Frank Plasberg describes it as an experiment that will happen. “You know this from kids: If you take away their Playstation or iPad and they get bored, then suddenly they start playing hide and seek again,” he explains. He now imagines her in a similar way to himself. Close the incentives – and wait and see what kind of ideas come. “I want to see what boredom will do to me,” he says.
The difference is that Frank Plasberg is not in the hands of entertainment electronics, but one of the most popular TV shows in the country. He has moderated “hard but fair” since 2001. But on Monday evening (November 14, 21:00, Das Erste) it must end. Then Plasberg wants to introduce the format one last time. After that, the show will go on hiatus before returning in early 2023 – with a new host. With Louis Klamroth.
He maintained a confident style
The fact that it is Plasberg, of all people, who is bringing movement to the top league of German talk show hosts by retiring may come as a surprise at first glance. The 65-year-old not only used a sharp style in his show – he was also rarely at a loss for self-confident statements about their success (“We came through, we went from the underdog to the top dog”). Even today, in conversation, I sometimes choose a vocabulary that exudes a certain harshness. For example: “We always fought.” Or that the then director of WDR Fritz Pleitgen once “bombed” the program from WDR to ARD.
The quiet withdrawal of the head of the company is not expected immediately without being necessary. But that’s how it was, reports Plasberg. “In October last year, I approached the broadcaster, the client and said: Guys, I’m going to be 65 years old. Take a look and see if it’s really what we think – that the format is stronger than the moderator,” he says. “And that with a new face it might as well take an oxygen shower.” It was always important to him that the show not burn out “like some kind of burning widow” when he retired.
He is not planning a new show
Plasberg actually chooses the word pension. He says he has no new plans at the moment. He certainly wondered what a new challenge might be. A new show, for example, is not. “I say: The biggest adventure for me – that I started working as a journalist at the age of 16 at the Bergische Morgenpost in Wermelskirchen – is: Simply not being relevant anymore. Just look at what happens to you when you’re not stoned with dates.” It was clear to him that this could also lead to “a dark hole”. “But I want to try.” He will also no longer moderate the year-end quiz on ARD. “So in December it’s also: Goodbye.”
Plasberg denies that he can continue to influence “hard, but fair”. The program will continue to be produced by the production company of which he is one of the managing directors. But “actively” he will no longer have anything for him. Now he is a spectator. Or as Plasberg assures: “I’m not going to be like the old screw-maker sneaking down the hall late at night and checking that the tolerance dimensions are right.”
Norbert Röttgen had the most appearances
How “hard but fair” will play out will only become clear once the younger Klamroth has taken over. Especially in the early years, the show was style-defining – from the famous fact-check to the lively final round. He worked at WDR from 2001 and at ARD from 2007. Norbert Röttgen leads the list of guests with the most appearances, followed by Karl Lauterbach and Bärbel Höhn. Somewhat surprisingly, talk show host Wolfgang Bosbach followed in fourth place. Plasberg looked at the numbers.
He does not hide the fact that he would have liked to broadcast on ARD on Sunday evenings – where Anne Will or Günther Jauch can currently be seen. “Of course I would have liked it to have been more comfortable,” he says. On Sunday – the day of the “crime scene” – ARD has ten million viewers in advance. On the other hand, before Monday night’s “tough but fair” slot, there’s a lot of different stuff. Sometimes you can build on that, sometimes not. “Sometimes there was a nature documentary about friendship squirrels,” says Plasberg.
In his latest broadcast, the topic “In the desert – who is looking forward to the World Cup in Qatar?” to be. Plasberg says he doesn’t know what it means at the end – he’s not writing anything. But there should be a surprise in the last minutes. “They told me: wait and see what happens next,” he reports. It is the attitude that now applies to him in many life situations.