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A Great Product Let Down by its Words #greatbarrierreef

March 25, 2012

“A WAVE of criticism has swept across the internet, after Channel 9 aired its own version of documentary series Great Barrier Reef on Sunday night.” (Critics drown out Great Barrier Reef commentary, The Cairns Post, 13 March 2012)

Yep – I was one of those critics. In fact, the whole family were really disappointed by the show, even our seven-year-old.

It was a real shame, given that the footage itself on the Great Barrier Reef was spectacular and groundbreaking. However, the script and soundtrack let down what could have been an incredible series.

I transcribed some of the narration from the first episode. Here’s a piece of Karl Stefanovic’s cringe-worthy introduction:

On any list of the world’s natural wonders, there is one that tops them all, every time – it’s the Great Barrier Reef – it’s our own, and it is truly magnificent …” and

Coral reefs are pretty rare to start with and not only do we have the best one, it’s also the biggest one, and by a long shot …”

It didn’t get any better in episode two. In fact, watching the tailend of it last weekend, our boys were actually laughing at the narration. Our twelve-year-old said, “This is like one big ad.”

The experience is a great illustration of not just having a great product, but also positioning it and communicating it in a way that resonates with the audience and also enhances the product. Together with a soundtrack full of tunes like Owl City’s “Fireflies” all that the narration succeeded in doing was distracting us and undermining what was, at times, incredible footage.

Here are a couple of examples of the narration in episode one that let down the whole effort:

“... life down here is full on. Day-to-day activity is as hectic as any modern city.”

And this to describe the coral: “Each polyp is sort of like an upside down jellyfish sitting in a stone cup.”

The good news is that when the DVD of the series is released, it will be the international version. Let’s hope it’s got a better script.

(Pictured: “Sea Turtle, Great Barrier Reef, Cairns, Australia”, photo by The Lightworks on Flickr, available under an Attribution 2.0 Generic  (CC BY 2.0) licence.)

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