Left Brain and Right Brain Battle Royale: TV Killjoys

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Once upon a time in another life I was a hard core science geek. Hard core as in I majored in biochemistry as an undergraduate, completed pre-med requirements, and was on my way to medical school before I put the brakes on the whole deal to follow a more insistent calling: film and television. I’m still plugging away at carving out my career in entertainment but my medical science brain never completely left me, which made (and still does on occasion) for quite a pickle whenever I viewed any movie or television show that was science or medicine based. Even keeping in mind the creative writing explanation of ‘dramatic license’, sometimes a movie or show would push things so far — even with a medical consultant supposedly on staff —  that I would often ask myself ‘Are they even trying? Or is it they just don’t care?’

I gave up on CSI because all I could see was how all the characters would contaminate their samples with poor pipetting technique. Adding insult to injury, this ‘crime’ is drawn out in what I like to call ‘pipetting/insert the lab process of your choice’ music videos where viewers get loving close-ups of the pipette tip (or centrifuge or whichever machine was to be featured) intercut with the determined, focused face of whichever lead was in the lab. Seriously? That’s entertainment?  Not even lab researchers find pipetting anything to write home about.

ER reruns would make my eye twitch with how the doctors would perform the most drastic (read: most visually captivating for the viewing audience) action on a poor patient that in the real world would kill them deader than dead, all because it reads better onscreen.  House I could give a slight pass to on this because he was supposed to be extreme and do stupid things and sometimes House jumping the gun in his diagnostic technique was part of the story.

Suffice it to say that, when talking to friends about television shows, discussing medical shows was off limits.  As was anything to do with depictions of the South: specifically my hometown of Memphis which had been briefly been a hot spot for locations with the CW’s Hellcats and TNT’s Memphis Beat. No one wanted to hear my rantings on what was wrong, how it could’ve been fixed, or how the patient would’ve been dead had this actually happened in real life. They liked not getting caught up in the details and didn’t need or want a “TV Killjoy” ruining their shows. Which as a lover of the craft of storytelling, I could appreciate.  I LOVE ‘mothership’ Law and Order, but try watching reruns of it with a lawyer or law student. You’re ready to commit a murder yourself to keep them from interjecting their sneering commentary into a scene and interrupting Jack McCoy steamrolling a witness on the stand. I do not care if Jack McCoy would never be allowed to go on that long in court. l like hearing Sam Waterson get his indignant oratory on.

But being or knowing a TV Killjoy can also be a good thing.  Way back in high school my physics teacher would start each class on Monday by asking ‘Name three things wrong with last weekend’s episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation’ and encourage nitpicking to the nth degree for the sake of learning.  Breaking Bad has helped me keep afresh of my basic chemistry knowledge, testing me on what I know and remember and providing fun talks with my fellow television watching college science geeks.

Currently I’m into historical dramas; Starz’s Spartacus, History’s Vikings, and FX’s The Americans.  And while I don’t know any former gladiators or vikings (though that would be cool except for all the raping and pillaging) I do just so happen to have a friend who emigrated from Russia as a child to live in the states and would roughly have been the same age as The Americans show leads Elizabeth and Phillip Jennings (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys). And boy howdy does she have an opinion on just how wrong it all is. Forget accent and speech issues (although she says those are wrong, too), according to this friend the psychological mindset of these Russian spies is just all wrong –even Keri Russell’s loyalist is too ‘American’ in her thinking. The hairstyles depicted for 60s/70s Russia are wrong. ‘Where are the braids?!’ she laments; and so on and so on. While her criticisms can border on the tedious, rather than tune her out completely, I do let her have her say. A lot of her nits lead to learning something highly interesting and informative that I never would’ve known. Only when she begins scraping the bottom of the barrel and snarks on Keri Russell’s anachronistic low riding jeans and lack of big 80s American hair do I tell her to take a breather from her lecture and to let me enjoy the waifish Felicity Keri Russell kick a man’s head through a wall for Mother Russia.

What’s your favorite television show set in the 1980s?

Everybody Hates Chris

The Americans

The Carrie Diaries

Freaks and Geeks

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