I met Christian Giegerich infront of the large building complex of the German television broadcasting company ProSieben in Munich (Germany). He was casually dressed with shirt and jeans and greeted me in an even more relaxed and youthful way. I was led into the inside of the building which was, to me, like entering Wonderland. The offices were decorated in a minimalistic way with white, clean furnitures and at least a thousand televisions and computers. The design was clean, new and modern. And yet they decided to air such an ancient topic of the well-knwon and much appreciated history-fiction character Spartacus. Christian led me to a conference room where our interview took place…
Q: Why does ProSieben believe another Spartacus story will be successful in the television?
A: I can’t speak for ProSieben, but I believe that it has a lot to do with the film 300. It has established a complete new genre of film – it’s modern and stylish in the visuals but thematically ancient and timeless. People love that! It has created a new audience of young and mainly male viewers that feel attracted to television series such as Spartacus (STARZ). The programme on Fridays, just before Spartacus, is meant to target male audiences. A male oriented Blockbuster is therefore perfect to lead in to a television series such as this one.
Q: Which elements does Spartacus use to get the spectator’s emotional attention? Sex and violence?
A: (Laughs) Yes, exactly. However, I do believe the most important element is vengeance and a bunch of emotions that arises from that. His wife is killed and he wants revenge. He has a reason for his actions. Pure emotion, don’t you think? And just with emotions you can capture the audience – this is the most important factor in all television shows out there. The plot is of secondary importance if you know how to win the audience’s feelings. The main ingredients for a successful series are: a main character that moves you and with whom you can identify, and you need to understand his actions. In my opinion, that’s the reason why people watch series – it’s all about the characters. The name of the island in Lost is of secondary importance because you want, in first place, to find out what happens to the people you embosomed during six seasons.
Q: What is your personal opinion on the ancient world? Are you a fan of Spartacus or comparable series such as Rome (HBO)?
A: Rome is more of my taste, but personally, I’m a big fan of modern fiction like Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, Lost or superhero fiction like The Flash or Gotham, but also television shows that handle other themes, like Games of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire. You can’t really compare Rome to Spartacus though, as it focuses on completely different matters. Unlike Spartacus, Rome is a whole lot more historic and attracts a completely different viewership, such as students and generally people who are interested in history itself. Basically, it’s the same ingredient and yet entirely different. If you have a good story, you can tell it in every era. You can call it Star Wars or Lord of the Rings – it won’t make much of a difference. The plot is about a dark and a light knight, or more generally speaking, about the never ending battle between good and evil. Indiana Jones is such a character that combines mythology, legends and even religion which dates way back in the past. The franchise uses well known biblical facts and spices it up here and there to make it more acceptable to the viewer and the hero himself.
Q: So how do you see the future of the genre ancient-history television series?
A: I believe that this genre is about to become more attractive from time to time, especially because of stunner such as Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings. People just got used to seeing their heroes with swords in their hands, and they like it. Ancient history is rich in big dramatic stories that are timeless and yet attractive even in today’s time. Rome or series like The Borgias have developed a taste for authentic history telling, which is as interesting as any history-fiction. So, yeah, I guess that there’s a growing interest in the past. In my experience it’s hard to attract most of the mainstream oriented people with old black-and-white films or even films from the 80s. But as old movies are remade, you see that a lot of people feel attracted to the past again.
Q: Do you think that there is an audience for archaeological programmes with an Archaeologist as the host? Would a programme on current excavations and historical subject be successful in the television? And would ProSiebenSat.1 support such a programme?
A: I do believe there will be an interested viewership. I think that such a programme would fit in quite well in a male oriented channel, but that’s not for me to decide. In general, channels with primarily male audience would do well with such a genre.
Q: That’s interesting that you suggest men channels. Don’t you think there’ll be a female audience for an archaeological programme as well?
A: Generally speaking and to what I see, more males feel attracted to adventure documentations, such as archaeological programmes. I can’t imagine that it would do well in a female-only channel, unless the archaeologist is damn handsome (laughs), but I’m happy to be convinced otherwise.