Sunday, May 6, 2012

TV Say What????

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.

In the first place, they easily could have made this a 5 parter, spread over different CBS shows. The reason I'm particularly interested in the subject is primarily because I just finished a book called "The Demon in the Freezer," which deals with the eradication of naturally occurring Smallpox, as well as what's been done with the remaining stock, and what nations could do with it as a bioterror weapon. It's fascinating, and incredibly scary stuff. The book goes into great detail, and that's why I was so disappointed these shows downplayed the seriousness of it all.

We start with "Hawaii Five-O." A person in Hawaii dies of what appears to be smallpox. We're basically given a one-line explanation of why it isn't "too dangerous," and how it spreads. WHAT??!? In the first place, the officers who found the body of the victim would have been put under quarantine with armed guards. None of that happened. Secondly, how they handled this threat of manufactured Smallpox was all wrong. Officers track down the lab where patients were tested, then killed. They go in without masks, or protection of any kind. That's one of the most foolish things I've ever seen. They're all searching for a killer, they find the lab, with people inside who all were exposed to Smallpox, yet they're not even wearing masks.
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.

There's an LA connection (where the show tie-in comes into play), and at the end of the ep., we learn that the virus is on board a plane bound for the city of angels. Detectives rush into action, and go to LA. (Here's where that NCIS ep. begins) But they fear a public panic (natch), so they don't bother contacting the CDC. Of course not, when a 5 person team can handle a potential pandemic. Preposterous.
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.

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