Goodbye, Viva Zwei

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I don’t know why, but the last night I dreamed about Viva Zwei. 13 years ago the era of the TV-channel faced its closure. With its focus on alternative music and idiosyncratic concepts, Viva Zwei was unique for German – and, supposedly, even international – television. This is a lament to a time, when people with an extraordinary musical taste had the possibility to switch on the TV and find new good music.

January 3rd 2002: I switched on Viva Zwei and became very sad. The reason for that was that only video clips were on display. At the bottom of the screen was a ticker which said that Viva Zwei should be replaced by the new channel Viva Plus within a few days. I have to admit that I – like many other fans of Viva Zwei – still had the hope that Viva Plus would be similar to its antecessor. 

January 7th 2002: Viva Zwei was turned off, Viva Plus was launched. I didn’t go right away to the television. Only in the afternoon I took a deep breath, fetched the remote control and switched to Viva Zwei Plus

Seriously?!?… [I cannot recall what was the first video clip I saw on Viva Plus, but only thinking of it gives me goose bumps – classical case of suppression]. It turned out that Viva Plus was nothing like Viva Zwei, in contrary, it was just another MTV-clone. On this day plenty of young alternative hearts all over Europe broke.

How can it be that a channel so unique in its outfit can be just turned off and replaced by a pop clone? The answer is simple: The intention of the Viva Media AG was in all likelihood not to form a channel for the alternative cultures, it simply wanted to confine the success of MTV. And with an MTV twin this should be easier – they thought.

However, the strategic plan of a concern did not diminish the creativity with which the channel was designed, the programmes as well as the realisation. The moderators – striking heads – became associated fiercely with “their” show, like Charlotte Roche with Fast Forward, or Niels Ruf with Kamikaze.

Of course, the stop of Viva Zwei created quite a furore among the fans. Many admirers expressed their condolences on the Internet. In Germany some people formed the Viva Zwei Resistance, to bring back qualitative alternative music journalism onto TV. The success of Viva Zwei outside the German-speaking countries can be best witnessed by a Polish Viva Zwei fan page, named Viva Zwei Changed My Life. Also, some of my friends in Slovenia admitted that the channel was very dear to them and accompanied them through their youth.

“The day the music died”… for some time the closure of Viva Zwei was the death of alternative music in the mainstream. But a lot has changed since 2002. The ultimate break-through of the Internet came a few years later with social networks and internet streaming. In the end of the 1990’s, though, it was yet unimaginable to access new music at any moment. Viva Zwei was there, back then, right time, right place.

About André Savetier

Since 2011 André Savetier is actively working as a music journalist with an expertise on contemporary new wave music phenomena. His scientific specialization is anthropology of music and anthropology of popular culture. Savetier remains intrigued by the interplay between the aforementioned social phenomena, the told (and untold) legends of music and its roots.

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