Tag Archives: reality TV

Plane Crash TV and the Goldfish Effect

I just watched a TV programme on C4 called Plane Crash. I’d seen the trailers and it looked fascinating. They were going to crash a real Boeing 727and watch the effects on the dummies inside.

Plane Crash TV and the Goldfish Effect
But the show ended up driving me mad. It was on for two hours with an ad break every 10 minutes. Before every break they summarised where we had got to. After the ad break they summarised where we had got to again.

Do the producers of shows like this think that we all have the memory spans of goldfish?

Actually that is unfair on goldfish. People believe that goldfish can only remember things for three seconds. so don’t worry about putting them in small bowls because by the time they’ve swum round they have forgotten where they started from. Of course scientists have proven that goldfish do in fact have quite good memories and tests show that they can learn what time of day they .

Plane Crash TV and the Goldfish Effect
photo credit: chefranden via photopin cc

Hence why my mother’s goldfish congregate at 4pm every day in the left corner of the tank – wide eyes and gaping mouths silently saying, “Come on then”.

But there seems to be a goldfish trend emerging in documentary TV shows. The next time you watch one just look at the narrative flow.

Take a clothes make over show. The intro will go something along these lines. “This week we meet Jane. She has no self-confidence. Over the next hour we are going to completely change her life. First thing we are going to do is give her a make over.

Then 10 minutes later as we approach the first ad break they’ll say, “So now Jane has had a full make over and although she started out the programme with no self-confidence she is well on her way to completely changing her life. Join us after the break when we move into stage two and revamp her wardrobe.

After nipping off to make a cup of tea during the adverts you return to the sofa to the reminder, “Before the break we met Jane who has no self-confidence but we have made a great start in completely changing her life by giving her a complete make over. Now it is time to have a look at her wardrobe.

Plane Crash TV and the Goldfish Effect
photo credit: Stephan Geyer via photopin cc

And so it goes on. Even the BBC with no ad breaks to fit this structure round are increasingly guilty of such recaps and “coming up” spots every ten minutes or so.

I have always been an advocate of the “Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you have told them” approach. But do the TV programmes take it too far? They tell you what they are going to tell you then tell you a bit of it. Next they remind you of what they are going to tell you and the bit they’ve already told you, and so on.

Cut out all this summarising and recapping and the show would be half as long.

So rather than thrilling me, Plane Crash just made me want to go and do something relaxing like swimming round and round in a pool.

Over to you: Do you agree with me about plane crash TV and the goldfish effect? If so do me a favour and tweet this article.