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"Apparently you can't hack into a government supercomputer and then try to buy uranium without the Department of Homeland Security tattling to your mother."
September 22, 2011 7:30 AM   Subscribe

TV Fact Checkers "Behind every smart TV show, there is a tireless script coordinator, technical adviser, researcher or producer who makes sure the jargon is right, the science is accurate and the pop culture references are on-point." This week, Wired "is speaking with fact-checkers behind the fall TV season’s geekiest shows."

3 profiles have been posted so far:

* Physicist David Saltzberg: Dropping Science on The Big Bang Theory. Dr. Saltzberg blogs at "The Big Blog Theory" (previously included in this excellent MeFi post.) Here's another, older interview.

* Greg Levine: Getting Civic Duties Right on Parks and Recreation

* Jim Nuciforo: Ex-NYPD Cop Brings Realism to Unforgettable
posted by zarq (72 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Doh! I should have fact checked my own post. Missed a link: Dropping Science on The Big Bang Theory
posted by zarq at 7:32 AM on September 22, 2011


I'll create a GUI interface using Visual Basic
posted by DU at 7:33 AM on September 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


In all seriousness -- how would I go about getting this job? I would rock at it. I've even done this kind of work before, for theater.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:35 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Notice to political-drama writers--no one in DC says (or writes) POTUS, and certainly not FLOTUS. SCOTUS is used in writing, but no one ever actually says it.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:36 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


EmpressCallipygos: "In all seriousness -- how would I go about getting this job? "

We need a JScalzi signal. He was the science consultant on Stargate Universe.
posted by zarq at 7:37 AM on September 22, 2011


DU: "I'll create a GUI interface using Visual Basic"

In 10 hours, one man with a Macintosh Laptop can code a virus in C++ that will take down a completely alien computer system.
posted by zarq at 7:38 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Whoever the technical advisors are for all those CSI shows with the frigging "zoom in and enhance that" satellite photo bullshit should be immediately fired and forced to fact-check "America's Funniest Home Videos" for the rest of their days.
posted by briank at 7:39 AM on September 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


oh this reminds me of one of my favorite mitchell and web sketches
posted by fuzzypantalones at 7:39 AM on September 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


the science is accurate and the pop culture references stereotypes about scientists are on-point.

I know not everyone shares my complaints about big bang theory, but every time I see it I just imagine the conversation that the writers first had about the show, something along the lines of "You know who's weird? Scientists! Now what if we made a show where they were really, really weird! It'd be hilarious how weird they are!"
posted by kiltedtaco at 7:40 AM on September 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


whoops i meant it with video
posted by fuzzypantalones at 7:41 AM on September 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


computers in television are generally just the modern equivalent of the greek chorus, with a side order of the messenger who comes in from offstage to delivery a plot update.

once i realized this, it became less frustrating to watch modern media.

that said, the perversions that technology goes through in media to make the plot easier to write ('deus ex machina' indeed) are really grating on me lately.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:41 AM on September 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


From that same link: If you're President and your administration is faltering, manage to work into every other sentence the fact that you "flew in the Persian Gulf." No need to specify what branch of service.

Actually, that one works.
posted by DU at 7:43 AM on September 22, 2011


Could just one tv show or movie please have the resident "computer geek" character use a mouse? I'll accept a trackball, track pad, pen pad or touchscreen, but for god's sake, when someone says, "Can you zoom in on that?" (and don't get me started with high-res, unpixelated photos in which you can zoom in on the hair on a rat's ass), you don't do so by typing several paragraphs on the very loud keyboard!
posted by xingcat at 7:44 AM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Computer. Zoom. Enhance.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:44 AM on September 22, 2011


This is why Breaking Bad keeps chemists on staff as consultants... I really appreciate it when the people making these shows don't presume all viewers are uninformed idiots, and make that extra effort.
posted by genekelly'srollerskates at 7:44 AM on September 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Have there been any scientific studies that show that a sitcom with a laugh track in 2011 is basically unwatchable, no matter how clever or funny it is? I heard so much about BBT I finally decided to watch an episode or two. Even with Evil Wil Wheaton, who was awesome, and even being a long-time fan of Johnny Galecki, I couldn't take the show. It just seemed to dumb it down so much. I think Physicist David Saltzberg missed that one.
posted by bondcliff at 7:48 AM on September 22, 2011


when someone says, "Can you zoom in on that?" (and don't get me started with high-res, unpixelated photos in which you can zoom in on the hair on a rat's ass), you don't do so by typing several paragraphs on the very loud keyboard!

I do. M-x zoom-enhance. Prepend a C-u to specify a region other than point.
posted by DU at 7:48 AM on September 22, 2011 [4 favorites]



Double Hacking.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:48 AM on September 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


To be fair, xingcat, the UNIX dudes in my office are all elitist about never (or rarely) using a mouse. What they don't do is type a bunch, then LOUDLY hit the Enter key as if they are using a typewriter.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:52 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Double Hacking.

Oh jeepers. I couldn't even tell if that was satire until what's-his-name walked on. Of all the stupid things in that scene, the stupidest might be that they are BOTH typing on the SAME keyboard. How is that supposed to be working?
posted by DU at 7:52 AM on September 22, 2011


xingcat: "Could just one tv show or movie please have the resident "computer geek" character use a mouse? "

Scotty. Macintosh Plus. 'nuff said.
posted by zarq at 7:52 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


enhance
posted by nathancaswell at 7:57 AM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Could just one tv show or movie please have the resident "computer geek" character use a mouse?

How about one-handed dvorak?
posted by ODiV at 7:58 AM on September 22, 2011


Apparently, none of these fact checkers are lawyers or consult lawyers. Cause, damn.
posted by valkyryn at 8:09 AM on September 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


"We need a JScalzi signal. He was the science consultant on Stargate Universe."

No, we need an MScalzi signal. He's the guitarist/vocalist for the heavy metal band Slough Feg:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slough_Feg
posted by sutt at 8:15 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Castle had a funny zoom and enhance moment.
posted by Harpocrates at 8:17 AM on September 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Look! Right there! Zoom in on that!"
"It's a video tape."
"So? They do it on TV all the time."
"Not with a normal VCR they don't."
...
"What's that? Hey, pause it."
"Guys, it's just a normal VCR! It doesn't-oh wait, it can do pause."
posted by pupdog at 8:35 AM on September 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


When I was in grad school, one of the PhD students in the lab next door had a pretty sweet gig as the science consultant on Dan Aykroyd's "PSI Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal". It's usually not really about getting the science right, but getting something that sounds convincingly 'sciencey' to the lay viewer.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 8:35 AM on September 22, 2011


Apparently, none of these fact checkers are lawyers or consult lawyers. Cause, damn.

I assure you, whatever crimes scriptwriters commit against the law in the Law-N-Order typeshows, the ones commited against forensic science in the CSI shows are worse.
posted by bonehead at 8:41 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was watching an episode of the Office last night where Pam said she was failing art school and Jim said "I thought you were good at Flash" and Pam said "but then they switched to acrobat just as I was getting good with Quark. This is one crazy class." and I had to PAUSE THE TV TO YELL ABOUT THIS. Where was your fact checker then!
posted by Brainy at 8:44 AM on September 22, 2011


Based on extensive research, this is how all court cases actually go.
posted by kmz at 8:44 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Since you had no political science background, how did you figure this stuff out?

Hah, political science? Local politicians don't have that kind of background. Heck, parks and rec/planning people don't have that background. It's usually Urban/City & Regional Planning, or Architecture. And elected officials come from all sorts of backgrounds, which makes the meetings all the more interesting.


I assure you, whatever crimes scriptwriters commit against the law in the Law-N-Order typeshows, the ones commited against forensic science in the CSI shows are worse.

You mean the forensic scientists don't go in the field, grabbing samples willy-nilly and tackling suspects? They're lab rats? BORING! (My sister-in-law is a lab rat of this sort, though with Super Secret Clearance, so she can't tell us what she's working on. Regardless, it's all in the lab, as far as we know.)


I had to PAUSE THE TV TO YELL ABOUT THIS. Where was your fact checker then!

Hah, that's dumb. Did someone just find a collection of computer programs that are not Word, Excel and Powerpoint, and rattle them off?
posted by filthy light thief at 8:51 AM on September 22, 2011


Wow, I thought the VB->GUI->IP Track clip was the height of dumb, but that double hacking one takes the cake. I feel like some golden era sci-fi robot that has been defeated with a logic loop. My nerd rage and sheer incredulity have combined to overload my gui matrix ip tracker firewall router.
posted by Godspeed.You!Black.Emperor.Penguin at 8:51 AM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hint: you can figure out how meetings will go by watching random televised local jurisdictions, many of which have online video feeds.

If you know where to look, you'll be able to see me performing my duties as a Civil Servant later this afternoon. Thrilling stuff, I promise you.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:52 AM on September 22, 2011


Whoever the technical advisors are for all those CSI shows with the frigging "zoom in and enhance that" satellite photo bullshit should be immediately fired and forced to fact-check "America's Funniest Home Videos" for the rest of their days.

Never blame the consultant. I write for a crime procedural, although not one of the CSIs. We have an excellent technical adviser who reads several drafts of our scripts, fields our questions when we call and comes on set to supervise when shooting particularly "cop heavy" scenes. And after he's done giving us fantastic and accurate advice, we writers have to make a decision on whether or not accuracy should trump story in any given instance. If it's a big story point and a small inaccuracy, the writer is probably going to either ignore the note or band-aid it.

Not all shows are The Wire, and not all shows should be The Wire. If it took eight weeks for lab results to come in inconclusive on CSI, then CSI would suck at what it does well (you might well think it sucks now, but that's a different argument). So I promise you that on many of the shows being discussed here, there is a competent and thorough technical adviser doing their job and gritting their teeth as the writers do what the writers feel like they have to do to tell the story.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:57 AM on September 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


If it's a big story point and a small inaccuracy, the writer is probably going to either ignore the note or band-aid it.

I should add that sometimes even if it's a big inaccuracy and a small story point, some writers are going to either ignore the note or band-aid it. But who among us is perfect?
posted by Bookhouse at 8:59 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


And now I realize local government foolishness is a lot less interesting than computer foolishness. Exit, stage left.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:06 AM on September 22, 2011


In 10 hours, one man with a Macintosh Laptop can code a virus in C++ that will take down a completely alien computer system.

Apparently, in grand computer tradition, we developed our technology the old-fashioned way, we reverse-engineered it. As explained in a Deleted Scene.
Not that it isn't total nonsense, but it's internally consistent total nonsense.
posted by madajb at 9:06 AM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Let's not forget Futurama's group theory proof from last year, either.
posted by antifuse at 9:06 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Double Hacking.

Truly awesome. The timing on Mark Harmon's entrance is so perfect comedically it seems intentional. Like: "Oh hi - I've just arrived from the 1980s. I think I know a thing or two about computers . . ."
posted by gompa at 9:11 AM on September 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


What do you even do when you're an actor in that scene? I guess you suck it up because it's a pretty sweet gig, but you probably really want to say, "No, that's stupid, I'm not doing it."
posted by ODiV at 9:14 AM on September 22, 2011


I saw the JScalzi signal! What is it, citizen?

Oh, getting the gig as a Creative Consultant. Well, in my case I got it because one of the producers of Stargate was a fan of my books and asked me if I wanted the gig. I said, why, yes. Yes I do.

The job in my case not only consisted of making sure the science was correct (for values of "correct" meaning "not obviously counter to what we actually currently know about the physical world and/or a reasonable extrapolation from current scientific understanding, in the context of cranking out a weekly dramatic series") but also keeping track of story lines and character arcs across the entire season and run of the show.

It was a ton of fun. I got to move planets and change the size and color of stars! How many gigs let you do that on a weekly basis? (I mean, aside from my regular gig.) Answer: Relatively few!
posted by jscalzi at 9:22 AM on September 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


In the Double Hacking scene, the other infuriating thing is it's supposed to be the old wise man showing these punk eggheads up. But in fact, the eggheads were already mentioning how the hacker was moving on to other computers from there...and he just prevented them from using that computer to stop it. Good move, genius.
posted by DU at 9:23 AM on September 22, 2011


What, you don't have your workplace's DMZ running inside your work desktop?
posted by kmz at 9:29 AM on September 22, 2011


What, you don't have your workplace's DMZ running inside your work desktop?

Oh yeah, right next to the database with everything in it. It's always correct, up to date, and I can query it in real time with as few as 7 keystrokes.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:35 AM on September 22, 2011


Well, in my case I got it because one of the producers of Stargate was a fan of my books and asked me if I wanted the gig. I said, why, yes. Yes I do.

How would a person who does not have that kind of reputation break into the business? Even at an entry level?

Because I've actually had experience doing that kind of thing, for theater. The best and most varied example was for this.

First I got hit up by the producer, who was trying to track down a contact address for the playwright's estate (the only existing copy of the play was on microfilm in the NY Public Library, and they weren't going to run us a copy without permission). Then the director, asking me to give the cast a "political history of the Gilded Age" lecture at the first rehearsal. Then various actors hit me up with questions about things like "what was the average upper-class woman's attitude towards Suffrage" to "how likely would it have been to get a railroad permit in a small town" to "can my beard look like this". Then when Jim Jeffords left the GOP halfway through our rehearsal period I pointed out some paralells between that incident and the play, and the director and I tweaked the ending to punch that up. The set designer even asked me to give him a list of "The most corrupt politicians of the Gilded Age" so he could put a "memorial plaque" on the set.

I can do the work, I just don't have the name visibility. Is there a way to do this kind of job anyway?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:38 AM on September 22, 2011


jscalzi: " Oh, getting the gig as a Creative Consultant. Well, in my case I got it because one of the producers of Stargate was a fan of my books and asked me if I wanted the gig. I said, why, yes. Yes I do. "

Which is pretty awesome.

Apropos of nothing, I spotted Rush's military escort/driver on Earth reading Old Man's War in one episode. Neat. :)
posted by zarq at 9:44 AM on September 22, 2011


I got it because one of the producers of Stargate was a fan of my books and asked me if I wanted the gig. I said, why, yes. Yes I do

Ah! Write a book! See that makes so much sense. Up until now I was trying to get a job by writing anonymous, vague, cryptically threatening missives against the Amsterdam tulip festival and their mind control projects for the New World Order. I also detailed my love of sunny-side-up eggs.

I'm thinking your way would probably be much more effective.
posted by quin at 9:50 AM on September 22, 2011


I was watching an episode of the Office last night where Pam said she was failing art school and Jim said "I thought you were good at Flash" and Pam said "but then they switched to acrobat just as I was getting good with Quark. This is one crazy class." and I had to PAUSE THE TV TO YELL ABOUT THIS. Where was your fact checker then!

I had always assumed that this was intended to show how truly terrible Pam was at art school. I'd never even thought that it was just a mistake. Mind blown!
posted by winna at 9:56 AM on September 22, 2011


That's not what "script coordinators" do. Script coordinators make sure that the newest versions of the script get typed up and distributed=--it's usually a job for a budding writer, and some have moved on to be staff writers.

Fact-checkers on reality or nonfiction shows are usually associate producers or researchers, sometimes, PAs. This guy is a consultant--other shows have used them as well--CalTech supplied some to Numb3rs.

The Chronicle of Higher Ed had a piece about how to get a gig like this--but you need to be a professor or subject matter expert to really qualify.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:03 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's always correct, up to date, and I can query it in real time with as few as 7 keystrokes.

Yeah, constant fictional portrayals of shit like this have made some of my older co-workers really hard to deal with over the years. It's not just that we get lectured for taking too long to do an inbox search for some elusive email (where neither the name of the sender nor the date are known), it's things like being very seriously told to call the internets and complain when a youtube video is buffering too slowly that are really wearing me down. (no, not call our ISP. call the actual internet. he was very specific about that difference. *weeps*)
posted by elizardbits at 10:25 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Chronicle of Higher Ed had a piece about how to get a gig like this--but you need to be a professor or subject matter expert to really qualify.

Are you referring to being a consultant or a fact-checker? I'm talking about just being a fact-checker.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:28 AM on September 22, 2011


I had always assumed that this was intended to show how truly terrible Pam was at art school. I'd never even thought that it was just a mistake. Mind blown!

I thought that this line was the joke - Either that Pam doesn't get it so she's throwing out words or that the show is intentionally playing to the trope. My mind would not be blown to learn that it was just bad writing though.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 10:28 AM on September 22, 2011


I live and work in DC and I use POTUS and FLOTUS in both speech and writing all the time. The West Wing got lots of things wrong, but that's accurate. You can pull the same trick with cabinet secretaries -- Secretary of Housing and Urban Development = SOHUD, Secretary of Commerce = SOCOM, etc.
posted by fancypants at 10:44 AM on September 22, 2011


fancypants, are you executive branch or something? No one in my legislative branch crowd uses any of those, ever. Not doubting you, just wondering why our (anecdotal) experiences are so dissimilar.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:53 AM on September 22, 2011


Please fact check vehicles. There's a recent episode of Breaking Bad where Walter changes the radio station in his Aztek.

The sound effect was that of a dial radio changing. These cars have buttons on the stereo.
posted by asockpuppet at 11:13 AM on September 22, 2011


I like to think that the terribad "creating a GUI in Visual Basic" parts were done intentionally by the show writers just so they could laugh at all the nerd rage they generate. (There was a Reddit thread where someone claiming to be a writer said this was the case.)
posted by The Lurkers Support Me in Email at 11:19 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Never blame the consultant
I think the best evidence I've ever seen of this came from a NUMB3RS episode, in which the flashy whiz-bang math graphics included the "Not-Quite-Navier-Stokes Equations": the equations you get if someone tells you about the actual (IIRC incompressible) Navier-Stokes equations, then you make them hand write those equations with less-natural but more-impressive-looking notation, and finally you ask for the handwriting to be copied by a third person who's never seen a partial differential equation before.

"∇·u⃑", for instance, got expanded out into "∂u/∂x + ∂v/∂y + ∂w/∂z", which then got mangled into something like "∂u/2x + 2v/∂y + ∂w/∂z" and animated in neon CGI.

It was clear that there was a well-informed well-intentioned consultant at the start of that process, but equally clear that said consultant hadn't been allowed anywhere near the final product.

Mind you, this was an example from an early episode. From what I've read about NUMB3RS production, it only got worse as time went on, and the script writing process changed from "tell us about some cool math and we'll come up with a crime solving story incorporating it" to "here's a crime solving story; see if you can find some place to squeeze in an equation". Kind of like how the Star Trek Technobabble process eventually worked, but with more or less integrity, depending on your point of view.
posted by roystgnr at 11:27 AM on September 22, 2011


From what I've read about NUMB3RS production, it only got worse as time went on, and the script writing process changed from "tell us about some cool math and we'll come up with a crime solving story incorporating it" to "here's a crime solving story; see if you can find some place to squeeze in an equation".

I'm torn about Numb3rs. The first season really felt like it was a case of "Hey, we're stumped, is there some way that MATH can solve this problem?" in every episode. Whereas later on in the series, it was much more of a straight up cop show, where Charlie (and others) was simply a consultant that worked for the FBI on a more-or-less regular basis as a smart person who happened to use math a lot. As somebody with a math degree (undergrad, only because computer science was in the math faculty at my school, and only took the minimum amount of math courses required) I found the latter more entertaining than the former, personally. I don't really need my math to be accurate to enjoy a reasonably entertaining cop show :)
posted by antifuse at 11:38 AM on September 22, 2011


I like to think that the terribad "creating a GUI in Visual Basic" parts were done intentionally by the show writers just so they could laugh at all the nerd rage they generate.
Nah, I think this if definitely a "Never attribute to malice..." situation.
posted by Karmakaze at 12:23 PM on September 22, 2011


I like to think that the terribad "creating a GUI in Visual Basic" parts were done intentionally by the show writers just so they could laugh at all the nerd rage they generate. (There was a Reddit thread where someone claiming to be a writer said this was the case.)

Not quite, I'd wager. Sometimes some license is taken with things because showing ACTUAL reality would be kind of....dull. Consider: actual computer programming. Visually, that is just bits of code being typed.

Now imagine how bits of text code looks. And how the sight of someone actually hacking something looks. It's kind of....not-attention-getty. Writers have to put something in to give hints as to the dramatic movement of the script because sitting and watching people type something is really....kind of boring.

South Park did something great with this with the World of Warcraft episode -- when they got up to the big climactic scene when the kids were going to finally go kill the griefer, they had this big buildup of swelling music as they all trooped down to Cartman's basement, and then Cartman made an inspirational speech -- and then the music cut out as they all four sat down in front of their computers and just sat and typed. And did nothing for a long time.

In that episode, it was a great commentary on how the big epic thing they were doing was...really boring for the outsider to watch. But that is the very problem that writers have to deal with when they dramatize "computer stuff" or "science stuff" for the layperson -- the actual process may be kind of dull in an action/visual sense. So they have to jazz it up for the layperson to get 'oh, I see, ths is dramatic."

At the same time, they also know enough about the actual event to know that they're probably going to get angry letters that "that visual interface has no resemblance to UNIX" or whatever, and probably crack jokes about it of the sort you heard.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:33 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


But that is the very problem that writers have to deal with when they dramatize "computer stuff" or "science stuff" for the layperson -- the actual process may be kind of dull in an action/visual sense. So they have to jazz it up for the layperson to get 'oh, I see, ths is dramatic."

What you don't see, particularly with the CSI-type shows, is how uncertain, and sometime rickety the whole forensics endevor is. No one want sot see a cop drama where they all sit around a confernce table talking about how budget cuts cause six-month turn-around times, but forensic science is really about pieceing together sometimes vague clues which are only sort-of right which can easily lead one down a blind alley.

The process analysis is often much less certain than it's often made out to be. There are blind alleys, false leads and lots of room for human error, particularly if you want results quickly. Fast, good, cheap; pick one.

Writers too often use forensics as an infalible deus ex machina, where it's really a very human process that can easily go wrong or produce an uncertain result.
posted by bonehead at 1:08 PM on September 22, 2011


No one want sot see a cop drama where they all sit around a confernce table talking about how budget cuts cause six-month turn-around times.....

*snerk* You've reminded me about something one of the cops at my hometown precinct said when he came to my school for career day -- "honestly, our station is a whole lot more like Barney Miller than Hill Street Blues."

I've also heard that some video artist made some sort of film where they went through a bunch of LAW AND ORDER episodes and found all the tiny brief moments where the characters were going through paperwork, looped each one a few times and spliced them all together as a sort of "here's what police work REALLY looks like" commentary.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:14 PM on September 22, 2011


This is my all-time favourite - enhancing the reflection from a woman's eye.
posted by *becca* at 1:30 PM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've also heard that some video artist made some sort of film where they went through a bunch of LAW AND ORDER episodes and found all the tiny brief moments where the characters were going through paperwork, looped each one a few times and spliced them all together as a sort of "here's what police work REALLY looks like" commentary.

One of the great bits from Hot Fuzz is that every time Simon Pegg's character has to do paperwork it's shown in the quick-cut, dramatic music 'action' style
posted by pupdog at 1:33 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not quite, I'd wager. Sometimes some license is taken with things because showing ACTUAL reality would be kind of....dull. Consider: actual computer programming. Visually, that is just bits of code being typed.

At least in the infamous Visual Basic GUI example though, they could have at least changed the line. I don't think there's even visuals in the youtube clip, just the stupid stupid stupid line.
posted by kmz at 1:42 PM on September 22, 2011


I'm not certain that forensics in television are any more unrealistic than interrogation scenes. Or the motives for murder. Very, very rarely in a procedural will the murderer's motive turn out to be "I was drunk and stupid."

I know a teevee writer who used to work on a critically acclaimed cop show who had a homicide detective as their consultant. The writer describes the detective's stories as mostly "We thought it was the husband and it was the husband." While you can make an interesting show about that, it's a very different beast than a procedural.
posted by Bookhouse at 3:20 PM on September 22, 2011


Writers too often use forensics as an infalible deus ex machina, where it's really a very human process that can easily go wrong or produce an uncertain result.

When you watch more documentary-style police shows, even the ones that are meant to highlight forensics, it's so different. You'll see the most highly-trained, in-demand expert in a talking head say something like, "based on the ragged edges, the blue lines, and the fact that it said "Mead" in the upper right-hand corner, our team eventually came to the conclusion that the letter was written on notebook paper.

Unfortunately, this wasn't of any help, and the case was solved because the lead suspect's girlfriend ratted on him."
posted by xingcat at 4:16 PM on September 22, 2011


@becca Top youtube comment: zoom in more so we can see his DNA.

I started enjoying CSI a lot more when it was explained to me that it wasn't a cop show, it was a sci-fi show.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 8:22 PM on September 22, 2011


I have two things to contribute.

1.

"Wait... Back, back. Freeze it... Can you blow that up a little? ... Enhance. Enhance. Enhance... Stop, that's it. Can you blow that up a little?"

2.

> "Sometimes some license is taken with things because showing ACTUAL reality would be kind of....dull. Consider: actual computer programming."

I think The Social Network did a pretty good job of showing "hacking" authentically. My favourite example is the scene where Mark is building Facemash. I think Fincher and co. managed to make programming into something that was compelling to watch without resorting to the old Hackers tricks (also by intercutting the programming with pretty ladies dancing). They did it with pretty legitimate tech, too. If you pause the Facemash scene and look at the computer screen, it looks legit — it's doing a wget when he says "wget", and the Perl script looks like it would do something like what the guy wants. That doesn't make it any less corny when Eisenberg says "looks like it's time to break out Emacs and modify that Perl script", though.

Hack the planet.
posted by scottjacksonx at 11:45 PM on September 22, 2011


Fourth profile was posted this evening:

Nancy Hult Ganis:
A Former Stewardess On Pan Am’s Friendlier Skies

posted by zarq at 10:00 PM on September 25, 2011


Additional Profiles:

Garrett Donovan: Community

Woody Thompson and Alex Ebel: Pop Up Videos
posted by zarq at 9:08 AM on October 3, 2011


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