TV Lies (& Movies, too)

Inspired by this thread in which Dewey Cheatem Undhow remarked:

Just wondered what other examples of misstatements people have noticed. Personally I’d assumed the TV statement he quotes was the truth! :eek: Probably just b/c you hear it so often.

What others have you noticed?

I can add one more - when he’d see commercials for that movie Medicine Man, my Hubby the scientist used to just go bananas. They kept showing this scene in a jungle where Lorraine Bracco pulled a printout from some machine and said “This is the cure for cancer!.” Hubby knew what that machine was & said he could barely get the thing to work in a temperature- and humidity-controlled lab, much less a jungle (the cure for cancer on a printout thing is probably far more ridiculous, but that’s the way irritations are).

On one medical-type show there were two doctors staring at a tube of spinal fluid they’d just drawn from a patient trying to decide if the kid had meningitis or not. Not even Superman could tell by just holding up to the light. Sheesh. The lab stuff on most of those shows is so full of holes it is to laugh.

They were looking for midichlorians!

There’s always the old “you have to tell me if you’re a cop and I ask you” canard.

Actually, I have seen a couple of cop shows where the cops were busting someone who complained because they had asked if the undercover cop was a cop. The arresting officer looked at them and said, “We lied. It is part of our job description.”

The fact that every cop only carries his/her service piece. Every cop I’ve ever talked to has said that they carry at least two guns. Reason being if they lose one, it jams, or runs out of ammo, they’ve got a back up piece they can whip out.

Actually, there was a time before modern forensics where direct evidence made for a stronger case than circumstantial evidence and prosecuting a crime without a witness was an uphill climb. It’s only now that some ‘cold cases’ can be solved by using high-tech to examine circumstantial evidence collected at the scene but never successfully anylized because the tools didn’t exist at the time.

While I appreciate the technogeekery of shows like CSI (as opposed to mindless “Judo for Jesus” crap like Walker, Texas Ranger), I’d be concerned with the pendulum going too far the other way, with juries expecting forensic witnesses to be able to perfectly reconstruct the exact motive, sequence and aftermath of a crime based on blood smears and whatnot, and all with blinding speed.

How about the one everyone’s heard MANY times “He’s a schizophrenic. He’s got multiple personalities.”

An episode of “MASH” and even more recently the “History Channel” pereptuated the legend that Dr Charles Drew (African-American doctor who did pioneering work in blood research, blood plasma, etc) bled to death in an all-white hospital because they would not admit him. (I’m surprised SNOPES does not have this on their Urban Legends pages. I’ll send off an E-Mail to them.).

Oh, here’s a site for the Dr Drew legend:

I’ve read that in Black History books, btw. There’s an identical legend about Bessie Smith that inspired an entire play by Edward Albee still produced by colleges across the country even though it’s equally false (in fact, the closest hospital to Smith’s accident was a black hospital and the first person on the scene was a white doctor who treated her extensively, but she was just too critically injured to live). Even her half sister, Mary “Diamond Teeth” McClain, who died in 2000, recited this inaccurate story. (The Jim Crow South was bad enough- we don’t have to make it worse than it was.)

I was majorly pissed off at the “facts” given in the Michael Moore “Bowling for Columbine” cartoon, especially the “connection” between the NRA & KKK and the “cowardice” of the early settlers (they were such craven cowards that they crossed an ocean in small boats knowing they would never see their families again and that the best case scenario would involve living where there was no supply source and they would be outnumbered hundreds to one by pissed off natives- call them bigots or zealots or racists and you’re probably right, but cowards they weren’t).

We won’t even get into the Oliver Stone movies (JFK, The Doors, etc.) as they’ve been done to death on these boards. Here a site dedicated to major science errors in movies.

Here’s one of my favorite science errors. In the TV show “Wild Wild West”, the evil Count Manzeppi (Victor Buono) is going to kill Mr West by dropping him into a highly charged electrical field.
Victor Buono says “I’m sure you are familiar with the experiments of Van De Graaf”. Well I don’t think anyone in 1870 would be familiar with the experiments of a man who was born in 1900 !!! The funny thing is, this episode aired while Mr Van de Graaf was still alive. I’ve always wondered if Robert Van De Graaf had a chance to see this episode and got a chuckle out of it.

Something I never understood about the Simpsons.

Why does Mayor Quimby essentially run the town by himself?

One I see quite often; when recording vocals in a studio, the singer steps up to a mic in an open room and sings while the music plays back from speakers. In reality, this is simply never the case - because the sound of the backing tack would be recorded along with the vocals, making it sound like poop. Vocals are recorded in an isolation booth, with the singer wearing headphones.

Not just any site, but one run by Phil Plait --of Sonoma State University in California – better known on the SDMB as The Bad Astronomer. He hasn’t posted here for a while, however. Perhaps he didn’t make the transition to paid subscription?

My all-time favourite science howler is in Timecop, where it’s determined that some gold has been stolen from the past {the American Civil War} by carbon-dating it.

Those half-hour “How to Paint” shows on PBS drive me batty. There may be some artists who paint that way, and there may be some people who like it – but I can guaran-damn-tee you that’s not how Famous Artists did it. And I know that’s not what they teach in art school. It’s like if a cooking show consisted of opening cans of vegetables & ravioli and heating them on the stove.

What’s particularly bothersome is that PBS is supposed to be a cut above your typical network. Not in this case.

This isn’t right. It is in fact quite common to record vocals in the control room - or in a booth with foldback. The “spill” problem is resolved by using two sends out of phase with each other so that the foldback cancels itself out at the mic.

Which has been so widely publicized that people actually believe it. I wonder how many arrests the police can credit to that stupidity.

Even this isn’t necessarily true. Suppose you’ve got two cases:

One has a perp picked up near the scene of the crime, carrying a gun that is a ballistic match for the murder weapon. He has powder burns on one arm. He is carrying the victim’s wallet.

The second case has none of that, but it does have two eyewitnesses who say they saw the perp commit the crime – from down the street on a foggy day.

Which case would you rather prosecute?

Sometimes direct evidence is better, and sometimes circumstantial evidence is better, even if you ignore CSI-type technomarvels. It’s a fallacy to say that one is necessarily superior to the other.

As for the OP, let’s just say that the list of TV and movies that get legal things wrong could fill multiple pages. It’d be much easier to list shows that get things right. My contender for that prize, believe it or not, is My Cousin Vinny, which, while imperfect, gets some details right that most shows don’t: an objection to argumentation in opening statements, laying a proper foundation for an expert witness, etc, etc, etc.

I loved that the entire premise of the movie Twister was that tornadoes were terrifying because NO ONE KNEW WHAT CAUSED THEM!!! Really? I learned what caused them in the 4th grade! I guess they were counting on everyone having forgotten by the time they were old enough to see the movie.