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Dublin: 12 °C Saturday 25 October, 2014

Here’s what the Germans were laughing at on New Year’s Eve TV

We have Mrs Brown’s Boys; the Germans have something called Dinner for One.

'Miss Sophie' and her butler 'James'.
'Miss Sophie' and her butler 'James'.
Image: Dinner for One (still) via Youtube.com

WE’VE HAD A missive from a TheJournal.ie reader who spent the festive period “on the Continent” as we like to call mainland Europe when we’re watching Poirot.

It seems German television has a peculiar tradition which it likes to observe over the festive holiday. Every New Year’s Eve, they show a short comedy sketch called Dinner for One. As our German gogglebox observer told us: “It’s on TV every half hour and all the Germans think it is hilarious!”

The intriguing part in all this is that Dinner for One is an 11-minute English comic sketch, dating from 1963. It stars an elderly lady of the manor, Miss Sophie, who has a birthday dinner party every year, setting places for her friends who have long since died. So far, so morbid. She is waited upon by a similarly elderly butler, James, who takes it upon himself to drink all their toasts for the absent friends, getting more and more drunk as the evening wears on and the sketch descends into physical farce.

So how did it end up on German TV? As it turns out, German television isn’t the only one to have Dinner for One on repeat at the end of each year. It is also repeated in Austria, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, South Africa, Australia and Latvia between Christmas and New Year, according to a 2003 article in Der Spiegel which sought to investigate how it became so popular in the paper’s homeland.

Der Spiegel suspects that the piece was deemed a potentially anti-monarchy satire and so was not promoted too much in the UK. The stage play, while English, was discovered by TV producers of Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) in Blackpool and the screen version actually filmed in Germany in 1963 with English actors Freddie Frinton and May Warden. It aired on a popular evening entertainment show that year, but only became a cult hit in 1972, becoming part of the televisual furniture which is rolled out every New Year’s.

So now you know. See what all the fuss is about:



via Johann Taljaard/Youtube

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