A Stream of Medial Consciousness Transmedia Storytelling in Contemporary German Quality Television

Von Jonas Nesselhauf und Markus Schleich

Transmedial phenomena are omnipresent in what is often dubbed ›quality television‹. Shows like Breaking Bad (2008–2013) or Game of Thrones (2011– ) do not only rely on storytelling within the show itself but also offer their viewers a variety of possibilities to delve into the universe of the franchise. Mobile apps, minisodes, or interactive websites guarantee a deeper involvement of fans and personalize the viewing experience. These shows also add narrative complexity on a horizontal level, which many see as a recent criterion for ›quality television‹. Whereas ›good‹ television seems to be exclusively located in the US, where premium cable operators like HBO, Showtime, and AMC use new media to transgress the borders of the television screen, the developments in Germany are often criticized for a lack of innovative strategies. There is at least one German show to challenge this perspective: Zeit der Helden (2013). Regardless of the involved media, the show features a complex narrative and ambivalent protagonists. Even though the setting promises a suburban everyday-life melodrama, the show explores the cracks that offer a look beneath the surface. The website www.zeitderhelden.de offers a scavenger hunt into the protagonists’ past. In order to grasp the depth of the characters fully and to understand the complexity of the story arc, the viewer has to actively interact with the franchise and to enter a digital universe that in itself is just as dazzling as the shows’ characters.