Crowd Control (2014 TV series) review…

Education Doesn’t Have to be Dull… After the Break…

Crowd Control (2014 TV series) review…

How do you get a group of people to pick up litter themselves? How do you calm people down when dealing with the stressful (and aggravating) situation of picking up a towed vehicle or dealing with the Department of Motor Vehicles? How do you reduce the number of times that security is called at airports by people looking for their vehicles?

These may not be problems on the same level of curing cancer or solving world hunger but they are, at the end of the day, problems. Sometimes, they are big problems because resolving these problems conventionally involves time, effort and money that could be used on better projects. Sometimes, these problems affect real people, such as disabled people who can’t use the specially-designated handicapped parking spots because otherwise healthy and able-bodied people keep using those spots.

“Crowd Control” is a 2014 television series by the National Geographic channel where practical solutions using basic sociology and psychology are applied to these everyday annoyances and problems. It’s not clear if presenter Daniel Pink (who is claimed to be a “behavior expert”) thinks of these solutions himself or if he merely presents solutions and explains them from theory through to it’s post-experiment analysis. He is the only “cast member” of the show besides the individuals who become unwitting (but not mistreated) test subjects although occasional experts are also featured for a segment.

The show runs through a stable format: Present a problem, propose a solution, implement it and then see what happens. Sometimes, another solution is proposed if the first one doesn’t deliver a satisfactory response. The solutions also tend to fall into some relatively broad categories such as people like rewards, people like to be entertained, pictures are better than text and so forth.

For a 30-minute show, the show runs fairly quick. The 30-minute format benefits the program as it doesn’t tire you out. After watching a number of episodes, I can’t remember too many times looking at the time and wondering when that particular show of the series would end. The show has a fairly optimistic vibe and all of the solutions seem to be just that: Solutions that work. You get the feeling that, if this guy were president, that everyone would be fit, healthy and prosperous while NASA would be landing manned missions to Mars by the end of his first term. To be fair, some people can’t handle this much “upbeat-ness” for long and that’s why I think that the 30 minute runtime is more of a benefit than a drawback.

The show isn’t without it’s faults: A lot of these solutions are presented as one-day affairs and it makes you wonder if these solutions would still be effective six months or so down the line. Would a monitor that shows and displays people’s emotions as pictures still be effective at making people smile six months later or would people merely get used to it? What about the porta-potty next to the swimming pool that converts urine into battery power? Or the pink-colored interior of the car repossession office? Yes, novel solutions can work for a day but would they still be working one year later?

As is, the show is fairly entertaining and educational. The 30-minute format ensures that you don’t get too tired of it, especially for people who may not enjoy a show with such a constantly upbeat personality. I’d love to see a bit more interactivity with the viewing audience, sort of how the television show “Mythbusters” interacts with it’s fans and integrates that interaction into their series. Nevertheless, it’s nice to see a show on television that’s educational and fun to watch.


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