Sun. Jul 14th, 2024
alert-–-germany’s-favourite-british-comedy-sketch-–-dinner-for-one-–-is-to-get-spin-off-series-60-years-later-in-europe…-despite-being-virtually-unknown-in-the-ukAlert – Germany’s favourite British comedy sketch – Dinner For One – is to get spin-off series 60 years later in Europe… despite being virtually unknown in the UK

British TV comedy Dinner for One is getting a spin-off series in Germany, with the country’s most famous film studio producing six brand new episodes.

Beloved in Europe but virtually forgotten in the UK, the 1960s sketch show sees Freddie Frinton playing a butler to May Warden’s Miss Sophie, an upper class English woman.

The 10-minute black-and-white routine is about a 90-year-old lady who is unaware that four of her close male friends have died.

Each year she invites them round for a birthday dinner, forcing her butler, James, to run around the table pretending to be her guests as he gets increasingly drunk.

The new series will be a prequel to the original cult classic and will star Alicia von Rittberg, 30, as Miss Sophie.

It is set to air on Amazon Prime at the end of 2025 and will be the first new material in many decades.

Provisionally titled Dinner for Five, it will feature a cash-strapped Miss Sophie on the hunt for a husband at the age of 39.

She invites five bachelors to her castle for dinner but one is them is murdered under mysterious circumstances. 

It is likely to be a hit in northern and central Europe, where the 60-year-old farce remains popular to this day and is broadcast every New Year’s Eve in Germany and Scandinavia.

It is estimated that 11.7 million people in Germany saw it across a dozen different channels on the New Year’s Eve just gone.

The show is so ubiquitous in Germany that the catch phrase, ‘Same procedure as every year?’, has entered the popular lexicon in the country.

This is all despite the programme being banned in Sweden until 1969 for featuring heavy consumption of alcohol, and Grimsby-born actor Freddie Frinton hating Germans so much he refused to speak the language on screen.

The new mini-series is being filmed at the Babelsberg studios on the Western outskirts of Berlin by the UFA, a production company that has shaped German cinema since the Weimer era with films such as The Blue Angel and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.

The star of the new series, Ms Rittberg, who is descended from aristocracy, is best known for her role as a nurse in Charité, a successful TV drama about one of Germany’s leading research hospitals at the end of the 19th century.

Dinner for One, which is also known as The 90th Birthday (Der 90. Geburtstag in German), was originally written by British author Lauri Wylie for the theatre.

Frinton bought the copyright for it from Wylie and then began performing it in 1945, initially with Warden’s daughter, Audrey Maye. 

It toured provincial theatres in the late 1950s and was later recorded for TV in 1963.

German producer Peter Frankenfeld then came across it while scouting for ideas in Blackpool and invited Frinton to perform it on screen in front of a live TV audience.

For the TV version, Audrey was replaced with her mother, who was 72 at the time.

The show aired for the first time on German station NDR in March 1963. 

However, Frinton’s dislike of Germany meant that he refused to speak in German when impersonating one of the absent guests, Admiral von Schneider. 

Instead, he spoke in Swedish. The other non-existent dinner party members were named only as Mr Pomeroy and Mr Winterbottom.

As its popularity in the UK waned, it took off in West Germany, spreading as far as , Finland and the Faroe Islands.

It sparked a cultural phenomenon on the continent, with cookbooks and even a commemorative stamp being released. 

At one point in the late 1980s, the Guinness Book of World Records named it the most popular show in TV history. 

Then, in 2003, it entered the book as the most-repeated television show of all time, the same year it aired 19 times on different stations in Germany. 

Two versions – an 11-minute one and a longer one lasting 18 minutes – were released.

The show became a hit after being shown on German TV at 7.40pm on New Year’s Eve to fill a gap in scheduling, and has been on every year since then. 

As well as being a hit in Germany, it is popular in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxemburg, Estonia, Austria and even . 

The skit is so popular that broadcasters ensure it is shown multiple times throughout the day so that everyone has a chance to watch it. 

In the sketch, James goes about consuming all the drinks set out for Miss Sophie’s friends over four courses: mulligatawny and sherry, North Sea haddock and white wine, chicken with champagne, and fruit and port.

As he becomes more and more drunk, he slurs his words and repeatedly stumbles over a tiger head rug. 

Before each course, James asks his employer if it will be the ‘same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?’ 

She replies each time: ‘The same procedure as every year, James.’ 

The pair repeat the exchange for a final time when he follows her up to bed at the end of the evening, with James adding: ‘Well, I’ll do my very best’.

The allusions to sex were reflected by Frinton and Warden’s alleged real-life affair.

More adventurous viewers who watch the sketch, which is broadcast in English but has a short introduction in German, will try to keep up with James’ drinking.

There are even restaurants that allow diners to eat the same thing as James and Miss Sophie.

However, the sketch has attracted controversy too. 

In 1997, Germany’s conservation ministry complained about the use of the stuffed tiger that features, saying it was ‘not a good idea’.

And the Grey Panthers, a militant pensioners’ organisation in Germany, said it was upset because of the implied ‘old-age sex’.

However, the controversy did not stop Germany’s then chancellor Angela Merkel from praising the show in her New Year’s speech in 2012.  

Frinton, who died aged 59 from a heart attack in 1968, was well known in Britain, having starred in BBC show Meet The Wife.

But he was also hugely popular with his drunk comic skit, which saw him wear a top hat and tails and carry a broken cigarette.

Warden died aged 87 in 1978.

Dinner for One aired in the UK for the first time in 2018, when it was shown on Sky Arts.

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