poultry shop of the "chick catcher's" and parliamentarian's wife.
Cult-Constable Comeback. At the same time, Buchrieser's successor Lukas Resetarits would assemble a new cast for the "Kottan ermittelt - Kottan investigates"-comeback film "Rien ne va plus". Literally, in late 2010 it would be hard to top that - a revival of two Austrian TV legends, "Mundl", the archetype of the hot-tempered resident of a typical Viennese public housing complex, and "Kottan", the easygoing police investigator, always with a playback-song on his lips. Both are associated with distinctive vocabulary that has become cult, be it showcase-proletarian Mundl's defensive "Mei Bier is ned deppert - My beer is not stupid" or cop-Kiberer Kottan's revealing "Inspektor gibt's kan - There is no inspector", a once and for all clarification of his true rank of a police major. However, Kottan's linguistic blows or "Wuchteln" are used sparingly in the sequel, with notable exceptions: "Schrammel, do you know how to keep a moron in suspense?" - "No?" - "I'll tell you tomorrow!"
Third Actor. Over the years the main character Adolf Kottan has been played by three different actors, starting with the rather reserved Peter Vogel (episode 1 and 2), followed by the already more outgoing Franz Buchrieser (episode 3 to 5) and ending with comedian Lukas Resetarits (episodes 6 to 19). A fact that would inspire his film-wife Bibiane Zeller to read the book "The Third Man" in the episode "Raeuber und Gendarm - Cops and Robbers." When (the latest) Kottan looks at the framed pictures of his predecessors, he says: "Hearst, das ist ja schon eine ganze Galerie - Listen, that's already a whole gallery."
Slang Soundtrack. Authored and produced by Helmut Zenker for the Austrian Television, the Kottan-show occasionally featured cameo appearances by its director Peter Patzak in the old Hitchcock manner. While the introduction to later espisodes do honour to Asterix, the soundtrack to the very first Kottan-episode was exclusively taken from the Danzer-album "Ollas leiwand - Everything extra cool (1975)", including the depressing song "Das kann doch noch nicht alles gewesen sein - That can't have been all yet". Before a fully automated coffee dispenser (with its own will) would drive the police president crazy, in the first shows the secretary used to serve freshly brewed coffee to the officers. After the first sip from a cup someone usually burnt his mouth with others wisely commenting: "Kochen muss sie ihn schon - She has to cook it, naturally."
Raffle Winner. Remarkable is the scene where the Austrian TV-police inspector Kottan sings "I am a Millionaire" after opening a raffle ticket (lip sync with the Dr.Hook song). As it turns out, the ticket had the number 1,000,000 and he only won 20 Schillings (about 1,50 Euros). But so much for the lucky thirteenth episode of "Kottan," while noticing the similarity in the main character's name with the German dime-store novel hero Jerry Cotton.
No Mistakes? A few Kottan quotes are simply legendary by now. Once this guy claimed: "I don't smoke, I don't drink and I am not interested in women." Asked, whether he had any mistakes, he would admit: "Well, sometimes I lie!" Also a certain cowboy, who draws faster than his shadow, found his way into the Austrian crime series spoof. In the episode "Genius and Coincidence (Genie und Zufall, 1983)" colleague Schrammel raves about his new Lucky Luke reading material. Says Kottan: "That fits you. You are the only policeman, who draws slower than his shadow!"
TV-Duet Singing. Repeatedly, there would be conversations with the TV program announcer Chris Lohner, while he was in the living room and she was on TV! In the episode "Die Einteilung - The Assignment" they would even perform the duet "Something Stupid" together. Beauty ideal of the 1970's for her unmistakable strawberry blonde page-boy haircut, I would later find out that the line "You have a nice Chris Lohner-type hairstyle" wouldn't find positive echo any more among younger colleagues, who in the meantime perceived her as the (well) aging host of TV magazines about a living a healthier life.
UFO Landing. The episode "Kansas City" came with subtitles, mentioning that an UFO had landed near Duisburg and as such pulling the leg of German viewers following the show, while not being familiar with Austrian humour. The general outrage made newspapers headlines in December 1982. The South-East Daily Post titled: "Indignation over Kottan's UFO hoax. TV stations and police bombarded with phone calls. (Helle Empörung über Kottan's UFO Scherz. Fernsehanstalten und Polizei mit Anrufen bombardiert.)" The next episode, called "The Kidnapping," saw the anarcho combo Drahdiwaberl (Spin Around Girl) perform "Loden-Freak," then with Falco on sunglasses and bass guitar, who later revealed in a newspaper interview that the Kottan character had inspired his first smash hit "Don't turn around, the Commissar's in town."
Sudden So Long. From 1977 to 1981 two episodes a 90 minutes were produced each year by the Austrian public TV station ORF. As soon as the Second German Television ZDF showed interest, six episodes were produced annually, now only lasting for one hour each, which were aired alternating to the endless crime series "The Old One (Der Alte)", "(Inspector) Derrick" and the then new show "A Case For Two (Ein Fall fuer Zwei)". The unconventional series was cancelled in 1984 due to bad viewer ratings, despite the average market share of 45%. The episodes 20 to 25, intended to plausibly end the series, were not filmed any more and so it was "So Long, Kottan". Towards the end of the series, it had changed from a milieu study to total slapstick, setting path for the following somewhat chaotic comdey show "Tohubohu (Tohuwabohu)".
"Wir befinden uns im Jahre 1984 nach Christus. Alle Metropolen des Erdballens werden von einer Welle der Kriminalität heimgesucht. Die Polizei führ allerorten ein fast aussichtsloses Rückzugsgefecht. Allerorden? Nein! Eine Handvoll wackerer, unbeugsamer Kriminalbeamter in Vienna trotzt konsequent dem Bösen -
We are in the year 1984 A.D. All major cities of the globe are plagued by a crime wave. Everywhere the police is fighting a hopeless battle. Everywhere? No! A handful of brave, valiant detectives in Vienna consequently defy the evil." (Kottan ermittelt: Die Enten des Praesidenten - Kottan investigates: The Ducks oft he President, 1984)
Trust me, I know what I'm doing!
Sleeedge! With Eastwood's "Dirty Harry"-movies and similar TV-shows like "Hunter" there came a lot of opportunity... for parody! All of this unreasonable hardship inspired the comedy TV-series "Sledge Hammer (1986-88)" with the toughest cop since Harry Callahan, even secretly talking to his gun. David Rasche starred the TV-spoof on all these tough city cowboys and Rambos, a role he received following his part as KGB agent Jeff in the 1984 movie "Best Defense." To underline the parallels, in the "Sledge Hammer"-pilot episode "Under the Gun" from 1986, actor John Vernon was cast as mayor, who had appeared in the same role in the original "Dirty Harry"-movie in 1971.
Amish Ambush. In the episode "Witless," Sledge visits a Mennonite community and totally confuses their backward oriented, piece loving life. The portrayal of the impossible cop in a most unusual Amish environment rings a bell on similar movies like "Angel and the Badman (Der schwarze Reiter - The Black Rider, 1947)" with John Wayne and "Witness (Der einzige Zeuge - The only Witness, 1985)" with Harrison Ford.
Climbing Stairs. One of its last episodes was "Suppose They Gave a War and Sledge Came?" where you would just see a staircase door in the 28th floor and hear an example of David Rasche's unbearable macho attitude, addressing Anne-Marie Martin: "Come on Doro, we're almost there. Be strong, forget you're a woman. Mind over matter!" As the door flings open, you can see that she was actually carrying him upstairs!
Prequel-Season. Sledge Hammer definitely stood for an unusual mixture between machismo, violence and stand-up comedy. The first season would end with Sledge attempting to disarm a nuclear warhead... and screwing it up! As ABC intended to cancel the show, it was sort of ok to blow up the whole city in the very last episode. Finally, you could hear the scream by his upline, Police Captain Trunk: "Haammmmer!" However, ratings had improved lately and the TV station changed its mind and renewed the show. A dramaturgical trick had to be applied and the second season was set five years before the explosion.
Crime Musical. "Muellers Buero - Miller's Bureau" is an Austrian cult comedy by Niki List that crossed my life a long time ago. The local blockbuster of the year 1986 featured a Private Investigator, who unravels a plot around gang war, blackmail and faked death. P.I. Max Mueller is played by Christian Schmidt, who one year later acted as a stand-in for Timothy Dalton in the Bond-movie "The Living Daylights" during a rollercoaster ride in the Vienna Prater. His sidekick Larry is played by stand-up comedian Andreas Vitasek, whose solo cabaret shows usually ended in a dialogue with a hand puppet representing death.
Bogart Wannabe. Filmed mostly in Vienna's 7th district (Mueller's office) and in the area of the Gasometers in Vienna-Simmering (red light milieu), the movie starts with German actress Barbara Rudnik in the role of a mysterious blonde, hiring the P.I. to find her vanished boyfriend. Giving the false name Ingrid Bergman, as the conversation wanders off into a song, the movie reveals itself as a mixture between crime story and musical, a satire on the Film Noire in Humphrey Bogart-style, not taking itself too seriously in the tradition of "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid" with Steve Martin, and the incredible quote after entering apartment number two: "It smelled like the number on the door." The title track describes Miller as following: "...is hard ouside and soft within, is like John Wayne. And when he is old, he's as rich as Citizen Kane."
Forget Casablanca. In February 1986, the Kurier-newspaper, prominently featured in the same film with the front page headline "Million Dollar Heiress Killed," praised the "Laughing whirlwind in Muellers Buero", noting: "Forget Casablanca! Why wander into the far, if Miller's office is just around the corner? There the beautiful heroine is also called Ingrid Bergman and there are several Bogart-types. Like vultures, Maltese Falcons are circling over the detective agency, scared off by loud singing... The black-humour crime operetta not only amuses crime story fans and movie buffs, who can play hide and seek with countless parodical quotes from famous thriller scenes of film history."
Tune Wedgie. The soundtrack remains unforgotten for including songs like "Maennerfreundschaft - Men's Friendship" with the line: "Only true men can understand what unites us men." Saying it all about behaviour patterns of men's circles and fraternities, it was a composition by Freddy Gigele, who would years later as DJ Oetzi achieve international breakthrough with the apres-ski party blast "Anton of Tyrol." Another highlight is the lisping secretary (Sue Tauber) comparing guys with the favourite almond flavoured candy: "Men are like Marzipan, although I can't stand Marzipan!" Comedian I Stangl would act to a voice over with Reinhard Theiser's intepretation of "Joe noch einen - Joe, another one." The song had been originally recorded in 1981 by Hans Hartz (the German Joe Cocker) and among others been covered by Herman Van Veen.
Alpine Sequel. Sadly, the year 2009 saw the deaths of both actress Barbara Rudnik and director Niki List, who in the upswing of the cult movie's DVD release had been working on the official sequel "Muellers Buero - 2 old 2 die." Quite similar to Jethro Tull, who had diagnosed as early as 1976: "Now he's too old to Rock'n'Roll, but he's too young to die." Actually, the film had already had an unofficial sequel in "Helden in Tirol - Heroes in Tyrol" with some of the same actors in an Alpine homeland scenery. In a way, the Miller Office movie became something like an icon. It was one of the few films I went to see twice at the movie theater.
Merry Miller Memories. It was one of these cult movies of its time, which one just couldn't manage remembering without a smile playing on the lips. "What a feeling" had it been to watch it as an ambitious half-grown even though it wasn't quite "Flashdance." In excitement we could have cheered "Gimme more" as in "Grease," as we had the "Time of our Life" without dancing dirty. Watching it again after some time feels like a "Time Warp," I guess that is now borrowed from the unspeakable "Rocky Horror Picture Show." Back to those times long gone... "Joe, another one... for the stomach!"
Brenner and other Professionals...
Something happened again... Following numerous roles in German TV crime shows, in the year 2000 Barbara Rudnik had participated in another groundbreaking Austrian film "Come, Sweet Death (Komm, Suesser Tod)". Gerhard Hader for the first time portrayed the failed policeman, private eye and ambulance driver with last name Brenner, who couldn't get the melody of the third aria in Bach's St Matthew Passion - "Come, Sweet Cross" - out of his head. A role he would return to in the film dramas "Silence (Silentium)" and "The Bone-Man (Der Knochenmann)", all based on novels by contemporary author Wolf Hass, typically starting with the phrase: "Something happened again! (Es ist schon wieder was passiert.)" The guiding theme of the last book of the series - which I had read first - "Brenner and the Dear Lord", was yet another musical memory of the youth. The Jimi Hendrix song "Castles made of sand fall into the sea eventually" in the meantime made it to the ring tone of Brenner's cell phone, and is cleverly used throughout the story as an analogy to the rise and fall in the construction business.
Professional Entertainment. Obviously, the above mentioned shows were not the only ones that had fascinated us. Plenty of American and British TV series had been airing on Mondays at 9 PM, right after the obligatory "Sports on Monday" TV format. Widely popular whodunit-series of the time included "The Streets of San Francisco", "Detective Rockford" or "Kojak" with his favourite line "Who loves ya, baby?", in German "Entzückend, Baby (delightful, baby)". Another highlight had been "La Piovra - The Octopus", in German titled "Alone against the Mob", the story of rebellious Police Commissioner Corrado Cattani, who wants to prove that justice can prevail, but at what price? Among fellow followers, "The Professionals" had been one of our most thrilling and overly discussed TV shows. Gordon Jackson played the head of the CI5 force, who assigned his agents Bodie & Doyle to most dangerous missions in a similar way as Charlie had sent out his Angels a couple years earlier. When I watched an episode all those years later with my boy - who was about the same age as us back then - he just felt bored.
"For many I was nobody, but for you I was the world -
Fuer viele war ich niemand, doch fuer Dich war ich die Welt!"
(Freddy Gigele, Maennerfreundschaft - Men's Friendship, 1986)
Go to the next page to read about the classic Munsters TV-Show and see an optical illusion.
So much for unusual webpages, and license plates...