Just 90 seconds into Germany’s newest detective series, our crime-solving heroine Miss Merkel disappears behind a tree to pee. Yes, that’s right: Angela Merkel, peeing.
Germany’s retired chancellor is a little over-excited, enjoying her new freedom on a forest walk north of Berlin, when nature calls. Moments later she is almost run over by a knight on a horse. Then she almost chokes on a cherry stone. Finally the knight – a local aristocrat with a yen for dressing up – is poisoned during a family party.
It’s all go for the fictionalised ex-chancellor. Two years after the crime-solving Miss Merkel appeared in print, German television station RTL has brought her to life in a new television comedy.
Played with elfin charm by Katharina Thalbach, one of Germany’s most celebrated actors, the small-screen Merkel does battle with unseen foes, including scripts written with the same craft and entertainment value as her political speeches.
There are jokes about cleaning up dog faeces: “I’ve cleaned up others’ mess for long enough, I can manage this.” There are jokes about her thriftiness: “I have 50 such blazers in my wardrobe and I have to use them up.” There is a joke about how someone who would “rather be influenza than an influencer”. There is a flatulent pug called Helmut (Putin in the novel).
The reviews have not been kind. “Satire can be of the politically-biting or eye-winking varieties,” noted the Frankfurter Allgemeine daily. “This is more the embarrassing kind.”
The Süddeutsche Zeitung suggested the comedy tasted like boeuf bourguignon made from Kobe beef, which the chef forgot to season: “Even with the best ingredients, bland is bland.”
On the internet, reaction was mixed. “It’s great fun”, remarked one RTL viewer, while another warned: “An absolute low point in German television. This country is just mortifying.”
In 2021 author David Safier dreamt up Miss Merkel, now on her second adventure in print with a third in the works, after brainstorming with his agent about the real Angela Merkel’s life after politics. Then he saw an old episode of Colombo on television and, remembering the real Angela Merkel’s love of Midsomer Murders, inspiration struck.
Despite mixed reviews, the gentle comedy was a success with viewers, with around three million people watching.
“We are delighted with the great ratings,” said a spokeswoman for RTL. “There are other stories and ideas to do with Angela Merkel as an investigator we are currently considering.”
There are so many mysteries yet to be solved, most urgently: the Mystery of the Russian Gas Dependency. For now, it’s not known if the real Angela Merkel saw the show. Reports last week had her flying economy class to stay in a budget hotel in Fuerteventura.
[ Merkel says she didn’t have political strength to influence Putin ]
Like her fictional alter-ego, the real Merkel is moving in new directions. Last month she made her debut on a true crime podcast, discussing the bloodthirsty Gods in Richard Wagner’s Ring cycle operas and the differences to modern Germany.
“It’s good that the majority of citizens accept the rule of law,” she argued, “and not just when it suits them.” Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple would heartily approve.
[ Merkel concedes failings in Russian energy and defence policy ]