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Could This Happen to You?

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Great, next you'll be telling me there's an invisible bomb in my hard drive.
"Let's cut to the commercial break like a news show. (ominous voice) Something in your house may kill you. Find out what—after the break."

So you're sitting down, getting ready to watch some Prime Time television. It's Wednesday night, and that means a new episode of your favorite show. You're excited to get through the commercials and onto the programming, when, right before the episode begins, a news advertisement plays. "Coming up, some older T.V. models appear to be linked with cases of cancer in their viewers; details at eleven."

Well, I'm not going to stay up that long, you say; I've got important work to do tomorrow. True, but is it really worth potentially dying for? Your T.V.'s about a decade old at this point, right? They never really said how old the life-threatening models were, but ten years sounds old enough. Even still, why bother to take the chance? Finding out if you're at risk is just as easy as staying up a few extra hours to watch the news. This is your life we're talking about here. You wanna tell your family, lying down on your death bed, that the reason you contracted cancer was because you didn't stay up a few measly hours to watch one news broadcast that could have saved you!?

The fundamental question in all of this, the one that keeps worry high and answers limited, is "Could this happen to you?"

This is the quintessential Real Life example of the trope. When a news station wants to drum up views, it can always rely on this tried and true scare tactic (while adding a bit of blood for good measure). This leads to a situation where the viewer would feel the need to give up any minor inconveniences if it meant saving their lives (and boosting ratings).

Rarely is the answer given before the end of the news (see Film at 11). This trope has given birth to Betteridge's Law of Headlines, wherein such headlines that pose such an ominous question can be immediately disproven.

No matter how often the practice is scoffed, it still proves to be effective and used all the time.

Outside of Real Life, this trope is more often poked fun of rather than invoked.

See also Media Scaremongering. The equal and opposite reaction to Ripped from the Headlines. Usually involves several Commercial Break Cliffhangers that promise the answer is coming up next! Might lead to Crying Wolf. This trope may be invoked and Played for Laughs as part of a Clickbait Gag.

The examples within these folders COULD save your life! Check in to find out how.

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     Film — Live-Action 
  • Riot on Sunset Strip: "Our story starts on the campus of an ordinary high school. It could be in your town or mine. With ordinary kids like yours or mine."

  • The Television Without Pity book pokes fun at this in their entry on "News, Crappy Local."
    ...the broadcast segues into everyone's favorite local-news staple, the "Something Perfectly Innocent COULD KILL YOU"-slash-"Good God WON'T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN" feature. First comes an assy graphic of, like, a bowl of oatmeal with fangs, subtitled something along the lines of "Quaker? MORE LIKE 'DAMNED LIAR'," and the revelation that oat bran is not all that good for you if you eat nothing but oatmeal, in which case you will get scurvy, which: doy.
  • One Diary of a Wimpy Kid book, Cabin Fever, had a flashback of Greg (doing a good deed for a Boy Scout merit badge) and Rodrick giving an elderly woman a lift to the supermarket; what they hadn't known was that they'd opened a new supermarket right next to Leisure Towers, and when they went back to retrieve the woman, she blew them off. Cut to Greg, Rodrick, and their mom watching TV — "Teens are kidnapping residents of Leisure Towers! Could your grandmother be next?"

     Live Action TV 
  • An episode of Beakman's World dealt with the ridiculous question of whether or not your intestinal gas could cause the toilet to explode. Lester the Rat spends the entire segment holding it and waiting to see if it's safe for him to use the restroom. Apparently all the times throughout his life that he used the toilet without an explosion weren't proof enough for him.
    • Of course, as par for the course, the question was not that ridiculous. It turns out they used to explode, until the modern flush toilet's air trap came along.
  • Parodied by real life news anchor John Beard on Arrested Development. No matter how outlandish or irrelevant the story he's teasing, he'll always throw in something like "What this means for your weekend, at 11."
  • The entire premise of 'survival shows' like Man vs. Wild, Surviving Disaster, Worst Case Scenario, etc.
  • CSI: Cyber has "It could happen to you" as a tag line, "it" in this case being Hollywood Hacking.

     Newspaper Comics 
  • Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes, has a very low opinion of television. In one strip a TV news promo has this, and Calvin's father opts to read the newspaper instead.
    Announcer: Next, on Eyewitness action news: blood-spattered sidewalks and shroud-covered bodies! Could the next victim be YOU?? We'll get the story from the sobbing, hysterical relatives and we'll tell you why YOU should be paralyzed with helpless fear! That's Eyewitness action news! It's what YOU need to KNOW!

    Video Games 
  • One of the empty chest messages added to the English-language localization of The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero reads "An unassuming-looking, middle-aged scholar who turns out to be evil? In MY Trails game?! ...It's more likely than you think." (A Shout-Out to the "Pornography? On my computer?" ad seen on this page.)

  • Hiimdaisy's Persona 4 comic.
    News anchor: "Tonight: Biker gangs! In YOUR neighborhood!"
    Nanako: "YAAAAYYYY!!"
    Kanji, on screen: "GET BENT GET BENT GET BENT"
  • Zack Weinersmith's advice to science journalists: If your article ("Will the world end in 6 months?" "Is a universal cure around the corner?" "Was Darwin wrong?") can be summarized as "No", don't write it.

     Web Videos 
  • This exert from Glove and Boot's video "American News is crap.":
    Anchor 1: "A giant asteroid is on a collision course with Earth. Is death imminent? Do you want to live? Stay tuned, for important survival tips and essential information. But first,"
    Anchor 2: "Puppies!"

     Western Animation 
  • In Family Guy, TV anchor Tom Tucker practices in front of a mirror for different ways of announcing a president's hypothetical assassination. One of his different methods is this.
  • An old favorite of Kent Brockman from The Simpsons, of course. Did an escaped mental patient put poison in a certain brand of soda? You'll only find out which brand (and wonder why it's still on store shelves) after sports, entertainment and the weather!

     Real Life 
  • German TV channel Pro 7 does this on the slot before or after every single movie that is about a major nature phenomenon that usually ends with the world obliterated. More often than not, this will be done via a special episode of some kind of science-show and tell the audience how unlikely the event in real life would be. Sometimes also done with alien invasions, Roswell and ghosts.
  • Happens ALL THE TIME in real life. Be it chemicals in various things that could give your child cancer, or a new credit card scam, or what have you, this is transparent and frequent. While they sometimes have valid points, it's a very cheap tactic (forgoing responsibility to the public and focusing on profits by taking advantage of fear-mongering).
  • The "X? In my Y?" meme started from the ad pictured in this very page that took this approach to porn.
  • Sensationalist headlines claiming we are in danger from "poop bacteria" found in beards or Starbucks coffee. Said bacteria are fecal coliforms which really can be found, well, just about anywhere. As a Washington Post article put it:
    "I have bad news for y’all: You’re covered in poo bacteria. COVERED. Look to your left, look to your right. There’s probably poo bacteria on both sides and also in front of you. It’s okay. It’s really fine."
  • Is this trope endemic in clickbait headlines across the entire internet? Clicking the note at the end of this sentence will give an answer that will shock you.note