In a new segment called TV Say What, I go after ridiculous writing on the small screen. Before I begin my rant, I should point out that about 80% of TV show scripts are already rotten, but I'm specifically going after those that should know better.
This past week, CBS aired a special two-parter tie-in for two of their popular shows, "Hawaii Five-O," and "NCIS: Los Angeles." In a nutshell, it all had to do with a rogue scientist who wanted to stage a smallpox attack. Now, I don't normally watch "NCIS: LA," but I am a fan of "Hawaii Five-O," now in its sophomore season. It does a pretty good job, and is dependable week in and week out. But since this was a two-part ep., I set the ol' DVR to record the NCIS ep. as well.
Eventually, the CDC arrives, and wear their protective "space suits" as they handle dangerous material. One of the regular cast members asks the coroner if he should be wearing a mask. When the coroner says something to the effect of "Definitely," the detective, Danny Williams, known for his quips, and sense of humor even in the most dangerous of situations, says, "Yeah, ok," before he and another cast mate walk away from the scene (without masks), while the CDC team works in the background dressed from head to toe in protective gear. I guess it's more important to look and sound cool than to worry about some silly bacteria spoiling the fun.
This is one of the worst examples of "dumbing down" a very real threat to this country I've ever seen. Those 2 men would have been thoroughly examined before they ever left that crime scene, and most likely taken to a remote lab for more medical tests. That doesn't happen.
Once again, we're given the usual one line explanation of how Smallpox spreads, and apparently why we shouldn't be afraid of something more dangerous than a nuclear bomb. 2 computer geeks do set up a "pandemic scenario," to show us how it could spread. That's about as close to science as we get here.
All the while, police joke, and detectives never fall short of witty banter as they work to track down the potential killer.
Of course, they eventually track down the villain, a woman who wanted to tip the earth's balance by getting school kids around the world to spread the disease in their respective countries. But, alas, we never learn *exactly* how that would have been done, only that she ordered "special shirts," to be put in the kids' gift bags at an LA conference. That isn't just bad writing, that's skipping a major plot point that could have gone something like this:
"So you mean these shirts were made to deliver the Smallpox? But how?"
"See this part of the shirt? She's put the virus here, and this thread will dissolve after 48 hours, leaving the virus to go airborne."
"We've got to stop her."
You get the gist. Now, even if the science is flawed in the above dialogue, at least it gives the audience something they can understand. By the way CBS, if you're reading this, I made that up in about 15 seconds.
The point I'm trying to make with all of this is that the audience deserves so much more than watered down science. I don't mean to imply they should write a show only a doctor or scientist could understand, just give us more accurate portrayals of characters in deadly situations. The TV audience will be better served (and might even learn something!) and who knows, the writers could even wind up winning an award or two.