Hans Janke, former president of ZDF Film and Television: Professor of Fiction, Media, Society, has passed away

Few names can be mentioned when it comes to the challenging marriage of quality and authenticity in fantasy television. One such name is Hans Janke. In the years he was head of television film at Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen in Mainz, he drafted the station’s programme, whether it was a series, miniseries, mini-events, or co-production for cinema. He reconciled the paradox of entertainment with aspirations, and has not lost sight of the general public when it comes to making social issues fruitful for prime-time television. For him, imagination means responsibility in image and sound, popularity must chime in with quality, for him television takes itself seriously and its viewers can’t get it any other way. Director Norbert Himmler described Janke as “the guarantor of the highest quality film on ZDF”.

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From the very long and long list of those productions that Hans Janke put into action, we mention only a few: first, the successful Friday thrillers such as “Derrick”, “Der Alte” and “Ein Fall für Zwei”. He was also responsible for the development of crime series such as “Bella Block” and Lars Becker “Nachtschicht” for co-production such as Walser’s adaptation of “Ein fleendedes Pferd” and the program “Aktenzeichen XY…unsolved”. He always held his hand on the editorial board of Das Kleine Fernsehspiel, which was destined to develop into the first title for young filmmakers.

TV movie of the week

Hans Janke, as ZDF rightly remembers, invented Monday’s “TV Movie of the Week” by turning the classic TV play into a model for the modern German TV movie that’s been successful to this day. Of course, he was also thinking of the public, to whom he wanted to bring social and individual disturbances closer, or at least closer, not least by means of criminal imagination. He found authors and directors for it, if he had not “invented” them himself: Mate Jeschonik, Lars Becker, Gabriella Zerho, Dominic Graf, Rainer Kaufmann, Christian Petzold, Carlo Rolla and many others. He should have been in the front row, and Hans Janke couldn’t do that down below.

From media critic to TV director

Born in 1944 in Erwitt, Westphalia, Janke has demonstrated an amazing career path. In the 1970s he worked as a media critic before heading up the Grimm Institute in Marl since 1983. It takes courage and self-confidence to transition to television from such a safe position. Janke dared and allowed himself to be lured to ZDF in 1989 by then-director Dieter Stolt, rising within three years to become the chief editorial staff for the ZDF television movie. Janke was smart enough to use his power to protect his cinematic artistic mission: since 1995 he’s also been the station’s deputy director of programs. Making television also means managing television. In 2009 he retired.

Someone who can think of TV

What it means to retire: When Hans Janke was scheduled to meet and speak with him in Berlin and elsewhere, he was always aware of what was going well and what was bad in the strongest way. Hans Janke could think of fictional television and could talk about it like no other. With his gentle personality and gentle voice, he was an eloquent and outstanding author. Awards such as the Robert Geisendorfer Prize for the Protestant Church should not be lost.

On Monday evening, ZDF announced the death of Hans Janke in Wiesbaden last Tuesday at the age of 77. Hans Janke, the great master of fantasy TV shows, is dead.


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