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In General

By Jan Tenhaven

600 episodes of ELEPHANT, TIGER & Co.

On 02, Jan 2015 | In General | By Jan Tenhaven

It’s hard to believe but today the 600th episode of our soap documentary series ELEPHANT, TIGER & CO will be broadcasted from the Leipzig Zoo. It is one of the longest-running, non-fictional series in German television.

“The Mother of all Zoo Soaps” (Berliner Zeitung) started April 1, 2003 in MDR-TV. The idea of the formatting the concept into a series was developed by the former Editor in Chief, Peter Dreckmann, with my colleague, Axel Friedrich.

From the beginning it was clear we knew, that the context had to be about more than just about adorable little animals. So, we decided to put our main focus on the interaction between caretakers and animals. Filming is done according to strict documentary rules– no staging, no script– and the episodes follow dramaturgical rules of soap operas: with parallel storylines, cliffhanger and stories that continue over multiple episodes. All of that was often done with a twinkle in our eye but without cynicism. “Thoughtful and sensitive”, pronounced the Süddeustche Zeitung, „done completely without false dramatization,“ stated the Info-Radio Berlin.

Since then, the writing staff has grown to 11 authors. Over the years, there have been almost 400 50-minute episodes that are broadcasted in on ARD, in addition to the 600 25-minute episodes in the MDR-program lineup. We never could have imagined this!

This clip is from one of my last episodes. It consists of caretakers attempting to catch three yellow-billed storks to herd them into the winter living quarters. But suddenly, there is a problem…