for "Wanna Bet..?"
) is a German language game and entertainment TV show. It is the most successful television show
The shows are broadcast live six to seven times a year from different cities in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland and can easily attract 50% and more of all German speaking viewers on that evening. There have also been six open-air summer shows, broadcast from Xanten, Palma de Mallorca, Paris, Berlin, and Aspendos. Each of the shows, which are not interrupted by commercials, is usually scheduled to last for about two hours, but overrunning by up to 45 minutes is not uncommon.
On February 14 1981
, the German
aired the first episode in cooperation with the Austrian
and the Swiss
channel SF DRS
. The inventor of the show, Frank Elstner
, hosted the show until its 39th episode in 1987. Wetten, dass..?
has since been hosted by entertainer Thomas Gottschalk
, except during a brief interval from 1992 to 1993, when the show was presented by Wolfgang Lippert
. Gottschalk hosted his 100th episode of the show on March 27 2004
The core gimmick
of the show are the bets
: ordinary people offer to perform some unusual (often bizarre) and very difficult task. Some examples, all of which were performed successfully, include:
- Lighting a pocket lighter using an excavator's shovel (February 19 1983).
- Assembling a V8 engine from parts and make it run within 9 minutes (November 2 1991)
- 13 swimmers towing a 312 tonne ship over a distance of 25 meters (October 7 1995)
- Recognising 5 of 6 (out of a total of 75) species of birds blindfolded by feeling a single feather (November 9 2002).
- A Chinese martial artist pushing a car with a spear, the tip of which resting on his throat
- A nine-year-old boy from Vienna computing the shortest bus and railcar routes throughout the city from memory
- A blindfolded farmer recognizing his cows by the sound they made while chewing apples
The other major attraction of the show are the top-ranking celebrity guests, with considerable screen time given to the host greeting and chatting with them. Each of the guests must bet on the outcome of one of the performances and offer a wager, in recent years usually a humorous or mildly humiliating, originally more charitable, activity to be carried out if they lose. However, until 1987, each of the celebrities bet on all the performances and the most accurate one was selected to be that show's Wettkönig ("bet king"). Ever since, one of the people performing the task is selected by a telephone vote. Celebrities that have appeared on the show include a vast range of personalities, with repeated guests including the likes of Hugh Grant, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Mikhail Gorbachev.
Additionally, until 2001, members of the audience could offer bets against the host to find a certain number of unusual persons (e.g. 10 ladies over the age of 65 driving motorbikes). One of these was selected at the beginning of the show and had to be fulfilled by its end. Now, the host bets against the entire city where the show is held.
Between the bets and the celebrity smalltalk, there are musical performances by top-ranking artists, sometimes by the celebrity guests themselves.
Wetten, dass ...? inspired the British series You Bet!. It was produced by London Weekend Television and aired on ITV from 1988 to 1997. The hosts were Bruce Forsyth (1988–1990), Matthew Kelly (1991–1995), and Darren Day (1996–1997).
In October 2004, Wetten, dass ...? also started in the Chinese television under the title Wanna Challenge (as gambling is illegal in China). It is aired once a week and reaches 60 million viewers each show.
In early 2000s, a Slovenian version of Wetten, dass ...? started weekly on POP tv under the title Super Pop hosted by Stojan Auer. There were initiations of close production connections with the original Wetten, dass ...?, but show was canceled because of high production costs before any further common productions were made.
The show was also broadcast in Italy by RAI from 1991 to 1996 (and then in 1999, 2001, and 2003) with the title Scommettiamo che...?. In 2008 it was took up again by Rai Due.
In 2005 and 2006, a Polish version was broadcast under the name Załóż się.
In 2006, ABC signed with reality producer Phil Gurin of The Gurin Company to develop an American version of the show. It is set to air in July 2008, hosted by British duo Ant & Dec. This is not the first time the show has been produced for American audiences; in 1993, CBS aired a pilot called Wanna Bet?, hosted by Mark McEwen, which was not picked up as a full series.
There are also plans to air Wetten, dass ...? in India, Northern Africa, and Middle East
- There has been an instance where Frank Elstner lost a private bet himself; he had bet with his family that his colleague Kurt Felix would never fool him. (Kurt Felix ran a show similar to Candid Camera, called Verstehen Sie Spaß? ("Can You Take A Joke?"). On the 29th show (September 21, 1985), after an outdoor challenge which involved painting the ZDF logo onto the roof of a car with a paintbrush fixed to a helicopter's skid, the pilot was invited along with the guests for a drink of champagne. But the contents of the bottle turned out to be pure vinegar, as Elstner discovered when he was the first to take a sample, and the red-haired and bearded pilot revealed himself to the laughing audience as Kurt Felix in disguise.
- In a special on German TV, Elstner said, Wetten, dass..? had the chance to have Pope John Paul II on the show, but only via video link, not direct in person. Elstner refused, because this could be precedent for future celebrities and famous people to come on the show via video link and not be in personal on the television set. Elstner regretted the once-in-a-lifetime chance to have the pope on his show and said it was the greatest mistake of his career.
- In the 25th show on December 15, 1984, environmental activists ran in front of the cameras with a banner that read "Nicht wetten Donauauen retten" ("Don't bet save the Danube mead"). When they were pulled out of the way by the show's security, Frank Elstner commanded, that no one is to be thrown out of his show. He let the activists tell their request and they left the show peacefully. The banner was for the then Austrian chancellor Fred Sinowatz, who was guest in this show.
- In the 48th show on September 3, 1988, an editor of the German satirical magazine Titanic, Bernd Fritz, sneaked into the show as a contestant under the pseudonym Thomas Rautenberg. The true Thomas Rautenberg, a graphic artist from Munich, offered his bet to Wetten, dass..?, to see how the ZDF would react. He claimed to recognize the color of crayons by tasting them. Bernd Fritz took the bet to the show and won the bet. However he admitted he was cheating and the solution of how he did it could be read in the next issue of Titanic. Gottschalk then told the audience, that he would read the magazine, and tell the trick in the next show, so that the magazine wouldn't get the publicity from this stunt. It was later explained, that the blacked ski goggles, that contestants wear if they need their vision removed for the bet, were adjusted by Fritz so he could peek through a gap along his nose to see the color of the crayon. The showmaster tested the visibility through the goggles by faking punches against Fritz eyes and seeing if he would try to dodge them, but after the test it seemed as if Fritz adjusted the goggles to a more comfortable position before he attempted the bet. Since then, swimming goggles with a rubber sealing that sucks to the skin are used.
- In the 102nd show on December 8, 1996, a live bet at the Russian space station Mir was planned to take place. The cosmonauts wanted to decorate a Christmas tree in zero gravity in two minutes. Because of technical problems, the station couldn't be contacted during the show.