“Quarks & Co.” – From Idea to TV Show
If by the end her mother has understood all the different sections of the programme, Monika Grebe knows she has done a good job, for that is her goal as editor of the science show “Quarks und Co.”: “Our programme is designed to explain highly complex issues so clearly that every viewer can understand them.”
Quarks und Co. is one of the most successful science magazine programmes on German television. Launched in 1993, this 45-minute show broadcast by regional TV station Westdeutscher Rundfunk Cologne (WDR) turns the spotlight on one scientific topic each week. Every episode features a number of sections, each of which explores a different aspect of the topic. The programme aims to be both informative and entertaining. It is not intended for an expert audience but for anyone interested in science. This explains why nearly a million viewers tune in, accounting for 3.1 percent of the total German TV public – a very high figure for an information show. To elucidate scientific phenomena, experiments are performed in the studio, with surprising results. Presenter Ranga Yogeshwar – who also had the idea for the show – likes to get personally involved in the experiments. A physicist and science editor, he sat alongside Formula 1 driver Nick Heidfeld in a racing car to find out how his heart would react to the thrill of high-speed driving. He also tested the effects of alcohol on himself by drinking himself into a state of inebriation under controlled scientific conditions.
Using animated clips to explain facts
It took Monika Grebe an awful lot of hard work to get the show ready, however. Her first step was to visit the city library, where she got hold of some reading matter about Cologne’s landmark building. “Only once I have a good overview of the material in question do I get together with our staff to identify appropriate themes.” Around six freelance authors are involved in each programme, producing the individual sections. In all, more than 20 authors work for Quarks und Co.. Almost all have a university degree, in subjects like physics, history or music. Monika Grebe herself studied biology.
Surprising stories preferred
What happens when the ground beneath the cathedral begins to quake?
Final touches prior to recordingDates for shooting are only agreed once it has been decided exactly how the individual sections are to appear on television. After shooting, the authors have to edit the sections and add the voiceover and music. So much can still change during this process – in some cases the sections do not work or the research produces unexpected results. Then the concept has to be adapted. “The show is in a state of flux from start to finish”, says Monika. “It is constantly changing.” The job of the editor is to coordinate this process. Finally, the script is written for the show and Monika meets with the presenter, Ranga Yogeshwar, with whom she discusses the planned studio experiments. Graphic and stage designers are also brought in. The final touches are made to the show right up to the day of recording. “When it is finally shown on TV I often watch it at home on my sofa”, says Monika. “Or with my mother.” She is her most important critic, after all – and so far has always understood everything.
works as a freelance journalist and author for regional broadcaster WDR.
Translation: Chris Cave
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Internet-Redaktion
Any questions about this article? Please write to us!