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Monday, February 14, 2011

Right On, Kermie!

As a former television news producer, this clip of Kermit the Frog, reporter, never fails to crack me up. In it, he is at the scene of breaking news - an ongoing, live accident scene. Humpty Dumpty has fallen off the wall.

The kids love it because it's a nursery rhyme they know mixed in with with intense imagery, so that they are both familar with and surprised by the content.

I love it because it is so subtley hilarious it is impossible not to love. Here are a few highlights that pertain to real-life news:

:15 - "To recapitulate that story..." Haha! During liveshots reporters often have to fill time as their brains process the incoming information and how to best deliver it to their audience. There can be no dead air on the news, and in order to keep from stuttering as they cast about for something to say, they will often insert huge meaningless words into their introduction, buying them precious seconds.

:29 - "Pardon me, cow? It's just supposed to be the King's horses here...go on, get out, get out, GET OUT!" This is typical of reporters. They go to a story with a set ideal of what is going to unfold, often writing their scripts before they've even left the car to get interviews. Sometimes, it's hard for them to accept the scene as it is, rather that the scene that it was in their heads. Kermie could have gotten another interesting side of the story with the cow. Instead, he chose to insert himself and his idea of the story, closing his mind to a potential angle.

34: "All the King's horses and all the King's men are indeed trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again." Empty monologue here. Telling the viewer what what he just told them, in an attempt to link the introduction to the live events happening right now. "Are indeed" is probably the funniest part of this entire clip to me. No kidding, Kermit.

49: "Well, Dumpty's a tough egg." "Tough egg, yeah, yeah." Not exactly what you would call hard boiled." "Hard boiled, right, right." "But he had a pretty bad fall." "Bad fall, you say." Hah! This is the reporter being unable to be quiet for even a moment to allow the interviewee to complete an answer. Reporters can sometimes interrupt an interview to interject meaningless reactions, in an attempt to show the interviewee that the two of them are simply having an everyday conversation. This is very annoying to a producer. We're going to have to cut that interview up for sound bites later, and if we can't get a clean cut - that is, a bite without the reporter's voice piping up - the sound is amateurish. Kermit, just smile and nod. Smile and nod.

1:29 - "This is a very exciting and dramatic moment." This kills me every time. When Kermit says this, the photographer is on a close up...of Kermit! He wouldn't have to describe the moment he is missing as exciting and dramatic if the camera were on the climax of the live shot, where it should be. So often, reporter / photographer teams talk over the reason they are there and miss the shot. Thanks, though, Kermit, for at least telling me it was exciting and dramatic.

1:47 - "Oh, Sesame Street. How do I look?" Typical interviewee response that nothing can be done about in a live shot. People can get so excited about being on television that they detract from the actual story to say hi to their mom.

2:09 - "It's very nice to have you back...CRASH." New journalism at its finest. Kermit interjects himself into the story and creates his own news. Fraggle Rock News will now be able to report on the Sesame St. News reporter who accidentally shoved Humpty off the wall, and the story will live for another few days at least.


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