Part of a News Broadcast, usually the last segment, in which lighthearted or heartwarming 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, the latest social media sensation 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, the practice is 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.
Compare to The Internet Is for Cats.
Contrast If It Bleeds, It Leads, which uses a gruesome sensationalized story to grab your attention.
- 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."
The two pandas in the zoo: do you care if they fuck? I don't. Why don't they stop telling me on the news the pandas didn't fuck again this year? I'm not concerned! I have no emotional stake in panda fucking, alright?. If they want to, they will; if not, they'll watch The Price Is Right. Probably the only reason they're not doing it on time is because some jackoff from the environmental movement has moved into the cage with them! Could you get a hard-on if some guy in a green t-shirt with a stopwatch was taking your girlfriend's rectal temperature? Leave these creatures alone!
- 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 mercilessly in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, which abounds in silly animal-related human interest stories (such as a water-skiing squirrel) — but nothing beats "Panda Watch", a recurring segment of a pregnant panda at the San Diego Zoo. No one questions the significance of that particular story — not even Veronica Corningstone, who otherwise hates being assigned to stories like this. The climax of the whole film takes place at the pandas' birth; hordes of journalists at the zoo that day manage to ignore several people jumping into the grizzly enclosure and nearly dying. The sequel continues this trend, with Ron and his crew relying on cute animal stories (and preferably patriotic ones) to great national acclaim at GNN.
- In Bruce Almighty, Bruce is sick of being sent to cover these (and other Human Interest Stories like the "world's largest cookie"). When he gets phenomenal cosmic powers, one thing he does is contrive strange and actually newsworthy things to be discovered at the site of these human interest stories, which he just so happens to be there to cover. (A Deleted Scene from the script even has Bruce induce an improbable pregnancy in a male panda.) By the end of the film, Bruce learns and accepts that fluff stories make people happy and he's good at doing them.
- In The Paper, The New York Sun always looks for a funny story to end on.
- Played for drama in the 2000 version of On the Beach, when the garbled video transmissions from post-nuclear Alaska turn out to be the recording of a feelgood story about whales rescued under arctic ice, with the corpse of the announcer still sitting next to the solar powered laptop.
- In The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole, Adrian falls into a severe depression when he returns home from having run away. To try to bring him back to the real world, his parents suggest he watches the news. It is full of terrible stories such as bombing and murder, and he notes that the only cheerful item is about a man with no legs who walked from John O' Groats to Lands End note ; this magnificence of the human spirit versus the cruelty of fate reduces him to silent sobs.
- 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 a disabled Little League team when a controversy flares up around a much-more riveting plane accident. But when the accident turns out to be the result of pilot error and bad parts, they are forced to run with the former or else risk legal action, and the producer behind the hoped-for plane story is chewed out so thoroughly by her boss that she leaves the network outright. Ironically, her boss ends up with a humanitarian award in the epilogue.
- John Craven, original presenter of the CBBC news programme Newsround published a book called And Finally... in 1985, collecting his favourite examples from the first thirteen years of the show.
- The Daily Show refers to it as the "Moment of Zen", a very brief piece of fluff totally disconnected with the often depressing news stories it covers. In the early years, as befits a News Parody, the "Moment of Zen" could get weird and Non Sequiturial (like a man getting sat on by an elephant), but as time went by they could be genuine attempts at a heartwarming moment. The transition is often thought to come from the first episode broadcast after the September 11th attacks, in which the Moment of Zen saw host Jon Stewart produce 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 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.
- The Guy Who Didn't Like Musicals: Early in the show, Paul listens to the Morning Hatchetfield News' story about Peanuts the pocket squirrel, the rescued squirrel who is outgrowing his owner's pocket and now needs his own little squirrel house. Paul turns the radio off right when the anchors switch to the story about the meteor that landed in Hatchetfield. At the end of the show, Peanuts turns out to be one of the last remaining survivors of the alien invasion.
- Baldur's Gate III: In Act 3, a newspaper tries to slander the party, and the editor brags how the next edition will reveal all their 'misdeeds'. One way to prevent this is to break into their offices and substitute the next edition's printing plates. One of these plates is of the "Cutest Cat You've Ever Seen," and is about a kitten being rescued.
- In The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark, the protagonist goes on TV to appeal to the public for information about the mysterious disappearance of his partner. At the end of his appeal, the anchor immediately segues into an item about a squirrel that can do arithmetic.
- 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 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.
- On South Park, the kids create their own school news station, and one way they court younger viewers is the "Panda Madness Minute". Only problem is they're going up against non-news shows which consist entirely of cute animals. The moment the protagonist makes inroads, their rivals show animals with cute hats.
- 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.
- King of the Hill: After Nancy becomes an anchor, she complains about her job revolving around stories about animals. Joseph saying, "But that's the cutest part of the news" doesn't help.
- 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.
- For whatever reason, MSNBC has bad luck with this.
- Now lost to the annals of broadcasting, the stars and script aligned for one day in 2007. The day featured ongoing commentary about a policy speech by Vice President Dick Cheney. By some miracle, this was placed in rotation right after a story about Chinese zookeepers trying to induce their pandas to get pregnant — by showing them porn. Every hour, on the hour, one seasoned anchor after another was reduced to giggle-fits trying to segue from one to the other.
- The network's report on the Columbine school shooting necessitated breaking the news in the middle of the previous segment — which happened to be an adorable bit concerning a squirrel. There was no segue that could possibly make that work, but they didn't have one at all. Mood Whiplash never hurt so much. The Daily Show describes the whole thing here.
- Countdown With Keith Olbermann used to show these fairly regularly in the middle of the show, referring to them as "sanity breaks".
- Knut the polar bear is the byword for this in Germany. A baby polar bear in the Berlin Zoo, the news loved to show coverage of him at the end of its broadcasts. Then Knut grew up and got grumpy and lazy; as Mitch Benn put it (in song), "Knut isn't cute anymore." The German news media learned its lesson. (Well, it flocked to Flocke and then it learned its lesson.)
- The Chinese government has been accused of engaging in "panda diplomacy", strategically sharing pandas with zoos and then having high-level government officials visit the place for the local news and look good in the process.
- 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.
- The FOX News program The Five usually ends with a segment called "One More Thing". The stories featured during this segment are usually of this type, focusing on news stories that are considered cute or funny. Many of them tend to involve the activities of animals.