Why 30 Rock Got a Zero Rating in Germany


It's hard enough for some Americans to make sense of 30 Rock's specific cultural references (Ann Curry's pent-up rage, Lou Dobbs' immigration agenda, and Ann Coulter, to name just a few) so it's understandable that the charm of Tina Fey's banter-heavy sitcom could be lost in translation. But when network ZDFNeo reported that the ratings from 30 Rock's German debut last night were a big, fat zero, we couldn't help but question why Deutschland would turn its nose up at one of America's best sitcoms -- especially when Liz Lemon throws in the occasional German punch line. And then we remembered why.

Germany is the country that did not laugh at Seinfeld. Fault the too-literal translations, the fact that the audience's laughter onscreen did not match up with anything their culture might have found humorous, or the fact that Germans just can't relate to the pursuit of the "big salad" or our fascination with a "bubble boy." Or maybe it is their unhealthy predilection for David Hasselhoff.

Whatever the reason, 30 Rock met the same fate with its 0.0 rated premiere last night and will likely not attract more viewers. If anything, the references made at TGS are more culture-specific (Honky Grandma Be Trippin'). If the German market couldn't get behind Liz Lemon spite-purchasing an entire street cart worth of hot dogs (translation: sausages) in the pilot, there is no hope.

30 Rock took a while to grow in popularity in the United States, with 5.8 million viewers its first season, a number that gradually increased to 7.5 million viewers its third season. But America was familiar with Tina Fey from her days at Saturday Night Live and quickly nurtured her as America's comedic sweetheart. Perhaps if Fey had circulated Germany in a three-week long campaign that involved her parodying Angela Merkel, 30 Rock's German premiere would have met much larger numbers.


Sadly, ZDFNeo (the German network airing 30 Rock) also debuted last night, an expensive endeavor by German broadcaster ZDF that demanded a $40 million budget and a careful marketing strategy touting its crown jewel: 30 Rock, which bombed with less than 5,000 viewers. The channel was targeting a young male viewership with a line-up of English-speaking programs including USA's In Plain Sight, Miami Vice, and since they did not learn from Germany's initial reaction, Seinfeld.

30 Rock should not be ashamed of its transatlantic numbers though. Schillerstraße probably wouldn't pull more than a 3 share in the US -- unless it was up against The Jay Leno Show. The numbers on Bulgaria's premiere of Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip are still pending.

· 30 Rock Scores Zero Rating in German Debut [Hollywood Reporter]


  • OldTowneTavern says:

    When Germany can't bring itself to laugh, it's time for all of us to take a good hard look at the Jews in our attics.

  • snickers says:

    What hit German comedies are there?

  • NP says:

    It's time to play Interrogation Bear!

  • academy screamer says:

    Ve vill not fall fur the International Jewish Comedy Conspiracy!

  • firesnow says:

    The fact is that the most german viewers can't receive ZDFneo so they didn't stand a chance to watch 30 Rock.
    On the other hand the really interested viewers have 30 Rock on DVD

  • Dennis says:

    I'm german and the main problem is that nobody knows ZDFneo. Before its relaunch it was called "ZDFdokukanal" and nobody watched it. If nobody knows about this channel, then its no surprise that nobodys tuning in.
    Season 1 & 2 also ran a while ago on german pay tv, so many watched it there and the ohters are downloading them illegal from the web.

  • Falco says:

    It is very easy to explain why nobody watched it-simply because nobody can watch the channel "ZDFneo". This channel is a digital channel, but about 98% of all german viewers use the old analogue technique (PAL System, not the bad quality NTFS) via cable or sattelite. Only pay tv (what is less then 1.000.000 People in germany) users are in need of a digital box, which is needed to decrypt the digital data streams.
    Not to forget, the channel is just two days on air. And Hasselhoff was popular about 20 years ago.

  • stu says:

    the 5000 viewers aren’t that much of a surprise to me:
    1. only 5 million people are actually able to watch the channel,
    as its a digital only cable channel
    2. its a public service tv network !?!;
    nobody in the target group even knows the channel exists, there are more than 80 free channels in Germany and the ads for the new channels are also only broadcasted on public networks
    3. before it was renamed, the channel was a documentaary channel that never in its history achieved more than 0,8 % ratings
    3. half the season was already published for free as a dvd add-on on several newspapers half a year ago
    4. yesterday bayern Munich played against Bordeaux in the soccer champions league, peer group certainly watched that
    5. comedy fans watched the very popular show stromberg (the German version of "the office")that started its new season yesterday that was broadcasted parallel
    about seinfeld: unlike friends its was never actually given a chance, since it was broadcasted on a nieche channel, tuesdays at 11.30 p.m.

  • mel says:

    Oh, really? Come on, at least be creative with your stereotypes and add some new ones. The problem is not the humor or the translation, every American show has to deal with those on German television, but the new channel.

  • Ray's Sausage Co. says:

    Dennis, Falco and Stu are right, but I'd like to add that in contrary to Julie Miller's opinion the Germans are absolutely able to get behind US-american gags. For example quite a number of people over here enjoy Chappelle's Show or South Park. And, there are really good Comedy series in Germany, too, just have a look at
    And, finally: after sending us David Hasselhoff in the 80s, we now strike back with Tokio Hotel! 😉

  • The other week I was writing a german essay including the word "schlagzeilen" which is german for headlines, kept laughing at that.

  • GK Scott says:

    I'd like to add that in contrary to Julie Miller's opinion the Germans are absolutely able to get behind US-American gags.

  • elisa says:

    I (German) heard about "30 Rock" just a few weeks ago and started watching it by buying the DVD's. My mother told me about "30 Rock" because she is one of the few people watching ZDFneo. It's a shame that such a good sitcom with great humor every German can understand is just shown on a channel nearly nobody is interested in.

  • narcissous says:

    Germans, nay, most of europe has a very different opinion of what humour is. I was very lucky to grow
    up on this cultural borderline, but most of the sitcoms and the stand up I show the people in my area makes absolutely no impression on them. It is not bad humour, it is just vastly different.
    For example, general eastern european humour would be at least Xrated in america. They just often make fun on taboo topics like adultery, racism, religion, abortion, you name it. Offensive humour just does better here.
    On the other hand, almost every single european I have talked with about sitcoms said they hate laughtrack. I cannot blame them, afterall, it is a lazy stupid attempt to boost up an otherwise flat deal.
    I am glad modern shows are starting to distance themselves of this procedure, and I would guess 30 rock(along with many others) will be credited as a major pioneer of this.
    If you ask me, in 10-15 years, 30 rock will be considered a forward leap, almost as great as Married...with Children, in the world of sitcoms.(maybe even greater)

  • AJ says:

    I would like to clear some stuff up in here because I think that you're giving the long and difficult explanation, rather than the more obvious one.

    I'm German and almost every German I know that knows about this show loves it. However - almost nobody knows about it. The channel (ZDFneo) is small, fairly unpopular and known to have a tendency of showing rather uninteresting documentaries or very... alternative, wannabe-bohemian shows. The entire network is not exactly poplular, because paying for it is mandatory, no matter whether you're watching -let alone liking- it.

    But most of all: That wonderful show airs Wednesday nights, and by "nights" I mean 23:45 to some time after midnight. Basically, what we end up with is a fantastic show that's being shown on a lame channel at the worst time of the week. I've been watching this show for a couple of years now, but not even once have I watched in on TV - but only on DVD, since most people have work the next day (and I had school/ University).

    My explaining this might not sound like this, but I swear that we can laugh at ourselfes! Mean, dark-humor German references... that's featured in a lot of shows, and lots of those are popular over here ("Krusty spritzende Gaswasser" in "The Simpsons", several references in "Scrubs", Otto in "Malcolm in the Middle" a.s.o.). I agree that some may have problems to grasp all of the references (I think I get most of them, but every once in a while it takes a google search to get a joke) though, but that's probably not the essential part problem.

  • No one who speaks german can be an evil man says:

    And just because you can't stress this enough: It wasn't the show, nor the people! But yes, it was the country! It was the horrible standard of german television! It was the channel! No one knew about it, its programm most of the time was and still is highly unattractive, like documentary reruns that aired years ago on the original channel (zdf), and, what i consider worst of all, the good shows were and still are hidden by airing them at a time when really nobody wants to watch TV. The same thing happened to Mad Men (same channel, similar time, similar fail). And why does the network (zdf) such a stupid thing? Why outsourcing those brilliant shows to a channel and a time so unwatchable? Obviously they think we in general (Ze Germans) are not ready for those shows, they don't want to scare the old people away from the screens with something innovative so they just keep airing those all-the-same german-tv-lovemovies you can calmly fall asleep to. It's a shame, but well, all the more money in the dvd/ blue-ray market.