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TV that Makes Me Angry

My new pet hate? "Medical Investigation", thursdays at 9.30. I wanted to like it, but it makes me full of rage. I am a rage bunny.

Take CSI (the bad parts) and mash it into ER (also the bad parts).

I find it insulting on an intellectual and a professional level. I mean, they took a swab, fed it into a computer, and then all these pictures of bacteria started flashing across the screen. A mix of EM images and Gram Stains. What the holy crap is up with that.

They actually used the line, "Now you're thinking like an epidemiologist".

And they have been mispronounciing bacterial species names.

Soon there are going to be legions of teenagers who think they know what it means to be a microbiologist/epidemiologist just because they've watched a TV show. Mark my words, this show is going to do to my field was Agent Dana Scully did to forensic science.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 10th, 2005 11:04 am (UTC)
Step away from the commercial TV. The safe period after 10.30 isn't quite here yet
Feb. 10th, 2005 11:36 am (UTC)
Those shows have been doing lab work poorly as long as they have been in existence. If as much cross-contamination went on in a real police investigation as does on that show, it's a wonder anybody ever goes to jail.
Feb. 10th, 2005 02:36 pm (UTC)
And they have been mispronounciing bacterial species names.

I'll admit my bacterial species nonclameture is rather poor but is it possible that Americans pronounce it differently? I mean there's so many other things they so that are weird (it took me years to figure out what "bangs" were in relation to a girl's head).

Then again it could be just crap TV for the masses. I'm sure people who work in hospitals cringe at some of the bits of All Saints.
Feb. 10th, 2005 08:54 pm (UTC)
Even with accents aside, their pronounciation was poor. I myself am with accent, and I've met many scientists from around the world from a variety of countries.

I think what bothered me the most, though, was that after they uncovered their pathogenic bug of the week they were calling it by its full latin name. Everybody in the field is lazy when it comes to communication, and will always shorten it to the standard genus initial species name format - ie, E. coli. Or, if it's a bug with a long name, they'll even shorten the species designation - people often use P. ging in my lab rather than P. gingivalis.

I know, it's pedantic of me, but it is a field full ofm pedants.
Feb. 10th, 2005 08:37 pm (UTC)
Elindal and I went to a workshop a few years back at the Corners Court on forensic medicine, they spoke in passing about CSI and how for story arc and plot reasons they have to compress timeframes and roles into a smaller 'space' so that the story will fit to the 40 minute format and that the audience will be able to follow whats going on. In reality, most of the tests they do would take weeks if not months (backlog and/or test duration) and dozens of specialists would be involved - not just a handful of expert-at-everything people.

Ulitmately it's fiction. I still get pissed whenever I hear the noise of an inkjet or dotmatrix being used to indicate a page being printed when it's a laser engine which is virtually silent.
Feb. 10th, 2005 08:57 pm (UTC)
Ugh, it bothers me deeply when they do things like a full DNA analysis in two hours or what ever.

But what gets to me even more is that in CSI all the scientists work in dark rooms lit dramatically with a single light-bulb. In what universe do scientists actually work in those conditions?! I mean, really, I like working with natural light, but everybody else in the department with automatically turn all of the bright lights on in a room even if they are just walking into the lab to wash their hands.
Feb. 10th, 2005 11:41 pm (UTC)
As a scientist I had to stop caring, or else I never enjoyed anything I watched on TV. It was just too easy to pick holes.

I don't worry about the pronounciation (or indeed spelling). Many American scientists have trouble with "amine", "amide", "aluminium", "ephedrine" or even the last letter of the alphabet :)

Occasionally I'll gripe about something. My latest gripe when watching one of these shows (which arienmir can't seem to live without) was one founded of both knowledge and ignorance simultaneously.

Watching some forensic expert working with some irreplacable sample or other; I saw them sit in a lab alone, think for a while, take the whole thing and do a destructive test on it.

Now, I don't know what they do in real life, but since a murder investigation hinges on it I would think there would be lab notebooks being filled-out, SOPs looked-up, another expert signing-off on the work, some of the sample being retained for further testing etc. In short I'd expect some kind of operations standards similar to GLP/GMP.

But it passed :)

I try to laugh now, instead of cry. A few nights ago watching NCIS, I chuckled as the Goth Geek Gamer Grrl (GGGG) character pointed to the peaks on an MS and claimed each peak to be a different compound, and identified them by their peak mass alone. Apparently either the output of a GCMS isn't sexy enough, or wouldn't allow enough "sublime knowledge" to issue from the GGGG.

Luckily my chosen field is obscure enough, and unexciting enough to avoid dramatisation...although you shouldn't get me started on the molecular modelling at the beginning of "Hollow Man", or the modelling of DNA in "Jurassic Park".

Speaking of DNA, two of the biggest laughs I ever got out of pseudoscience:
"Mission To Mars" where a screen is showing an inaccurate computer rendering of about 12 basepairs of DNA found on the surface of the planet. One of the characters proclaims "That's human DNA!". From 12 base-pairs? Impressive.
"Species" where some scientist proclaims that the monster is very dangerous because "...it only shares 66% of our DNA!". And a Cauliflower only shares 38%...your point?

I agree about the lights though. At least they've progressed past erlenmeyers of funny-coloured liquids with chips of solid CO2 in the bottom to make them bubble :)

Sorry about the long post.

Feb. 11th, 2005 01:32 am (UTC)
Actually the truly annoying part is that all it would take is one half-way decent scientific consultant on-set.
Feb. 11th, 2005 07:02 am (UTC)
Actually, as much as I hate to admit it the Americans are alright as far as their pronounciation of 'aluminum' goes. It was actually first named 'aluminum' but when the English got to it they changed it to 'aluminium' because all of the other metals in the same group ended with 'ium'.

At least, that's what Bill Bryson tells me.
Feb. 11th, 2005 11:50 pm (UTC)
heh - my tongue was firmly in my cheek there buddy. You should have heard the crap I copped for my accent while I was living in St Louis.

The story I heard in the US was that when aluminium siding first became available there, an advert was put up in Times Square that misspelled it to aluminum and because that was the first exposure of the public to the material itself (aside from specialists like scientists and engineers) it kind of stuck.

When I was working tech support in the states I have honestly had someone ask me "Whats a zed?"
I laugh because it was *my* fault...when in Rome as they say.

I also have a friend who made a faux-pas at a job interview. It was Quebec, and he said Z-DNA as "Zee-Dee-Enn-Ayy" and the interviewer said "We use zed this side of the border" to which my friend replied "Oh - that doesn't sound very french!"

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )