A high profile German TV prize ceremony took an unexpected turn when one of Germany's oldest and most respected television personalities refused to accept his award and denounced the whole event as "rubbish."
Reich-Ranicki's dramatic performance made for good television
"I don't belong in this line-up," said Marcel Reich-Ranicki. "I didn't realize what was waiting for me here," he added.
Speaking on camera, he said he loved ARTE, the publicly funded German-French arts channel, but not this "rubbish." Reich-Raniciki said he had found the three-hour ceremony so "repulsive" that he had spontaneously rejected the award for his life work. "It's incredible that something like this should be broadcast," he said. The 88-year-old literary critic promptly left the hall after his tirade.
Germany's public television broadcaster ZDF left the moment uncut in Sunday evening's broadcast of the event.
Reich-Ranicki was first an eminent newspaper literary critic before becoming a television personality in 1988, taking part in a book-review program, "The Literary Quartet," that aired for 13 years. He became a household name, notorious for his irascible reviews and spats with fellow critics.
Spotlight falls on German TV standards
Reich-Ranicki's participation in the Literary Quartet made him famous
The incident looks set to spark a debate about standards in German TV, which has seen a shift away from high-brow, and at times rather staid, programming to tabloid formats over the last decade.
The compere of the awards, top German talk show host Thomas Gottschalk was momentarily taken aback by Reich-Ranicki's reaction, but then he sought to placate the veteran critic, offering to make an hour-long program with him and some German TV bosses to discuss the quality of national television.
Reich-Ranicki immediately accepted and the plan has been given the green light by ZDF. Reportedly the show will take place this week. On Sunday, it was being reported by a number of newspapers that the literary critic had now relented and agreed to accept the award.
Talking afterwards to Bild.de, the online version of the tabloid newspaper, Gottschalk said he could understand the critic's reaction.
"If I, a simple soul in the prime of my life, have started to despair about the quality of our television, then you can hardly be surprised if an intellectual in his twilight years should take to his heels," he said.
The talk show host also conceded, however, that if German television was made according to Reich-Ranicki's wishes then he would be unemployed.