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Chris Hansen: Have a seat right over there. Cartman: No, I don't want to sit down. Chris Hansen: Just have a seat, right there. Cartman: No, I'm not sitting down! Chris Hansen: Take a seat, right over there. Cartman: (sits down, then looks surprised) How does he do that?
Before commercial breaks, these segments cut to still images from the predator being questioned. They seem to go out of their way to pause on the suspect making the dumbest-looking face possible (often mid-blink or something similar).
One newscast had a preview for their special on Cholesterol. In typical "scare so they'll watch" tactics, they tried to be vaguely serious and threatening and ended up narming with the line "It kills us slowly, but it kills us DEADLY!"
Once there was a case of a young man dying after eating decomposed mayonnaise. The news title? "Killer Mayonnaise".
The whole Y2K problem was a goldmine for narm. For example, this bit from WXIA-TV on July 10, 1998:
You open your eyes, slowly waking up. It's Saturday, January 1st, 2000. What time is it? You look at your bedside clock, but it's blank. Is the power off? You check your digital watch. It's blank, too. The coffee maker, which runs on computer microchips just like your wristwatch, doesn't work. The same for the microwave oven and the stove. Your three-year-old computer-controlled car won't start.
Borderline example: Nancy Kerrigan got assaulted while training for the Winter Olympics in 1994. Her dream of a gold medal was potentially up in flames and everything she'd worked for over her entire life was about to be for naught. All we remember is her crying whining, "Why? Why me? Why anyone?" Comedy routines quickly seized on this.
"When will our spinach be safe again?" - completely devoid of context, said in a thick Indian accent.
Jeremy Vine, dressed as a cowboy, with a faux Texan accent shooting tin cans... with a CGI cowboy Nick Clegg. See here. This was meant to be funny, but not in that way...
It is difficult - very difficult - to find a single episode of any current affairs program that doesn't have at least one instance of Narm. The constant Serious Business treatment of such threats to society as fat people and government employees is bad (or good) enough, but the delivery of the presenters, wavering somewhere between fake sincerity and Creepy Monotone, and the melodramatic use of cliched production tricks such as the Staggered Zoom pushes it over the edge.
A newscast about a teenager who was killed in between their last day of high school and the graduation ceremony would have been tragic as hell had the reporter not phrased it as "Instead of a graduation party, the family found themselves planning a funeral instead."
The "Instead of #INTENDEDGOODTHING, #UNINTENDEDBADTHING" construction in general is so overused in the news media that it's hard to take seriously any more. The extra "instead" in the above example makes for extra-special Narm.
Here in Los Angeles, we have sunny skies and comfortable temperatures for most of the year. However, when it rains, all of the local stations go on "Storm Watch" even if there isn't that much rain falling. Taken Up to Eleven when a storm rolls in during winter and the weathermen say "expect rain, wind, lightning, thunder, hail, and blowing snow in the mountains", and you wonder whether (get it?) to take their over-the-top forecasts seriously or not.
"Is Cloverfield exploiting 9/11?" Apparently, monster movies can't show New York in flames unless "Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda's evil cousins" are involved. A better story might be "Is asking if Cloverfield is exploiting 9/11 exploiting 9/11?" Oh, and the poster for the movie had been out for around three months before the attack.
Makes one wonder what will happen if Prototype gets huge enough to be noticed by the mainstream, since a major element of gameplay revolves around ABC warfare and leveling buildings in New York City and killing thousands of hapless Marines.
Local newspaper headlines such as 'Sleeping Man Punched In Face' and 'Man Dies Wrestling With Spider'... Jay Leno had a Headlines feature for a reason.
Not to mention the classic "Man Throwing Knife In The Air Stabs Self In Head" and "Police Kill Youth In Effort To Stop His Suicide Attempt".
"Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster" from The Sun was in theory a disturbing story, which instead became the butt of jokes and was subsequently revealed to be fictitious. Freddie Starr himself was too busy laughing (and counting the money the publicity gave him) to sue for libel.
Pick a moral outrage story from the Daily Mail. Any one. If you're not in the target demographic, then you'll more than likely find yourself laughing at it instead.
Especially anything about Princess Diana. "Newspapers" like the Mail still love to print hysterical stories about her years after her death. (And the D[a]ily Express does at least one every week.)
The Mail's panic over your children joining "the sinister death cult of emo" was a particularly good one.
Any time the Mail uses the phrases "fury" or "outrage" over a story usually means they've overreacted to something relatively minor, and the results are often cringingly hilarious. Also in some circles it's a running joke that "if a Mail headline asks a question, the answer is almost invariably no". Leads to such gems as "Does Atheism cause Autism?" and "Has a team of trained monkeys finally written Shakespeare?" And yes, they are both real headlines.
The Daily Mail once got hold of pictures that showed a destroyed Washington D.C, and claimed they were terrorist propaganda. The truth? The pictures were concept art for Fallout 3.
When Saddam Hussein was caught, The Sun's headline was "We Got The B*stard". As if The Sun had anything to do with it.
Incidentally, "The Sun was there" became a meme on Fark.com whenever someone would post a headline from that paper.
The Sun did this all the way back in 1982; when the General Belgrano was sunk, they printed the headline "GOTCHA!"
The Sun also likes to refer to British soldiers as "our boys", as if Rupert Murdoch was Commander-in-Chief.
The September 12, 2001 San Francisco Examiner had a front-page story about the 9/11 attack. The headline simply read "Bastards!"
Dayton, Ohio, is a city that vastly overrates its importance in the world, which leads to some hysterical (both in the funny sense and in the "in hysterics" sense) Serious Business from all fronts. The network news anchors tend to be a big part of this. They get really, really excited whenever anything happens. A few years ago, a tornado touched down briefly in one of the city's richer suburbs. It took out a Home Depot. That was pretty much the extent of the damage it caused. This was one network's top story for two weeks. The CBS affiliate's reporter tried to make his own dramatic re-enactment by standing in the rubble and hurling pieces of it around while telling the viewers something to the effect of "... and the winds were so strong that they could pick up big boards like this one I'm holding and throw them like this!" The same station gets very worried if the weather is bad in the wealthy parts of town; they once spent an entire half-hour talking about the fact that it was raining really hard south of town and please, people should stay indoors or be very careful going out. They even tried to find people on the street to tell them about how the rain was impacting their lives, though most people just kind of went "... I'm carrying an umbrella today." All three are just as bad. One of the other networks had reported on a shoving match in a bowling alley parking lot with a graphic showing a handgun lying next to a bowling ball, bearing the title "Bowling Brawl". The third gave us a story about someone running from the police, featuring a bobbing-camera "escapee cam" that stopped and tipped over on its side at the point in the chase where the suspect tripped and fell.
Carson City, Nevada, has the Nevada Appeal. Mostly, it's your typical small-town newspaper (meaning full of stories pulled off the AP Wire). But they once devoted a front-page headline to a man who stabbed his ex-girlfriend's pet frog and stuck it to a wall, and then treated it as if it was the crime of the century.
"And again, the Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It's not a big truck. It's a series of tubes."
A local newspaper included - understandably - an article on the Russian attack against nearby Georgia. The scene of emotional turmoil featured in the photographer's images would be incredibly powerful if they didn't seem focused and completely centered on the exposed backside of one of the victims.
There was a story about a man who drowned while swimming in a lake. A family was nearby having a picnic. The father of that family had these exact words to say:
Well, at first we thought he was faking. But then he went down and... well... didn't come back up, and then we realized, he's serious!
In 2006, KWGN (then The WB, now The CW) aired a promo for the morning news highlighting "KILLER COFFEE".
Example: Kids with a Nintendo DS = easy prey for stalkers. The FOX (why is it always FOX?) station in Milwaukee had a report warning parents of those who could talk to your children on their Nintendo DSes up to 30 feet away (versus, say, walking up to you or texting the cell phones.) note technically, the DS can communicate in close-range without the stalker knowing the prey's phone number, but on the other hand, the prey needs to be actively searching for other nearby DSs before they see anything. The 3DS's Street Pass feature does allow strangers to send each other very short messages and scans any time the DS is in sleep mode, but this can be turned off in parental controls.
Doubts can be raised in the "range test" since the signal quality never seems to change.
Cooper Lawrence is infamous for her comments on Mass Effect. In a Fox interview, she blamed it for having frontal nudity and explicit sex scenes. It has neither — if it had had either, then it wouldn't have gotten a wide enough release to be newsworthy. The Internet Counterattack simply topped off the Narm, with people bashing her new book after choosing not to read it.
A local newscast (WCPX) once featured a story breathlessly headlined "Cat attacked by alligator!" It seems a local man stepped outside his door to find an alligator on his front porch (not that unusual, this is Florida). We're treated to "exclusive footage", which means the man took his home video camera and filmed the gator while his wife was screaming for him to call animal control. BUT THEN, the family cat walks up to the gator! More hysterical screaming from wife and cameraman! More overwrought narration from the newscasters about the danger of the situation! MORE... Uh... lying around. The cat sniffs the gator once, then lies next to it and the two enjoy a sunbeam together. Neither seems particularly bothered by the presence of the other. It's the least mobile "attack" in history. Eventually, animal control does arrive and they capture the, uh, "dangerous" alligator. The segment is topped off by the on-the-spot action-news reporter holding the cat and solemnly informing us that "He used up one of his nine lives today." The same broadcast featured "life-threatening tornadoes" in the middle of an empty field, far from buildings, but, HEY, more exclusive footage!
Back in the mid-90s, a Salt Lake City TV station did a report about a man who got charged with animal cruelty after stomping his dog to death. A sickening story, to be sure. The Narm got served after the story aired, when the anchor, rather than continue on to the next story, decided to editorialize. Fixing a thoughtful, concerned gaze onto the camera, he observed in a solemn tone of voice, "It makes you wonder why they even had a dog." Even this description doesn't do the sheer eye-rolling inanity of his comment justice.
A radio commercial for a TV station's series of special reports breathlessly described how prostitution was allegedly spreading into supposedly safe suburban neighborhoods. The title of the series?
The terrible graphics often seen in 3D recreations of incidents. These commonly feature objects (especially vehicles when talking about crashes) and people that look like a 5-year-old has drawn them and, in the case of TV news, animation that make animation from early computer games look advanced.
An example of this was some of the reporting of the New York plane crash. Whilst showing the course of the plane and praising the skill of the pilot, one news reports graphic showed the (four-engine) plane making 90-degree turns and at one point flying sideways. Skilled flying, indeed.
The Simpsons nicely parodied this, showing Homer Simpson getting killed in increasingly goofy ways.
"Now here's what would happen if the police used baseballs..."
A similar joke occurred in one episode of Family Guy, only it was a plane crash, which was altered into it crashing into a school, and then a school for bunnies, and then when afterwards, a survivor went home and beat his wife.
Sometimes the levels of sensationalism involved in tragic stories can turn them from tearjerkers to being laughable, especially in the tabloid press (including the TV equivalent).
One fatal accident with laughable reporting was that of the derailment of a Virgin Pendolino Train in Cumbria, UK. The day after, the story started going around about the "hero" driver who "stayed at his controls and fought to keep the train upright". Anyone who knows even a little about trains can see the problem: once a train goes off the track, the driver becomes just as much a passenger as everyone else on board. It was made even more amusing when the official report came out and said that at the instant of the derailment, the driver had been thrown from his seat and knocked out against the windscreen without even getting a chance to apply the brakes. There were also stories about how well the almost brand-new train stood up, whereas "had it been one of the old trains...". The laugh here was that the old trains were widely praised for their crashworthiness in previous accidents, including a non-fatal high-speed derailment, and two non-fatal high speed collisions, the latter far worse that this most recent (fatal) one.
The live coverage of the Hindenburg disaster was made narmtastic by the reporter. Oh, the humanity!
Somewhat justified by the fact that the accident was live and it looked really bad. Considering that reporters of the period had a flair for dramatic anyway, one can understand his overwhelmingly dramatic response. Still, one wonders what made him spout that infamous line.
It was inspired by people leaping out the windows to avoid the flames.
It isn't. That's par for the course here in Kansas.
It's not just an Appeal to Pity. There's also an Appeal to Authority (a seven-year-old authority, but she was once a frozen embryo, so she counts), and a more deductive argument which, even if it is valid, many won't accept as true.
At least one local Fox channel's news has the lead-up ads to the 10 o'clock News usually feature stories like "Horrific double murder. Also, a puppy is lost!"
The BBC show 'Mock the Week' made fun of this, with Frankie Boyle impersonating bin Laden:
"I must update my status. I WAS 'filled with hatred for the West', but today I'm more 'hung over'!"
This quote gets even better when Fridge Logic kicks in: monitoring Abu Hamza's internet usage shouldn't be difficult, since he's in prison.
The metaphors used to explain complicated economical issues can get so convoluted that they become meaningless non-sequiturs. One example, skewered in Charlie Brooker's Newswipe, compares quantitative easing to "filling your petrol tank... with imaginary petrol!" while the presenter stares down the camera wearing overalls and clutching a spanner. Indeed...
A few years ago, there was a minor scandal in Winnipeg, Manitoba, when some people found little plastic panda figurines with Hitler mustaches and Nazi uniforms in their Christmas crackers. What was the response of the Winnipeg Sun to this imminent threat to western civilization? How about a front page spread of one of these figurines next to the words "NAZI PANDA FOUND" in huge font?
College students supposedly getting herpes from playing "Beer Pong". Quoth the newscaster:
"It's all fun and games, until someone gets herpes."
One radio news report (some time ago) talked about some guy going on a horrific killing spree. The cause of the psychotic break? He downed too many Red Bulls. The news article attempted to paint Red Bull as analogous to cocaine; they detailed how it affected the guy's mind and caused him to turn murderer. If that isn't a Chewbacca Defense, then what is?
You know what's awesome? The opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games. You know what's a deep, rich well of Narm? The commentary over those ceremonies. Sportscasters are not poets, after all:
A 1982 promo for WITI in Milwaukee (formerly a CBS affiliate, switched to Fox in 1994) is so over-the-top, what with the fast-paced music and close-up shots, that you may burst out laughing. Bonus points because it's a news update intro. At a minute long, the news would already be outdated by the time the open ended.
Denver, like many cities, experienced its major television stations switching affiliations during 1994-1995. Former ABC affiliate KUSA's first newscast as an NBC affiliate began its story about the switch with an unintentionally funny simile.
Denver's CW affiliate, KWGN, goes by the ridiculous name of "The Deuce". Their reporters end their reports with "KWGN, The Deuce", and it is hard not to burst out laughing at this.
Milwaukee's WTMJ did a kicker piece on Anthrocon lately. It is hilarious, from everything to the lower third gaffe, the presenters talking about what they would go as, and the overdramatic music used for the close. (A variation of that music is also used in their open).
Australian current affairs presenter and host for Today Tonight Naomi Robson seemed unable to avoid this, as frequently pointed out by The Chaser'sWarOnEverything. Such as when she reported on the death of Steve Irwin whilst wearing khaki's and a lizard on her shoulder. Actually, current affairs programs are pretty much always like this in Australia - go type "Chaser What Have We Learnt From Current Affairs This Week" into YouTube and enjoy.
A British local paper, The Gloucestershire Echo, was understandably outraged by the horrific mugging of an OAP. What was less understandable was their decision to publish the story under the baffling headline "Would YOU mug this old lady?"
A US tabloid TV show gave us this gem. "Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie took their child out for a stroll today. But who is she (the baby) wearing?"
Someone on the Weather Channel said that "342 people have been did, I mean died."
A grammatical error from a news report on a small plane crash:
"Those people were also died in the crash."
A freudian slip on a report of the Taxi Driver's protest in Athens.
They were blocking several main roads into the shit city.
Hell, narm doesn't even need to be in TV news - BBC News have just run an article on their website and text sections that is so utterly ridiculous, it seriously deserves a mention here. The headline is "Pair in hospital after Kismot 'killer' curry contest", and it's about this restaurant that had the genius idea of doing a competition to see who would eat portions of the world's strongest chilli (okay, it WAS to raise money for charity, but come on, you just knew this would end badly). Two people were sent to hospital, and the restaurant owner was told to not be such an idiot. That's pretty hilarious in itself, but then we get this genius quote from one of the hospitalised competitors (emphasis added by me, just to get the highlights):
"It was very painful and felt like I was being chainsawed in the stomach with hot sauce on the chainsaw... The woman who won ate the last bowl in four seconds and then ran outside to be sick where as I didn't so I've learned I should have had a game plan like that."
Reaching similar memetic stasis is Charles Ramsey, a man who helped rescue three kidnapped women. Due to his personality, the interview of Ramsey is one of the few bright spots in an otherwise horrifying story. Also counts as a Moment Of Awesome for Ramsey.
The local (San Antonio, TX) NBC affiliate treated a road rage incident involving an unremarkable high school football jock (no mention of who instigated the road rage) where the jock was paralyzed as something akin to a high drama involving an Iraq/Afghanistan war hero needing medical assistance at a military hospital (in Germany, perhaps) after having both legs shattered and amputated and sustaining other bodily injuries. It was delivered in such a ridiculously OTT manner, with much broadcast time dedicated to this one stupid news story (while at least three area boys came back from Afghanistan in body bags and OTHER people DIED from vehicular accidents and the like), that it came close to leaping off the cliff of Narm and into the abyss of Totally Inappropriate "Reporting".
An aside: This affiliate's news reporting regarding high school football is also OTT in and of itself, with the sports team treating it as other local affiliates treat reporting on the NFL. When you don't even begin getting to predict who the future NFL success stories are until you reach college football, and college football stars actually have to work hard on both their studies AND on the field.
But sports are the most important thing ever, don't you know?
Any time Glenn Beck starts writing on his chalkboard.
Whenever Keith Olberman goes on a tirade or Chris Matthews gets excited about something.
A somber article in the news was the death of terrorist Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, who succumbed to cancer while answering to his crimes against Scotland. The day of his death this picture of al-Megrahi on his deathbed was circulated around the world. While there was nothing funny about the news itself, on closer examination the notorious terrorist has a Pikachu pillow. It seems likely it belonged to him.
Anything issued by North Korea's state-run media.
Whenever the Daily Scanner is available for viewing in a newspaper, there's bound to be some laughs. Especially when the call is something like "A woman reported her son defecated in her DS" or "A caller reported a child carrying a squirt gun."
Los Angeles completely loses its mind when the winter temperature falls to *gasp!* 50 degrees!
This of course cuts both ways: Europeans are frequently amused when those from the USA complain about how cold it is when in Europe (especially Northern Europe), it would be considered mild or even warm.
One dreadful Czech TV station ran a story about a woman who got stuck among tree roots in the wood during the whole night and couldn't call help because she was in shock. She must have been scared, no doubt about that, but it was treated as Don't Go in the WoodsAesop. They included overly dramatic music and they staged her exact position among big roots, while her friends performed with Bad Bad Acting how they were trying to find her. She compared herself to soldiers from World War I. She was called "a root prisoner" in the news and nicknamed "biddy under the root". It's a laughing stock of the Czech Internet.
In 2012, the Czech Republic was hit with a long wave of extremely freezing weather. One news lady showed viewers LIVE what happens outside with fluid water. In the afternoon, she poured water into a plastic container and asked viewers to wait till the evening news to see what happens when it's -15°C. Almighty nature! It froze.
Fox and Friends ran a story about Obama using federal funds to keep a Muslim culture museum open... except they didn't fact-check and ended up reporting a story from The National Report, a satirical website. Whoops.
An example from the UK which ended up on Russell Howard's Good News was the horrifying tale of how a school in Essex banned triangular flapjacks for being too dangerous. Flapjacks. The newsreader was clearly struggling not to laugh at the absurdity. It got even sillier when they for some reason decided to interview someone about it, resulting in this gem:
Man: (handling a triangular flapjack) Clearly this is a very dangerous implement, that should be locked away and kept out of the way of children, because obviously there could be quite a few injuries with something as dangerous as that.
The story becomes even greater Narm when you realise something: the school's solution solution was to have all flapjacks be cut into squares or rectangles instead. Except that squares and rectangles have morepoints than triangles. However, to put more analysis into this that there ever needs to be, the triangle points would be sharp 60 degree angles instead of the relatively safe right angles afforded by rectangles.
In 2009, in Hornell, New York, a 13-14 year-old cat jumped out of a car in a WalMart parking lot, was spotted by a few people lounging around and was eventually picked up by a local animal shelter. Unfortunate, but hardly newsworthy. Then, for whatever reason, the local newspaper, the Hornell Evening Tribune, picked up on this and reported on it. They eventually titled it "The SupercatSaga" and reported it with all the righteous zeal one would expect of something like the Lindbergh Baby case.
One type of news Narm specific to the papers is the ambiguous headline that ruins a serious article. Try not to laugh when reading "Police Help Dog Bite Victim," "Iraqi Head Seeks Arms," "Hershey Bars Protest," ("Bars" is the verb) or even "Man Arrested After Shooting Bee." That last headline was about a "shooting spree," but instead gives the image that the fellow shot an insect. And got arrested for it!