We, of course, know it as the original You Bet!, the Americans are going to know it as Wanna Bet? Wetten Dass…? has usually been a big hit in every country it has touched – Spain, Italy, China and the UK to our knowledge, but the original German show conceived and hosted by Frank Elstner in 1981 is the most popular light entertainment show in German speaking territories, it goes out live for over two hours (it’s meant to be two but frequently overruns) six or seven times a year (every six weeks or so, but taking the summer off) from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and normally commands over 50% of the viewing public. This is a massive audience, and this means they often manage to book huge star guests.
The original game ran a bit like our You Bet – all celebrities make a prediction on all challenges, and the people watching at home voted by telephone to determine the points value. The winning celebrity, the “wettkonig” – bet king – won money (their score x100 in DM) for the people involved in the bet they’re backing, and celebrities who back losing challenges face doing a forfeit. This changed when Frank Elstner left the show in 1987 to how the show works today.
Here is the official site where you can watch loads of archive footage.
Wetten dass…? comes from a different city each episode. Tonight’s show is being broadcast live from Salzburg in Austria, home of Mozart.
This episode (episode 160) went out on the 28th January 2006.
As you can see, it’s a huge stadium. This is our host Thomas Gottschalk who has hosted the show since 1987, except for a year out in 1993.
It’s straight on to the first bet of the evening, the “stadtwette” – the city bet, where Thomas bets against the entire city of Salzburg. These two people, who may or may not be Austrian celebrities, will spearhead it.
Salzburg is the home of Mozart, and their task is to find twenty-five kids under the age of twelve who play classical instruments to perform a rendition of a Mozart work in the town centre at the end of the show.
There’s already quite a crowd! We’ll catch up and see how they’re doing later.
But now it’s time for our first guests of the evening, it’s Ralf Schumacher and his lovely wife/girlfriend!
The legendary Wetten dass…? sofa.
This is a good opportunity for the host and guests to have a bit of a chinwag and plug whatever it is they’ve come along to plug.
And our first bet of the evening.
Twenty musicians and a wheelbarrow. What does this mean?
Well, they reckon that all twenty of them can fit into that wheelbarrow – with their instruments – and stay there for one minute whilst playing a tune. Yes, really.
Now, Ralf must predict the outcome. Can they do it?
If he gets it wrong, he will have to perform a comedy forfeit.
He thinks they can do it.
Das wetten beginnt!
This, really, is hugely impressive stuff. You might be able to make out one kid sitting on the end of the tuba.
It’s important that it is impressive – the viewers at home will be voting later on to determine the evening’s wettkonig, and they’ll be taking home lots of money.
It’s a success, and that means bouncy letters!
It’s time for a musical guest – it’s James Blunt! He’s playing in Hamburg the next day.
Ralf Scumacher’s girlfriend is very pleased to meet him. Watch out Ralf!
It’s time for our next guests, the Austrian finance minister and the lovely wife/girlfriend/husband/boyfriend!
We’ve done our research here.
The bet: those people in red reckon that using their motocross-with-sidecar vehicle, they can beat that bloke with skis down a short ski course.
The Austrian Finance Minister says that actually, no they can’t.
The skiier goes first and records a time of 40.27 seconds.
Ooh-er, that’s in the air and looking rather dangerous – lots of oohs from Gottschalk doing the commentary. It’s a live show.
Unfortunately they lose by a smidgeon under a second. That’ll go down badly in the votes! The Austrian Finance Minister has avoided a forfeit though.
Next, a performance from Anastacia and someone else.
Everyone gets a large bouquet of flowers on this show.
It’s time to see how our stadtwette is getting on!
Of the twenty-five kids required, they’ve found… three.
Never mind though, providing the voice to a Disney cartoon in Germany recently released, it’s Boris Becker!
This is the “kinderswette” – the kid’s bet. He won’t win any money, but he’ll win a lovely money-can’t-buy prize.
He is going to ride around a figure of eight track on a unicycle.
Not too impressive so far, but hold on. Whilst he’s doing that, he’s going to keep a golf ball in the air using a club – the first time round he’ll do it with his right hand. The second time round he’ll do it with his left hand. The third and final time round, he’ll have a club in both hands and he’ll hit the ball with alternating hands. Yes, really.
Becker’s betting against him, and risks having to dress up as Mozart for the remainder of the show if he’s wrong.
Really, watch this one, it’s astounding.
And he wins!
The Sugababes perform, this was Amelle’s first public performance.
Artists are given the option of miming, they sang live. It wasn’t that great, sadly.
Gottschalk does the interview in English, translating the answers for the German audience.
Viewers competition to win a car. It’s a multiple choice question, phone, text or post your answers in.
Here’s Mozart Becker!
The forfeits really aren’t that awful, we gather they used to be a lot worse.
Our next guests are some actors.
This gentleman bets that he close all fifty of those red umbrellas in two minutes. Quite difficult, but what makes it even more difficult is that he’s going to do it using only one hand.
He’s going to jump into the air holding the umbrella, slam his arm down and hope he does it with enough force to shut the umbrella.
He does get round all fifty in about 100 seconds, but unfortunately about ten of them didn’t shut, and he doesn’t manage to finish them off in the remaining time. Bet failed.
But never mind, it’s Depeche Mode!
Our final guest for the evening is an Italian opera singer.
She either understands German, or the questions have been preordained – Gottschalk gives the questions in German, she responds in Italian and a booming voice translates over the PA system.
For the evening’s final bet, this gentlemen here will wear a blindfold. Gottschalk will then take four mini Mozart dolls and place them on the giant piano behind him whereever he pleases.
A man at the piano will then play the four chosen notes simultaneously. Several times, if necessary.
Our blindfolded friend will then tell us exactly which four notes were hit. He must get it exactly right four times, and is allowed one fail.
Our Italian opera singer thinks it’s ridiculous, and says he’ll fail.
The little figures are placed by the host on a whim and represent the notes that are to be played.
Astoundingly, he’s right three times and failed one. Ralf Schmacher’s lovely girlfriend/wife places the final set.
If you want to appear on Wetten dass…? write to these addresses.
Evidently the lines are open for the voting to determine this evening’s Bet King, but we’re not privy to any of the phone numbers or anything. Perhaps it’s an online vote only. Anyone?
And as a comedy forfeit, they’re going to sing some opera. Which is what she does for a living anyway. He doesn’t.
It’s back to the city centre to see if Salzburg has won the stadtwette.
They’ve haven’t got twenty-five kids… they’ve got twenty-nine! Amazing.
But who is the evening’s wettkonig?
It’s Piano Bloke! With an astounding 60% of the vote. He takes home €5,000. The wheelbarow orchestra are second, the moto-cross skiers are third and the umbrealla guy finishes fourth, but still gets to take home €2,000.
And Piano Bloke gets to take his rightful place on a pedestal, to rapturous applause.
Thank you guests, thank you contestants, thank you Salzburg. We’re back on the 4th March in Frankfurt, goodnight!
In the credits, we learn that The Wombles’ Mike Batt “did” the theme tune. So there we are.
…surely that piano challenge was just a demonstration of perfect pitch with the moderate confusing element of notes that may not be in the same key signature? (I have been told that recognising individual notes in chords is on the A2 Music listening paper…)
And if the host places the dolls, he’s influencing the difficulty level and may – if he knows enough about music – be *conscious* of this. Certainly, the presence of an F in one octave and the F#/Gb in the octave above is a very odd interval that would be confusing; if he had D#/Eb, F, C and G#/Ab (in that order going upwards), even though the intervals are very different, they’re all in the same key signature (C minor/Eb major) and as such would be easier than most combinations.
I’d definitely have voted for the wheelbarrow orchestra.
Why not watch it for yourself? Perhaps I’m missing something.
Possibly. While my own ear isn’t nearly sharp enough, I get the feeling it’s not quite as impossible as it may seem at first – and to top that wheelbarrow orchestra so convincingly it would have to be.
(Having said that, if it was dismissed so quickly by an opera singer…)
(And watching the clip again:
* I’m presuming the bed isn’t played in the studio, it would be a bit silly for a challenge like this if it were…
* The host takes enough time over putting the dolls in place that he may well be pondering them.
* And some of the selections are rather interesting.�
* It’s impressive, but I’m surprised it won SO convincingly.
Interesting to note they use the scale with H in it instead of B, which I think is also a Mozart thing. It came up on a University Challenge question recently, I think.
Here’s an interesting thing I’ve just read: Thomas Gottschalk was in Sister Act, after Whoppi Goldberg lost a bet on Wetten Dass. So there we are.