Prof in lather about soap

August 11, 1995

Professor Baumann, a folklore studies tutor at Tubingen University, is in his local pub boozily talking over the theme of tomorrow morning's seminar with a colleague. He finally hits on it: "A contextual analysis of Swabian song heritage based on the folksong 'In the Meadow Hops the Hare'." Later on, he drops in on the prelate's wife with whom he is having an affair.

If Professor Baumann sounds like a larger than life character, it is because he is supposed to be. He is, after all, one of the main characters of a new soap opera, Katrin ist die Beste, to be shown on the German TV channel Sat 1 early next year. The production company, Neue Deutsche Filmgesellschaft, will be using the characterful Tubingen University buildings as a backdrop and has rented a town house in the old university town as a film set.

As coincidence would have it, a real-life professor of folklore studies at Tubingen University has an office in the very same street.

Hermann Bausinger, professor at the Ludwig Uhland Institute for empirical cultural anthropology, was interested to read a short newspaper report that his university and his institute were to be fictionalised in a TV series. But when the university handed him a sample of a script it seemed both familiar and yet very foreign.

Like the fictional character, the real professor also has a grown-up daughter. What is more, he had met the author, Barbara Piazza, at his seminar on the Lindenstrasse - a popular German soap which she also wrote.

Yet it was not the personal similaries that bothered him but the "arrogant and cliche-ridden portrayal of the academic profession" as well as the unrealistic, antiquated style of the dialogue.

In a letter to the film-makers Professor Bausinger suggested they "at least employ a few students to bring the script a little closer to reality and avoid the greatest embarrassments".

But Jutta Gunzer, assistant to the producer, said any similarities had been an unfortunate coincidence. The film-makers are changing the fictional professor's name from "Baumann" to "Naumann".

And as for accusations of inaccuracy: "It is not a documentary, it is not meant to be reality. If it was, no one would watch it," she said. Despite Professor Bausinger's criticisms, she said, the film-makers had not heard from the university.

Meanwhile Professor Bausinger has written to his local newspaper, the Schwabisches Tagblatt, to dispel any idea that the Ludwig Uhland Institute is enjoying the limelight. He told the THES: "I'll watch the series, but I'm not excited about it."

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