If you’re like me, maybe you jump in front of that Fernseher (television) for some hard-earned Patschen-kino (slipper cinema).
There’s nothing like relaxing with a great, binge-worthy TV show—except doing it in German, of course.
And right now, the German TV scene is experiencing a renaissance unlike ever before. Well-known series such as “Dark” have been picked up by Netflix, and in 2019 the German government increased funding for new TV and film productions to $170 million.
This gives German learners a great variety to choose from. Whether you like crime shows, soap operas, game shows, you name it—there’s a German TV show for you.
While you watch, you’ll get familiar with common grammatical constructions in context, learn new vocabulary and start to understand slang or even specialized jargon.
Do you have your Patschen (slippers) on? Get ready to learn German with 16 TV shows you can stream tonight!
Learn German on TV! 16 Bingeable Shows You Can Stream Now
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You’ll get exposed to the kind of real-world dialogue present in German TV programs. And it’s not just about exposure–FluentU is all about active learning. The new German vocabulary and expressions you learn through video content will be compiled in flashcards and a running vocabulary list to refer back to and study later.
There are also interactive subtitles in every FluentU video. Click any word for an instant definition, grammar info and useful examples while you watch.
Check it out for free on you computer, iOS or Android device with a FluentU trial.
With FluentU and the great German TV series below, all that’s missing are your slippers!
“Die Pfefferkörner” is produced by Das Erste (The First), a German public broadcaster. The show follows a group of adolescents between the ages of 10 and 14 as they solve mysteries in their neighborhoods. These mysteries include crimes such as an expensive painting getting stolen from the local art gallery.
“Die Pfefferkörner” would be a great introduction for those who are just starting out with watching German TV. It’s a children’s show, so even if the content feels a little immature for adults, it’s great for learners at the lower intermediate level of German.
The episodes are short (around 22 minutes), the vocabulary is fairly basic and the speech is clear and at a reasonable pace.
Despite its title being in English, “How to Sell Drugs Online (Fast)” is completely in German. It’s a teen comedy/drama that follows a nerdy high school student named Moritz who sells drugs online and finds himself becoming a top European drug dealer.
In fact, this show is based on a true story (the real Moritz has been serving seven years in prison since 2015).
Aside from the show’s intriguing story, “How to Sell Drugs Online (Fast)” is great for learning vocabulary related to technology and crime as well as slang used by youth.
German and English subtitles are available from Netflix.
“Wilsberg” was developed in the 1990s and is now hosted on Amazon Prime. The show followed Georg Wilsberg who’s your typical, small town superhero: he’s a bookseller by day and a private eye by night.
His private eye capabilities help keep his neighborhood safe as he uncovers petty crimes and even crimes that implicate more powerful people in his town.
As expected, there are a few laughs along the way! At times, the show is charming and funny, but it can be suspenseful and dramatic. Further, since the show is from the 1990s, the language used is a bit altmodisch (old-fashioned), but it can still be heard by older German speakers.
Three seasons are available for streaming online with Amazon Prime.
Originally aired in 2015, “Blochin: Die Lebenden und die Toten” is a mini-series on 2DF (or ZDF, for Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen — Second German Television), another German public broadcaster. The show follows a police officer named Blochin who must confront his shady past as a drug dealer to solve a crime that threatens to destabilize his community and daily life.
Naturally, this crime involves old friends from his past life, and what he discovers even implicates prominent German politicians.
This show is only one season long with five episodes that are each between 60 and 90 minutes in length. Like other shows on this list, this show is great for learning crime and legal vocabulary as well as for getting a view of what would be considered “non-standard German.” In this case, that means the criminals use a lot of informal language and vocabulary related to crime and drug slang.
All episodes include subtitles in German, but there are no English subtitles available.
Keeping with the crime and thriller theme so far on this list, “Parfum” is a crime show on Netflix. In fact, “Parfum” is based on the German crime novel “Das Parfum” (“The Perfume”) that was originally published in 1985 and enjoys commercial and critical success even today.
The story follows a group of students whose friend gets murdered. Even after the friend is buried and gone, things don’t seem quite right. As their own personal murder investigations unravel, disturbing secrets emerge and the students are connected for things other than their mutual love of perfume.
Subtitles are available in both German and English.
“Bettys Diagnose” is another show produced by 2DF and it’s soon entering its sixth season on TV.
Think of “Bettys Diagnose” as Germany’s answer to the popular American show “Grey’s Anatomy.” Essentially, this show is a medical drama following a group of doctors as they navigate their jobs, love and life. Along the way, there are splashes of comedy and romance, and the show is never short on the drama and cliffhangers!
“Bettys Diagnose” is great for learning medical jargon and slang vocabulary related to love and sex in context.
Only select episodes are uploaded at a time on 2DF. These uploads are normally the newest episodes, so you can watch this show in real time! All episodes include subtitles in German.
“Der Gleiche Himmel” is another German Netflix show. It follows two German families living on opposite sides of the Berlin wall during the Cold War in the 1970s.
A government agent from East Germany meets and falls for a woman from West Germany—as one would expect, drama ensues as they attempt to reconcile their love for each other with the realities of their separated existences.
The show was highly acclaimed in Germany, receiving many nominations and awards at German TV award shows, and you can tell. The acting is superb and the cinematography is phenomenal. In terms of language, this show is great for learning Cold War-era vocabulary, especially as it relates to Berlin in the 1970s.
English subtitles are available for this show on Netflix.
“Hotel Sacher” is a soap opera that was produced in 2016 and is set in the early 1900s.
In fact, “Hotel Sacher” is based on an actual hotel in Vienna that you can visit should you find yourself in Austria! The TV show follows the quasi-true story of widow Anna Sacher who takes over ownership of the hotel after the death of her husband, Eduard Sacher.
The story includes love, drama and power as Anna attempts to gain control of her associates and of her dead husband’s business while others in her life and at the hotel would rather own the hotel and its finances themselves.
You can watch the show on Amazon Prime with English subtitles.
Shifting gears a bit on the genre of German TV shows, “Sorry für Alles” is another show produced by 2DF. Predominantly, “Sorry für Alles” is a game show with a cool—yet creepy—twist.
Unbeknownst to contestants on the show, they’ve been followed for 30 days prior to the actual taping of the game show. Their whereabouts and their activities have been monitored and recorded. On the show, all is revealed and they must answer questions about the details of the past 30 days to win money.
As you can imagine, hilarity and drama play equal parts as the contestants’ lives are slowly revealed.
All episodes include subtitles in German.
Like “Sorry für Alles,” “Verstehen Sie Spaß” is also a comedy show that involves a hidden camera. This time, the people who are being filmed know that they’re being watched—at least one of the participating parties!
Rather than observing people “in the wild,” the people and celebrities are put in various humorous situations. This includes having subjects eat in the dark, go through a haunted house or get pranked by a close friend or business acquaintance.
“Verstehen Sie Spaß” is wildly popular in Germany. It originally aired in the 1980s, and it was rebooted in 2010 with a new host and a fresh set of comedic gold.
All episodes are completely in German and include subtitles only in German.
“Bauer sucht Frau” is a reality TV show on RTL (the largest private TV network in Germany) and it’s known the world over, namely because it has variations in other languages such as “Farmer Wants a Wife” in Britain and the U.S.
Essentially, the show follows a male farmer who attempts to find himself a wife. The farmers are typically a little rough around the edges and sometimes don’t do much in the name of romance, but crave intimacy and a strong bond. The successful farmers find themselves eine Frau (a woman/wife) and get married.
As you can imagine, the show is a mix of romance, drama and comedy. The show is perfect for learning rural vocabulary and various German dialects since many of the farmers speak what would be labelled “non-standard German.”
The episodes include subtitles in German only.
“Merz gegen Merz” is a dramedy (comedy/drama) produced by 2DF. So far, this show has only one season of eight 22-minute episodes, but considering this season just finished airing in April 2019 and rumors have it that a season two is on the way, this show is definitely one to watch!
“Merz gegen Merz” follows the story of a dysfunctional family as the husband and wife go to couple’s therapy upon realizing that they rather resent each other and the wife has cheated on the husband. Each episode starts with the couple recounting some event that has recently happened in their lives, typically revolving around their angsty son going through puberty, his overbearing and low-class parents and her father who has recently developed dementia.
While the laughs are plenty, there’s a fair amount of heart, and there are many moments where viewers can relate to the duality between drama and silliness that occurs in modern family life.
“WDR Reisen” isn’t a traditional TV show—in fact, it’s a YouTube channel, but its production value could have you fooled. Besides the fact that its episodes are professionally shot and superbly edited, the images themselves are beautiful and the research and coverage is exhaustive.
Primarily, the show features in-depth looks at locations around the world such as Amsterdam, Iceland and California. The episodes are 45 to 90 minutes long, and they’re a mix of travel vlog and destination guide.
Other episodes on the channel focus on different aspects of travel lifestyles such as living in a van or advice on buying flights, packing and finding good hotel deals.
Episodes typically include both German and English subtitles.
Keeping with the theme of documentary-style TV shows (also known as dokus in German), “Terra X” is another 2DF show. It’s quite an expansive series with tons of episodes, including short documentary episodes centered around themes such Geschichte (history), Natur (nature) and Wissenschaft (science).
As such, the language presented in this show is true Hochdeutsch (high German): it’s what would be considered “standard textbook German” and its level of formality is fairly high.
For example, a well-known documentary produced by “Terra X” includes “Die Reise der Menschheit” (“The Journey of Humankind”), a three-part mini-series that explores human history and evolution from the beginning of time until the present.
Other documentaries include “Tabu – Verbotene Orte” (“Taboo – Forbidden Places”) that explores the world’s uncontacted tribes as well as various nature documentaries, histories and biographies of historical figures.
All episodes include subtitles in German.
“ttt: Titel, Thesen, Temperamente” is another documentary-style show produced by Das Erste. The show is styled as a news talk show that looks at current happenings in the news and in modern society.
Each show is broken into separate reports led by different journalists. The reports come in 10- to 15-minute segments, each focusing on a different topic such as contemporary books, music, technology and current political happenings in Germany and abroad. You’ll get on-scene reporting as well as interviews with experts and everyday people who are impacted by the story.
The episodes are broken up into their segments on the website so that you can easily choose what you want to watch.
This show is also great for learning formal German or Hochdeutsch as it adopts the prestigious dialect often used by the news networks and journalists.
All episodes of “ttt” include subtitles in German.
“Lass uns reden” is another show that follows the non-fiction nature of the past three shows. It’s produced by Das Erste and hosted by Jo Schück. Each episode tackles a different controversial topic in which two people with opposing viewpoints (in addition to the host) debate and offer their opinions.
Topics include marijuana legalization, sex, internet security and surveillance and racism in everyday life. The debates can get rather heated with one party accusing the other of being dishonest or handing out the now-infamous “fake news” charge. This show is sure to strike passion into even the most pacifistic of viewers.
The episodes are fairly short, typically between seven and 15 minutes, and this show is great to practice everything from academic language to slang to technical language.
The show includes subtitles in German.
Now that you’ve popped your Puffmais (popcorn), it’s time to settle into your couch, choose a Sendung (TV show) and start watching your way to German fluency!
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