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Wetten dass? The Swiss Rock’s Appearance On Prime Time T.V.

October 19, 2013

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Wetten, dass..? (German for ‘Wanna bet that…?’) is a long-running German-language entertainment television show. It is the most successful Saturday television show in Europe and has 14 million viewers. Its format was the basis for the British show ‘You Bet!’ and the American show ‘Wanna Bet?’

The shows are broadcast live six to seven times a year from different cities in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. There have also been seven open-air summer shows broadcast from Amphitheatre Xanten, Placa de Toros de Palma de Mallorca, Disneyland Paris, Waldbuhne Berlin, and Aspendos Roman Theatre.

Each of the shows, which are shown without commercial interruption, are usually scheduled to last for about two hours, but it is not uncommon for a show to run as much as 45 minutes longer.

The core gimmick of the show is 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 (19 February, 1983).
  • Assembling a V8 engine from parts and make it run within 9 minutes (2 November, 1991).
  • 13 Swimmers towing a 312 tonne ship over a distance of 25 meters (7 October 1995).
  • Recognizing 5 of 6 (out of a total of 75) species of birds blindfolded by feeling a single feather (9 November, 2002).
  • A Chinese martial artist pushing a car with a spear, the tip of which was 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 make while chewing apples.

The other major attraction of the show is 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 humourous or mildly humiliating, originally more charitable activity to be carried out if they lose.

Until 1987 each of the celebrities bet on all the performances and the most accurate one was selected to be that show’s Wettkonig (“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 Jennifer Lopez, Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt, Naomi Campbell, Michael Douglas, Michael Jackson, Jennifer Aniston, David Beckham, Hugh Grant, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Claudia Schiffer, Heidi Klum, Bill Gates, Karl Lagerfeld, Mikhail Gorbachev and Gerhard Schroder.

Between the bets and the celebrity small talk, there are musical performances by top-ranking artists like Jennifer Lopez, Coldplay, Rihanna, Kiss, Whitney Houston, Katy Perry, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Aerosmith, Bryan Adams, Shakira, Britney Spears, Scorpions, Bon Jovi, Meat Loaf, Elton John, Tokio Hotel, Miley Cyrus, Joe Cocker, Lady Gaga, Luciano Pavarotti, Celine Dion, Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey, Robert Plant, Status Quo, Leona Lewis, David Bowie, Cher, and Tina Turner.

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My appearance on Wetten dass..? was on the 25th of January, 1992. Our bet – I was there with a colleague – was related to table tennis (a.k.a. ping pong) since back then I was member of the Swiss National Team for several years and I was also selling table tennis articles in Switzerland, Germany and France. I was importing the articles from Asia and working together with the German producers.

The bet we had was similar in nature to the 4th bet on the list above but had to do with table tennis balls. Our small talk guests were Christopher Lambert and Diane Lane, who had just gotten married and had their newest movie “Knight Moves” released in cinemas worldwide at the time.

The performing act just after our bet should have been Grace Jones but she was drunk that day and was simply sent home by the German producers. She was replaced with a local act that they were able to find on one day’s notice named Uwo Ochsenknecht. He performed his song ‘Only One Woman’ which I felt was a pretty good song especially for a local German artist. It was a cross between Bob Seger, Tom Petty, and John Mellencamp. It was a great opportunity for this artist to perform on a Saturday evening at prime time (8-10 p.m.) with 14 million viewers watching even if it was at such short notice.

For our bet, which took 6 months straight of training at least 2 hours each and every day, we proposed that we could recognize any table tennis ball, from a possible pool of several thousands, blindfolded by just the ‘clack’ that the ball makes when it drops onto the ping pong table. The producers of the show picked 20 different balls from the pool of thousands and stated that we had to get 4 out of the 5 they picked right.

To assure that they were all dropped from the same height I had to construct a tool that I brought with me to the show. This assured that each ball was dropped from a standard height which is important since the height at which the ball is dropped changes the sound or ‘clack’ a bit. We used this tool for practicing as well because had we not done this it would be impossible to even start such an endeavor when each ball’s sound varies depending on the height it’s dropped from.

Did we succeed? Let’s watch the 10 minute clip of just our appearance on the show below to find out!

If you would like to watch the long version (20 minute version) of our appearance complete with Uwo Ochsenknecht’s performance of his song ‘Only One Woman’ CLICK HERE!

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