Part of a News Broadcast, usually the last segment, in which clips of stories involving footage of waterskiing budgies, squirrels adopted by mother dogs, cats rescued by firemen, firemen rescued by cats, or otherwise crowd-pleasing cute 'n' sappy animals are shown to boost ratings. In the event of a lack of fuzzy critters, the Special Olympics or large litters of human babies can sometimes fill this role. Often (incorrectly) referred to as "Human Interest" stories, despite the general lack of anything interesting (or human).
In the news business, this segment is called the "kicker." Its sole purpose is time filler; it can be run if there's time left for it, or it can be dropped if the newscast is running long. It can cause some pretty rough Mood Whiplash depending on what else was in the show that day (you can immediately go from a horrific car accident that left 3 people dead to a cute story of a puppy with a bad leg getting a custom scooter to walk around in).
In Britain known as an "And finally", after the catchphrase of Trevor McDonald. An older in-house name for the practice named the newsroom comedy series Drop the Dead Donkey. ITV News At Ten went through a long period of ending on a cliffhanger story about a Spanish village ritual, where a live donkey was fated to be dropped from a very high church tower. The feelgood factor was engendered by the Spanish animal welfare people stepping in on behalf of the donkey, following sustained international condemnation.
If the story is literally a baby panda, it's also a case of Panda-ing to the Audience.
- One of the irrelevant results returned by Bing.com's search engine humans is a story about the birth of a panda cub for a query regarding human gestation.
- Bill Bailey references this in his stand-up shows ("The crab that e-mails the coastguard on the impending tidal wave...") and claims that England has become so pathetic that they work as the kicker on foreign news broadcasts ("...et finalement: les anglais!")
- George Carlin used to talk about this quite a lot. Things regularly reported on the news that he didn't care about included Mickey Mouse's birthday, celebrity deaths, and "whether or not the pandas in the zoo didn't fuck again this year."
- Big Miracle featuring John Krasinski and Drew Barrymore was based on a true story about whales stuck in ice on the edge of Alaska that was put on the last minute of national news and somehow got to be a huge media circus that eventually involved diplomatic relations between Ronald Reagan and Russia and some say saving a whale up a glacier helped Reagan win reelection.
- Parodied in the Will Ferrell movie Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, which included a news broadcast concluding with a water-skiing squirrel, and ongoing coverage ("Panda Watch") of a pregnant panda at the San Diego Zoo. The climax of the movie takes place at the birth of the pandas. No one, not even Veronica Corningstone, who is annoyed about being assigned to sappy human interest stories, questions the significance of this story, and none of the hordes of journalists at the zoo that day notice when several people nearly die after jumping into the grizzly enclosure.
- Bruce from Bruce Almighty is sick of being sent to cover these (and Human Interest Stories), like the 'world's largest cookie'. So what does he do when he gets phenomenal cosmic powers? He makes interesting things happen during these human interest stories so that he gets the best scoops. By the end, he's learned to accept that fluff stories make people happy and he's good at doing them.
- In a deleted scene that can be found in the script, this is taken literally, with Bruce reporting on how (with the help of his powers), two pandas are mating. Did we mention they were both males?
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix begins with Harry listening out for any sign of Voldemort on the Muggle news (e.g. mass "freak accidents") but realises not much has been going on when the news switches to the antics of a water-skiing budgie.
- Discussed in The Truth between William de Worde and Lord Vetinari
Vetinari: So... we have what the people are interested in, and human interest stories, which is what humans are interested in, and the public interest, which no one is interested in.
William: Except the public sir.
Vetinari: Which isn't the same as people and humans?
William: I think it's more complicated than that sir.
- In Airframe, a major news network is faced with running a story about some Boy Scout activity when a controversy flares up around a plane accident.
- The Daily Show refers to it as the "Moment of Zen"—originally it was just a piece of unrelated footage, such as a man getting sat on by an elephant, but it has evolved over recent years and is now usually an extension of something covered in the main body of the show.
- They also played this more or less straight on the first episode broadcast after the September 11th attacks, in which the Moment of Zen consisted of Jon Stewart producing an adorable puppy from under his desk.
- How I Met Your Mother: Robin frequently complains about her job consisting entirely of these.
- The episode "Girth" of Pushing Daisies concluded a Coincidental Broadcast with "Next up: Kittens On Parade!"
- Parodied, as with most news tropes, in The Day Today. One notable example has anchor Chris Morris begin to interview a woman who is organizing a jam-making contest for charity... unfortunately, he doesn't turn off his usual 'hard-hitting-Jeremy-Paxman-asking-the-tough-questions' persona, reducing the poor woman to tears in the process.
- The second episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver centered entirely around the death penalty. Because the subject was so depressing, John promised a video of "tiny hamsters eating tiny burritos, which is as magical and uncomplicated as you think" as a reward for those who got through the whole segment. He did indeed follow through, and it was just as "magical and uncomplicated" as he promised.
- Comedy series Drop the Dead Donkey, set in a TV station's newsroom and following the bitter bitching and infighting between its clashing egos, was named after an alternative reference to this practice.
- CBS News Sunday Morning always ends with a "Moment of Nature", sometimes just scenery but often including animal footage.
- A Monty Python's Flying Circus letter was interrupted as it was getting too sexually stimulating and was replaced with a scene of a man with a stoat through his head.
- Undertale has a segment where you play a news correspondent reporting on location. One of the items you can report on is a dog. If you choose it, the anchor will say "I can just imagine the headline now: A DOG EXISTS SOMEWHERE!". Subverted when the dog turns out to be a bomb.
- The Simpsons:
- "Girly Edition" has Bart and Lisa becoming reporters at their school news station. When Bart records a series of highly successful (and highly insubstantial) "human-interest" stories, Lisa tries to compete with him by doing a story on (among other things) the "Crazy Cat Lady." It doesn't go well. Then she tries a train story, standing next to some railroad tracks: "The old Union Pacific doesn't come by here much anymore..." Cue heavily labelled 'Union Pacific' train going by for a very long time. Followed by another attack from the Crazy Cat Lady.
- One Simpsons episode (Lisa Simpson versus Amber Dempsey and others for Little Miss Springfield) parodied the practice by showing some footage of a goat kid drinking bottled milk for the wrong stories, before the end credits.
- Spoofed in "Treehouse of Horror IX":
Kent Brockman: [serious tone] And the fluffy kitten played with that ball of string all through the night. [brightening up] On a lighter note, a Kwik-E-Mart clerk was brutally murdered last night.
- When the kids at South Park Elementary on South Park create their own school news station, they attempt to attract younger viewers with "Panda Madness Minute."
- The (non-news) show they're competing with consists entirely of cute animals.
- And it responding by making a new show... consisting entirely of cute animals wearing hats!
- In close-up with a wide-angle lens.
- The (non-news) show they're competing with consists entirely of cute animals.
- Darkwing Duck, having a big ego, gets a big boost whenever a newscaster talks about a crime he solved. Unfortunately, the newscast promptly switches gears to a baby panda or cute kitty, causing everyone to forget about his exploits. Subverted when the two new baby pandas are clearly fighting each other. People still find it cute.
- Osmosis Jones had two microscopic reporters talk about animal crackers being shown in the digestive tract with the headline "Panda-monium!"
- A news show from a SpongeBob SquarePants episode plays with this: behind the newscaster is an ordinary picture of perfectly safe kittens, though she says, "And there were no survivors."
- A newscast in an episode of WordGirl had a segment with a water-skiing squirrel that was interrupted for breaking news about a bank robbery.
- Now lost to the annals of broadcasting, the stars and script aligned for one day at MSNBC in 2007. The day featured ongoing commentary about a policy speech by Vice President Dick Cheney. By some miracle, this was always placed in rotation right after a story about Chinese zookeepers using panda-porn to induce mating in their charges. Every hour on the hour another seasoned anchor was reduced to giggle-fits trying to segue from one to the other.
- Also on MSNBC, Keith Olbermann used to show these on Countdown fairly regularly, in about the middle of the show. He called them "sanity breaks".
- We Germans don't mention Knut. See also Flocke. Knut ain't cute anymore, which probably explains why all the coverage of him has dropped off. Or maybe it's because he died.
- The two Chinese pandas coming to a Belgian zoo and all the news coverage thereof, including a visit by the Chinese president. You'd almost forget it is a diplomatic trick.
- Wang Wang and Funi are a couple in a zoo in Australia, that have not successfully mated after even after being together for years. But during the 36 hour mating period each year, newscasters love to report on it because it combines Yet Another Baby Panda with Sex Sells. This newscast had a lot of double-entendres both intentional and unintentional with the newscasters losing it, including a totally new definition for "Eats, shoots, and leaves."
- A raccoon climbing a 25-story building in St. Paul, Minnesota became a widely covered story from the time it was initially noticed until it reached the roof to be trapped and released into the wild.