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End of Long-Running Hospital Soap Leaves Void in Saturday Night TV

March 28, 1989

FRANKFURT, West Germany (AP) _ Saturday nights won’t be the same in Germany now that TV viewers can’t get a dose of their favorite hospital drama.

The hour-long ″Schwarzwaldklinik″ - a moralistic soap opera about a country clinic in the Black Forest - has captivated viewers since 1985.

The often-folksy plots caused some wags to dub it ″Schmalz-waldklinik,″ but that didn’t stop it from becoming the top TV series in West German history.

″There were an average of 20 million viewers every Saturday it ran. That is an absolute record for a weekly series,″ said Bernward Frank, media research chief for ZDF television.

According to ZDF, the 20 million viewers represent 50 percent of West German households in this country of 61.5 million people.

ZDF originally planned only 23 episodes, but viewers demanded more.

Now, after 70 episodes about the intrigues, tragedy and romance surrounding the fictitious hospital, the show has ended.

Following Saturday’s last episode, the weekly newspaper Bild am Sonntag claimed that 55 percent of viewers want the show to continue.

″The show should continue,″ said Harald Kerner, a fan.

″It was exactly right for the mass audience,″ Kerner told the Munich daily Abendzeitung newspaper. ″Dream professions, beautiful scenery, and love stories - things that make life worthwhile.″

One of the reasons for the show’s success was that it regularly featured well-known West German actors as guest stars, such as Gerd Froebe, who was in the James Bond movie ″Goldfinger.″

Froebe, who died in September, made his final major appearance in the ″Schwarzwaldklinik″ as a zestful old man who celebrates his 100th birthday at the clinic.

The show revolved around handsome, middle-aged surgeon Klaus Brinkmann, portrayed by Klausjuergen Wussow, his family and the close-knit hospital staff.

Brinkmann soon fell in love with Christa, a nurse who later became a physician. Christa, played by Gaby Dohm, appealed to many West German women who saw her realizing a successful career as a doctor.

One of the highlights of the series was when Brinkmann suffered a heart attack at the same time Christa was giving birth to their son, Benjamin.

Brinkmann’s father-figure image to his staff and family was enhanced in one of the last episodes when he donated of his own kidneys to save the life of his nephew.

Adding to interest to the series was Udo, Brinkmann’s physician-son from a previous marriage. Udo, played by Sascha Hehn, easily won viewers’ hearts with on-again, off-again romances, the last being with a nurse named Elke, played by Wussow’s real-life daughter, Barbara.

Udo finally marries Elke in the last episode to provide a happy ending after keeping audiences in suspense over the years.

ZDF said it has sold the series to entertainment outlets in more than 45 foreign countries.

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