Sandra Maischberger: And now the double dose

Will the decades-long “button war” enter a new cycle on Tuesday? Will it be uncomfortable for Markus Lanz because from May 3, Sandra Maischberger will no longer speak to him only on Wednesdays, but also on Tuesdays? Should the interview luminary’s weekly double supplement be interpreted as an “attack on ZDF”, as “Der Spiegel” first wrote, or simply “profile sharpening” in the soothing words of ARD program director Christine Strobl?

And what does she say, who is in the foreground of the camera, about the din?

She, that is Sandra Maischberger, first protests with a laugh. This is a question that should be addressed to the program manager and not to the organizer, she replies, before trying to use an image of the world of football: “We are like players who are put on the pitch by the coach. You have to ask the coach what he thinks. As players, we do what we do best: score goals.

1-0 for Maischberger.

It’s her last “gameless” Wednesday, which is talked about in front of the host of “maischberger”, as her show is now succinctly called (the epilogue “die woche” is omitted), doubles the audience for “topics dailies” which is still in the dose of talking politics. Although she doesn’t like this wording at all: “’Double dose’, as you say, sounds like bad medicine. » Is more beats better? “Yes thanks!”

© WDR/Thomas Kierok

By the end of 2022, Sandra Maischberger will not broadcast 26, but exactly 52 times. In 2023, there will be a total of 68 expeditions. Her program director at WDR, Jörg Schönenborn, says she creates “added value through more time, more talk time”. ARD editor Oliver Köhr in turn points to their “important function in the classification of current events” and specifically mentions the corona pandemic and the war against Ukraine. Köhr does not mention in his statement that the other big names in the ARD, Anne Will and Frank Plasberg, “classify” something every week. For them, the dosage remains at 30 or 34 shipments per year.

Have Will and Plasberg ever congratulated the lucky winner of airtime? No they have not. We talk about this and that, but not the number of broadcasts, specifies Sandra Maischberger. “Maybe they think she’s crazy, she does.”

Yes maybe. On the other hand, speaking several times a week is no stranger to the award-winning television journalist, who embarked on the future of television journalism in Munich almost 56 years ago. Her first personal interview program, which was called exactly like the new one, only spelled with a capital M, namely “Maischberger” on n-tv, she did on four weekdays from 2000 until the overflow of bacon. Before that, on Première, where she hosted “0137” alternately with Roger Willemsen in the 90s, there was also a weekday rhythm.

Given her TV history, there’s no doubt that Sandra Maischberger describes herself as a “highest-impact fan” “when it comes to linear programming because it promises reliability.” According to her, twice a week for 75 minutes also has the unbeatable advantage of not having to decide again and again, as before, “which subject we cannot do and which guest we cannot invite because there are so many things to discuss”. In this regard, it is good.

Now, no other public talk show has changed optically and conceptually as often as yours. The only reliable constant: the moderator and her way of asking questions, which she learned at the Erich Böhme school “Talk im Turm” (Sat.1).

It started in 2003 on Tuesday at 10:45 p.m., where Alfred Biolek had spoken before. As a result of his mediation, his favorite candidate Sandra Maischberger won the contract – whereby the great lord of the cultivated culture of conversation was very careful with his team. He should have more to do after Boulevard Bio is over. In fact, his successor started talking to his people early on. Bio was her producer until she took over production with Vincent Productions, founded in 2000. Gradually, the team reorganized. Some are still there since Maischberger’s ARD beginnings. Some have now been added for dual TV.

He was a “good person” who we can only miss, Maischberger says of Biolek, who died last July. At the age of 80, she devoted a warm television portrait to him (with Hendrik Fritzler). However, her ARD entry facilitator was not a mentor to her because he made “something completely different” from her, “namely a program that lived on the ease of conversation”. She herself has always been interested in “heavy and complicated things”: “I’m not so easy.” In “Menschen bei Maischberger”, as this first talk show was first called, sometimes with a nutritionist, fat-free chicken that burns instead of just roasts the political staff, it was not their thing. In 2016, the program not only changed from Tuesday to Wednesday, but also from entertainment to the political department of the WDR. And it became more political.

The second major change in studio content and structure came in 2019 with the feeling “that we speakers are basically pursuing something similar, namely working on the one big topic of the week with four or five, sometimes even six guests”. The editorial release from this dilemma (or should we rather speak of an oversupply?) has been to address more than one subject, on the one hand by means of in-depth individual discussions, on the other hand by means of in which two compete or complement each other, and thirdly by a panel mainly composed of journalists responsible for opinion and ranking. These three elements accompany the new Tuesday. “In what weighting we combine them remains to be seen. In the best sense of the word, television is always about trial and error.

Sandra Maischberger
© WDR/Thomas Kierok

also the studio state of the art with its wall projections and the two play areas, remains as it is. On the one hand, more intimate, Sandra Maischberger asks as usual one on one. A “unique selling point”, she finds, “that one can have an intensive dialogue” and an art for which she was already enthusiastically praised in the days of n-tv. But don’t get me wrong: I really admire the way “Anne, Maybrit and Frank” managed to bring order to the chorus of their many guests, “they are all fantastic tamers. It’s a very successful in doing things. Ours is different”.

Even she, like an experienced tamer, is not immune to constant fire. Political talk shows are on fire to be a circus of self-expression in which everyone has a part to play. Sandra Maischberger’s perception is different: “Especially in recent months, the programs have received much more positive feedback than criticism”. And she feels that in these times of great uncertainty and fear, they have all done a “good job” of showing people that you are not alone with your concerns, that we are addressing them and questioning the action. Politics.

But aren’t there other, unconventional and surprising possibilities?

A reviewer recently unearthed the old idea, how about a role reversal, with each guest taking the opposite position and having to be prepared to exchange arguments beforehand. Sandra Maischberger draws nothing from these mental games, “a theoretical and somewhat unrealistic idea”. Why should she ask Mr. Hofreiter to take Mr. Merz’s point of view just so that a critic is offered something new? “Authenticity is always required of us. Such a role-play would really not be authentic.

Nevertheless, she is “always open to new ideas”. You can also see what “incredibly good opportunities to rethink talk shows” are developing in ARD or ZDFneo’s third programs. The concept “Der Raum” by Eva Schulz comes to mind with praise and “13 questions”. However, she sees her responsibility in presenting a speech in front of a large audience, as it is carried out in political reality: “The times are already too demanding for me to put a hair on it, how I put in stage the speech.”

“The critics” have achieved their goal in at least one respect: in the Maischberger Talk they also try not only to invite old white men of the caliber of Helmut Schmidt, but to “represent society as it is” . Over the years, people have diversified, says the conversation boss, “honestly also because the interest groups put a lot of pressure on us and made us aware.” You pay attention to “a good mix, but without slavishly working on lists. That would not be in the spirit of the search for truth”.

The WDR Broadcasting Council, which also monitors these issues and was despised by former ARD speaker Günther Jauch as “Gremlins”, will record it sympathetically. He nodded to Maischberger’s increased interview interval, but is “fundamentally critical” of it. The committee called on the broadcaster to develop an “alternative concept” proposal over the next few months on how the Tuesday night slot after Maischberger’s contract period ends “can be filled in a strategically sensible way.” The contract ends in 2023. And then?

“You know”, says WDR’s prominent contract partner, “I only think about the end of the contract. What the broadcaster decides beyond that, influenced by the Broadcasting Council, is outside my current interest. But she is confident “we can also convince the Broadcasting Council that we are not a talk show where people just gossip, but that we are doing important work at the moment providing advice in times difficult.”

She also works long enough in front of the camera, concludes Sandra Maischberger, to know “that the chair on which you sit is never a safe bet”. You must always reclaim your place and believe that those who command you believe in quality. “If my hair turned gray because of this, I would be mistaken where I am.”

Speaking of gray hair, what effects does the ARD attack actually have on Markus Lanz? Its editor and close television friend, Markus Heidemanns, is relaxed. The Cologne colleagues “did really good work. And the last 25 years of Talk have taught me that competition is always good for business”.

Well, make way for the “Zoff talk show”!

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