Season 3 now streaming!

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Season 2 of Tatort: Cologne begins May 9, exclusively on MHz Choice.

Now Streaming!

The stars have to align perfectly for a TV show in the US to become a hit, even for a season or two. Successful long-running shows are even more rare, like freaks of nature. FOX network’s The Simpsons holds the record in the US for the longest-running scripted television series, with 28 seasons. Just behind The Simpsons are Gunsmoke and Law and Order, with 20 seasons each. Impressive, right?

But it looks like kid stuff next to the German record holder, Tatort, which boasts a whopping 46 seasons. Even the name is perfect: in German, the word ‘tatort’ means crime scene. Approaching its fifth decade, Germany’s famous cop franchise is nothing short of a television phenomenon.

The challenges of starting up Tatort brought about its most wondrous elements – variety of setting, personalities and types of crimes. In 1970, and still today, cost was prohibitive for any one station in the German public network to produce an entire series. As a solution, it was decided that each member station would produce a few episodes featuring its own detectives, creating content for all. Thus, multiple locales, personalities, and types of crimes. The result: pure television gold. Tatort is Germany’s longest-running drama, with more than 1000 episodes produced and 70-plus detectives involved. German enthusiasm for the series has never waned, and fans from around the world have come to embrace this classic TV cop show.

Freddy gives Max a lesson in sign language in Tatort: Cologne season 2.

The beauty of the Tatort format is the platform it provides for expressing the unique culture, architecture and problems of each city. Always, a detective or detective team is at the center. But how they go about the work is where the magic lies. Their accent, their jokes, what car they drive, what they eat or drink, how they spend off hours – it’s all regional. In fact, it’s a showcase of what characterizes each city or region. And since stations only produce a couple of episodes a year, they can be 90 minutes – longer than the typical 50 minutes – allowing for more developed stories and characters.

MHz Choice has in its library three “cities” from the Tatort franchise – Tatort: Cologne, Tatort: Borowski, set in the port city of Kiel, and Cenk Batu Undercover Agent, based in Hamburg. Each series presents its own world, and each is addictive!

Tatort: Cologne features one of the series’ most popular duos, Max Ballauf (Klaus J. Berendt) and Freddy Schenk (Dietmar Bär). Chiseled, handsome Max considers himself a ladies’ man but can be dense when it comes to relationships. Bear-like Freddy is large, somewhat impulsive, married and has a daughter. Years of working together have forged an understanding. Like brothers, they quibble, compete, support each other and kibitz over currywurst and Kölsch beer at their favorite stand on the Rhine River.

Tatort: Borowski features the off-putting, mesmerizing Klaus Borowski (Axel Milberg). He’s like a detective from another planet, hearing frequencies missed by most humans. He has a thing for the shrink who works at the station, Dr. Frieda Jung (Maren Eggert), and watching the awkward moments he creates with her brings sheer delight. They’re like slow-motion car wrecks – you can’t take your eyes away. Admittedly, despite his seeming obtuseness, he does solve the cases. Tatort: Borowski crimes often involve the shipyard, or ships harbored in Kiel. Borowski loves the water and getting away with his friend, an ex-con, to fish.

Cenk Batu Undercover Agent – Born in Germany to Turkish parents, Cenk Batu (Mehmet Kurtuluş) lives in Hamburg and works as an undercover agent for Germany’s version of the FBI. He’s the ultimate chameleon, blending in to investigate cases that range from industrial espionage and financial crimes to terror cells and political assassinations. The ability to be an Everyman takes a toll on his personal life, of course. The intricate plots and emphasis on going undercover evoke an old American classic, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

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