Dutch crime reporter Peter de Vries beats the Giants and Patriots

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The Super Bowl apparently drew 97.5 million viewers in the U.S. Sunday night. Which, in a nation of 301 million people, is pretty impressive (it’s 32% of the population).

But I’ve taken to listening to Dutch radio news on my iPod lately, so I can report that it didn’t hold a candle to crime reporter Peter de Vries’s two-hour show Sunday night on the Natalee Holloway case. In a nation of 16.6 million people, it drew an audience of 7 million (or 42%). An executive at SBS 6, which broadcast the show, said it was the biggest audience for a TV show in Holland since 1988. She didn’t say what show that was, but it must have had something to do with the Dutch winning the European Football Championship that summer.

What else have I learned listening to Dutch radio? That they’re going to show X-rated classic Deep Throat on Dutch national public TV on February 23. At least one politician is up in arms, but it looks as if the broadcast is going right ahead. Because, you know, it will be on after 10 p.m., so no kids will watch.

Update:Reader Caneton corrects me in the comments, saying that the De Vries broadcast had the biggest audience since 1988 for a non-sports show–big games for the national soccer team regularly draw much bigger audiences. Which got me wondering what non-sports show in 1988 would have had such an audience. And then I remembered, I was in Holland in 1988. On January 29, 1988 in particular, when Dutch TV aired the finale of that season’s Soundmixshow, a Pop Idol/American Idol precursor. I’ll hand it over to the KRO network history site (translation mine):

Near the end of the first part of the program, Henny Huisman [the host] asked the six-million-plus viewers to vote by telephone for one of the candidates. He didn’t know that a near national disaster was about to ensue. Before long the entire telephone network had broken down. Police, fire departments and ambulances were in some parts of the country unreachable.

I was watching with friends, and I think we tried to vote but couldn’t get through. I also have a vague memory that we were voting for the Jackie Wilson imitator. The winner was some guy with John Denver hair singing “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” Sadly, I can find no footage of him on YouTube, but here’s the Tina Turner wannabe who won in 2001. Now 6 million is less than 7 million, so I’m not sure the Soundmixshow was what they meant with “biggest audience since 1988.” But it is a nice memory. And it was a landmark in the development of modern reality TV. The people behind the Soundmixshow later founded Endemol, which has since bestowed upon the world such cultural riches as Big Brother, Fear Factor, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and Deal or No Deal.

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