Former ZDF TV movie boss Hans Janke dies: master of imaginary programming – media – society


© ZDF and Carmen Sauerbrei

Whether “Derrick” or “TV Movie of the Week”: Hans Janke always wanted to combine great popularity with excellent quality. An obituary

Few names can be mentioned when it comes to the challenging marriage of quality and originality of imaginary television. One of these names is Hans Janke. In the years when he was director of television films for the Second German Television in Mainz, he shaped the station’s program, be it series, series, mini-series of events or cinema co-productions. He reconciled the paradox of entertainment and aspirations, never losing sight of the general public when it came to making social issues fruitful for mainstream television. For him, fiction meant responsibility in image and sound, popularity had to rhyme with quality, for him the television that took itself and its viewers seriously could have no other way. Director Norbert Himmler described Janke as a “guarantor of the highest film quality in ZDF”.

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From the long, overly long list of those productions that Hans Janke had put to work, only a few can be mentioned: First, the successful Friday thrillers like “Derrick”, “Der Alte” and “Ein Fall für Zwei” . He was also responsible for the development of crime series such as Lars Becker’s “Bella Block”, “Nachtschicht”, for cinema co-productions such as the adaptation of Walser’s film “Ein fleendedes Pferd” and the program “Aktenzeichen XY … unsolved”. He always kept his hand on the editorial office of Das Kleine Fernsehspiel, which would become the first address for young filmmakers.

TV movie of the week

Hans Janke, as ZDF rightly recalls, invented the “TV movie of the week” on Monday, turning the classic TV show into a model of the modern German TV movie that has been successful to date. Of course, he also had in mind the audience, to which he wanted to approach social and individual upheavals, or at least closer, no less by the means of fiction crime. He found authors and directors, if he did not “invent” them himself: Matti Geschonneck, Lars Becker, Gabriela Zerhau, Dominik Graf, Rainer Kaufmann, Christian Petzold, Carlo Rola and many others. Had to be in the front row, Hans Janke could not make it down.

From media critic to TV manager

Born in 1944 in Erwitte, Westphalia, Janke showed a fantastic career path. In the 1970s he worked as a media critic before running the Grimme Institute in Marl from 1983. It takes courage and self-confidence to move to television from such a secure position. Janke dared and allowed himself to be seduced into ZDF in 1989 by then-director Dieter Stolte, where within three years he rose to become the head of ZDF’s leading television film editing team. Janke was smart enough to use his power to defend his cinematographic task: since 1995 he was also the station’s deputy program director. Making television also means managing television. In 2009 he retired.

Someone who can think of television

What retirement means: when Hans Janke met and talked with him in Berlin and elsewhere, he was always aware of what was going well and what was wrong in the most powerful medium. Hans Janke could think of imaginary television and could talk about it like no other. With a delicate figure and thin voice, he was a prominent rhetorician and author. Prizes such as the special Robert Geisendörfer Prize of the Protestant Church should not be missed.

On Monday evening, ZDF announced that Hans Janke died in Wiesbaden last Tuesday at the age of 77. Hans Janke, the great master of imaginary television programs, is dead.

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