Accurate portrayals of your profession in fiction

Hello everyone. I’m interested in hearing from any dopers who have seen their job shown in a work of fiction and thought “yeah, that’s just like real life”. I’ve heard plenty of grumbles from people who have seen bad, inaccurate, lazy or unrealistic depictions of their profession, but not much of the opposite.

Have you ever seen an accurate depiction of whatever it is you do for a living?

This might be applicable, but only in an oblique way. I’ve been a security consultant for over 40 years, working with alarm systems and physical security systems. Of all the movies I’ve personally seen, only Thief (1981) came close to depicting how intrusion detection systems and vaults are installed…and how burglars successfully compromise them. The director (Michael Mann) used knowledgeable people and it showed. Highly accurate, right down to compromising the direct-wire systems.

I used to work in offset printing, and there were a couple of TV procedurals that completely missed the mark in how printing is done.

In NCIS:LA, Callen goes undercover as a counterfeiter. Hetty gives him an operating manual to memorize overnight. He meets up with the counterfeit ring and operates a press for the very first time and seemingly creates unerring duplicates in one pass. No. Hell fucking no. A printing press requires a lot of hands-on experience, knowledge of the intricate moving parts, knowledge of the balance between ink and water, adjustments for the type of paper, humidity, and registration board, that comes with lots of hands-on practice. Moreover, it’s not just green ink. There’s other colors on money, and the serial numbers are all different. Making truly authentic-looking money requires a lot of passes through multiple machines. Even if you’re a genius and can memorize a 500-page manual overnight, memorizing and applying are two different things.

I will say the film To Live and Die in LA was much more accurate. I even recognized the machine they used. Hey, that’s a Multilith 1250!

In Sherlock, the detective is prowling through a suspect’s office and concludes the suspect is a scam artist, because the framed certificate on his wall was printed on 20 # paper. 20 # is the standard weight for copier paper, and generally heavier paper is used for certificates, but it’s not a universal standard. Plus, it’s hard to guess the paper weight just by looking at a framed certificate without taking it out and examining it. Even if the certificate is printed on cheaper paper, it’s not a smoking gun for determining a suspect is a scam artist. It could be a copy to keep the original preserved, or the issuers used a home PC & printer instead of spending money at a printing service.

I haven’t encountered much fiction about prison doctors. Can anyone point me to some?

Maybe I’ll have to write some after I retire

“All inmates great and small?”


I’m not sure that my profession (embedded controller engineering) has ever been shown in a movie or TV, but Halt and Catch Fire was pretty accurate as far as representing computer engineering.
Certainly better than “Primer,” where they couldn’t even be bothered to find someone who knew how to solder…

FYI, here is a similar topic from February.

Unfortunately, Office Space is at least as true as anything else as far as the experience of working in corporate IT goes.

There’s often incomprehensible bureaucratic nonsense, disconnected/clueless upper management, low level people trying to assert their tiny bit of control over stuff, sometimes implications that meeting requirements isn’t “enough”. The actual look of Initech is unfortunately spot on for many of the places I’ve worked as well- row upon row of gray cubicles with white walls.

I was going to say Office Space, but since that one has already been covered…

I’ve mentioned in other threads, while my profession isn’t actually “hacker”*, Mr. Robot did a good job of showing realistic looking Linux terminals, as opposed to the obviously made up UIs usually seen in TV and movies. And from what I’ve read they purposely avoided going into too much detail on the actual hacks, specifically to avoid having to worry about accuracy there.

*As far as you know.

And here’s another thread, almost exactly a year ago.

I started writing a reply to this thread and suddenly thought, “Wait, haven’t I said this before?” I checked my posting history, and sure enough, I posted essentially the same thing last November.

Are we including depictions that are exaggerated for humor (but exaggerated in an accurate direction)? Because The Big Bang Theory and Real Genius both depict people like actual physicists, only more so.

I’m not aware of any TV shows or movies, but there was one science fiction short story I read many years ago, in which the protagonist was a patent agent, trying to protect the intellectual property behind the McGuffin Technology the story was about.

Since the author had actually worked as a patent agent, it was pretty true to life about what it takes to file a patent application, and respond to people who are claiming the invention wasn’t entitled to patent protection.

Unstoppable was actually kind of close, it was based on a real incident. The only real thing that really stands out as not right is the reverser magically moving itself. I’m not sure why they chose to show what started the incident like that.

They could have showed exactly what happened and the movie would have still worked.

One of the primary characters in the TV show Prison Break is a female doctor in a male prison.

And there was a female doctor on Oz.

My Cousin Vinny does this. To play up the fact that Vinny is out of his element (and to show that he eventually proves his mettle) the movie uses accurate courtroom procedures. In fact, scenes are commonly shown in law schools for its accuracy (including my own Civil Procedure class).

I don’t have a ton of experience with the “startup business” side of what’s portrayed on Silicon Valley, but the parts where they show them actually writing software, talking about features, whiteboarding ideas, etc. are pretty accurate.

And their portrayal of the Scrum development methodology is pretty accurate, too.

None about prison doctors, but I was excited when I started reading Sue Grafton’s “P” is for Peril. It features a nursing home doctor who is the medical director and administrator of his facility. Most of what she portrays is accurate, but their was one glaring mistake. That, of course, is that medical director and administrator are always two separate positions. Maybe back in the 80s there were a few such doctors, but I doubt it. The rest of the stuff she portrayed, however, was pretty accurate, including lots of stuff about Medicare fraud.

ETA: I was pleasantly surprised to find that the forms used back in the 80s had the same names as the ones used today. I figured things would have been at least somewhat different back then, but I recognized all the names. What’s especially funny is that the holding company used in the book is the same one (or at least has the same name :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:) as the one that owns a facility where I’m the medical director.

There were series on the BBC and HBO called Getting On that focused on the nurses in an extended care/nursing home facility.

Just wrapped up a first career as a firefighter. Horrific mis-portrayals on both the big and small screen.

Rescue Me was the only show that got it right, although often hyperbolic for comedic/dramatic effect. It was accurate enough that a conversation we had at the kitchen table was repeated nearly verbatim on the show three weeks later.

Their depiction of fire scenes in the first season or two were perfect. One scene followed Denis Leary’s character inside a burning building, all you saw was an occasional flashlight beam, otherwise dark, with lots of crashing into things and swearing. Perfection.

The story is that he had a friend who was a firefighter in New York City, who he would have lunch with and rnd up with a season’s worth of material. I believe it.