Thursday, May 24, 2012
The analyst on the show injected his sample into the very real GCMS, and the hubs snorted.
“What’s wrong?” I asked with a sinking heart.
“They injected twice as much sample as they should. They flooded the instrument.”
“Maybe it made for better TV,” I mumbled.
Just then the onscreen GCMS dinged. “We’ve got the results,” the onscreen scientist chirped. The hubs groaned. “Geez,” he muttered, “that’s faster than Quincy.”
Now Quincy, for the uninitiated, is the old Jack Klugman show about a genius coroner/crime fighter. It’s considered a benchmark for lousy science largely because the results of any test they take onscreen come back instantly. Needless to say, in real life it takes a bit longer since Mother Nature is a bitch.
The hubs watched the rest of Bones in somewhat grumpy silence.
The reality here is that the average TV drama isn’t going to be overly authentic in portraying a lot of things, including science. Similarly, most of us who write know that we’re going to get some details wrong in our stories if we’re writing about something unfamiliar, even though we try to do our research and we’d prefer not to make any huge glaring errors.
Many of these missed details will only be obvious to experts like my hubs, and although we may get the occasional snotty email from those experts, most of our readers will neither know nor care. Nonetheless, stuff like this will probably drive some people nuts, particularly those who know the profession or hobby or activity well. Back in the day when I played the violin, I remember being really annoyed at actors who pretended to play but whose bow strokes bore no relation to the music booming on the sound track.
You might ask if it really matters whether a portrayal is absolutely realistic? The answer is, as usual, it depends. If a movie or a book gets some basic details wrong, then that’s a problem—the producer or author missed something vital in their research and they deserve the annoyed reviews they’re probably going to get. But there are details that only experts know, and authors/producers may simply overlook those. It’s fun if they get them right, but it’s not a disaster if they get them wrong.
And I think that’s probably the bottom line about professions and activities in books and movies. People who know these professions or who take part in these activities are likely to groan. But hell, how many people in the audience have ever injected a sample into a GCMS? Perishingly few, I’d guess. The rest of us just concentrate on Booth and Bones and ignore what happens in the lab.
Then again, when my own profession shows up in TV land and they screw up the details, I’m likely to snarl. Don’t get me started about Rick Castle and the writer’s life (when does the guy have time to produce those bestsellers anyway?).
So what mistakes drive you crazy about TV shows and movies? Any glaring errors that make you want to throw a shoe at the screen? Or are you the live and let live type much beloved by authors and producers everywhere?
Posted by Meg Benjamin at 4:00 AM