Don't Panic: How To End Poverty in 15 Years, TV review: Why didn't we hear from the rich?

Swedish pop-star statistician Hans Rosling presented a cross between an extended TED Talk, election night and a Comic Relief human-story segment

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The Independent Culture

The small matter of ending “extreme poverty” by 2030 – measured as those living on less than $1.25 a day – realistically, is not one that can be solved in an hour of primetime telly. Yet Hans Rosling, the Swedish pop-star statistician gave it a good go in his inimitable style. His upbeat conclusion that the first newly drawn-up development goal is indeed possible, even “easy”, was an uplifting thought on a grey autumn day - if over-simplified in this package.

This show was made to tie-in with the UN’s new development targets and was in the same vein as 2013’s Don’t Panic - The Truth About Population, with a more over-blown premise. But Rosling convinced with his combo of a presentation of colourful bubble graphs and props interspersed with pre-filmed human stories. The effect was a cross between an extended TED Talk – the format that made his name – combined with election night and a Comic Relief human-story segment.

Rosling’s shtick is making the complex seem mind-numbingly simple, delivered with humour.

“We Swedes are quite good at self-assemble furniture,’ he said wheeling on a giant graph to illustrate how poverty levels had changed. I think it needed the pre-filmed segments to bring the ideas to life - like the family for whom a bad harvest led to ‘Hunger Season’, where they only ate once a day. We saw how the likes of water pumps and electric bikes could lift families out of poverty, whereas an expected medical bill could send them spiralling back down.

I was waiting to hear from the rich, but they didn’t get a look in. There is only so much you can do in an hour, after all. Rosling’s conclusions: “right actions, economic growth and better-focussed aid” were broad-brush solutions, but he made them sound possible - for 60 minutes at least.

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