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TV detective Schimanski (Götz George)

TV detective Schimanski (Götz George)
Source: dpa

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Tatort: Duisburg

"Tatort" (Scene of the Crime) is born and soon becomes the nation's favourite cop series. Uncouth, impulsive, greasy parka and moustache - it's Horst Schimanski, the detective who likes kicking-in doors, even if they're not locked! The unruly lawman barges into German living rooms on 28 June 1981 on Channel 1, the ARD.

He's a rough diamond - honest and dependable. He always puts heart and soul into the job. Kommissar Horst Schimanski, the impulsive TV detective inspector, personifies a stereotypical bulletRuhr man with proletarian roots who never fails to rile his superiors.

It's not only on screen that he ruffles feathers. Viewers and critics don't take to Schimanski at first. The police, they say, should be shown using more brain and less brawn; a sensitive criminal investigator would be more realistic.

Schimanski's patch is Duisburg. But the real city doesn't like its new image from the TV serial. Duisburg has, say the locals, more to offer than a red-light district and harbourside pubs.

Inspector Schimanski seems to know everyone living in and around the Ruhr town, which is actually a perfect choice for the "Tatort". It has a rich diversity of social settings - not only the "Ruhrpott" atmosphere of industrial decay, but also specifically Rhenish elements associated with the port. The script can make full use of this diversity.

Anyway, the furore over Tatort's portrayal of the police soon subsides, especially with the addition of fellow detective Christian Thanner (played by Eberhard Feik), who's role is to keep Schimanski under control. Thanner goes by the book and works hard, though he can also be shifty.

As more and more TV villains are brought to justice, the fuss in Duisburg about its feisty screen detective is replaced by a certain identification. The city acquires cult status through this "Ruhrpott" image.

As for Inspector Schimanski, now retired but still allowed to help solve the odd crime, viewers these days know exactly what awaits them. Germans in the 1980s and 90s come to love him or hate him, but they can't ignore him.

Dirk Bitzer

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