We had to mention the Hoff. Bring up the idea of oddly popular American exports and half the time people will say, "What, like Hasselhoff in Germany?"
After all, in the US David Hasselhoff is considered a washed-up punchline whose most recent film was his daughter's video of him eating a cheeseburger while completely drunk. However, in Germany, he somehow became a pop star, admired unironically for many years. So what's the deal?
First of all, Germans will try to downplay this, which is understandable, because it's embarrassing. If you try changing the subject to world wars, though, they might suddenly feel more comfortable talking about David Hasselhoff's inexplicable popularity in their country.
You know how embarrassed they get about Kaiser Wilhelm.
It all started in 1989. David Hasselhoff was the washed-up star of Knight Rider, a show in which he had played second fiddle to a talking car.
KITT was the real star of the show, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
He was trying to extend his fifteen minutes of fame by becoming a pop singer, and was touring Europe (the only place that he could promote himself as a pop singer without people screaming "bullshit!" and throwing batteries at the stage) when communism happened to start collapsing right in front of him. Showing more savvy than anyone would expect of David Hasselhoff, he rewrote a German pop song into the English-language song "Looking For Freedom," and sang it everywhere people were taking down communist dictator statues.
The pinnacle was a New Year's Eve concert at the fallen Berlin Wall, where, according to him, he reunited Germany by causing East Germans and West Germans to sing along with his song together.
That publicity probably gave him the leverage to return the floundering Baywatch to the air, where Europeans mistakenly thought he was the main attraction.
Although Hasselhoff fever seems to be more a thing of the past now even in Germany, you have to consider there is no way he would have sold out concerts in America in the 90s, Baywatch or no Baywatch, and if he had attempted to start an inspirational singalong here near readily available chunks of broken masonry, it would probably not have turned out as positively as his 1989 Berlin Wall visit.
And really, is his success any more baffling than the fact that in the Ukrain one third of the households still watch Alf? That means it's more popular there than the NFL playoffs in America. Go figure.