Sunday, November 12, 2017

Please, writers, do some research

It's pretty much a given that any time I watch a television program I'm going to start muttering about how lazy, uniformed, or stupid the writers are. I watch the shows anyway because I figure all fiction is allowed some creative license, but some series are a lot worse than others.

For example, as a former federal employee, I find myself doing a lot of willing suspension of disbelief while watching shows like "NCIS" and "Criminal Minds." It's pretty clear no one on the writing teams for those particular police procedurals has any clue just how federal employment works. If you're wondering, my favorite rant tends to be about federal mandatory retirement ages for active law enforcement -- there is a nifty catch-22 in federal hiring rules for commissioned law enforcement that basically guarantees you're not going to see anyone past the age of 57 running around out in the field with a gun (LeRoy Jethro Gibbs should have either retired into being a fulltime basement boat builder or lateralled into a purely desk job long ago) -- but I could go on at length about other howlers in the shows. Ever notice what weird hours the NCIS team works? Has any one of them ever put in a normal 8 hour day, bitched about having to take comp time instead of getting paid overtime because of their grade level, or whined about "use it or lose it" in a holiday episode?  I also love the streamlined hiring process -- someone shows up on a temporary detail, Gibbs decides  he likes that person and, voila, instant hire. No posting the job, no hiring review panel sifting through applications and doing interviews, just instant employment.

It was not "NCIS" that got me to ranting last night, though. It was "Longmire." Holy wah. I can semi-understand the writers having a piss poor minimal understanding of treaty rights and how it relates to law enforcement (e.g., what local and state law enforcement can and cannot do on a federally recognized reservation) because that area can be a mess (some tribes, states, and local governments are really good about cooperating and doing cross deputization; others are not) but it would have been nice if they'd done a little research into the provisions of the Indian Gaming Act before they decided to make an Indian casino a key element in the show. A little time spent looking into typical tribal politics would have been useful, too, because they could have come up with far more colorful plotlines than just portraying the casino manager as some sort of autocrat with not a whole lot of oversight, either from a tribal council or from the National Indian Gaming Commission.

Then again, maybe after talking with a few of the Native cast members (and "Longmire" does seem to have a decent percentage of actual Indians playing Indians) they decided tribal politics are too Byzantine to be believable.

I'm not even going to get into how bizarre it is that way too many of the Cheyenne characters in the show seem to have been stuck with names out of a Dickens novel: Malachi, Mathias, etc. I don't know if that's a scriptwriter's quirk or a problem that Craig Johnson (the author of the Longmire novels had; I've only read one Longmire novel to date), but I have a hard time picturing any parent, Cheyenne or otherwise, thinking Malachi would be a good name for a child born in the mid-20th century. . . unless, of course, that parent is a member of some weird fundamentalist cult and thinks the Old Testament is a good place to go trawling for baby names. Although I have to admit that Malachi fits Graham Greene's character better than a more typical mid-century name like Jerry or Rick would have. As names go, Malachi comes close to being the male version of Maleficent. But I digress.

Last night's WTF moment in "Longmire" came when Walt Longmire and his deputy went to talk to a school teacher about one of her students. The 10 year old had some significant problems. Her father was dead, an apparent homicide victim, and her mother was so wasted on pain pills she could barely talk. It was obvious there was stuff going on in the kid's life that she wasn't talking about. We the viewers got treated to several minutes of dialogue in which the teacher does a fair amount of tap dancing and dithering about confidentiality and worrying about what would happen if other parents found out she'd said anything about a student's home life.

I repeat, WTF? Obviously, the writers for "Longmire" have never heard of "duty to report" laws. Every state has them. In some states any professional whose job involves working with children is considered a mandatory reporter. That is, if a teacher suspects a child is being abused or neglected, that teacher must report it. Wyoming doesn't specify teachers -- they turn every adult in the state into a reporter. If you're an adult in Wyoming, the supposed location of the Longmire series, and you think something hinky is going on in the life a child, you are required by law to contact law enforcement or Child Protective Services. I found this out through the magic of Google, a technological marvel that most scriptwriters are apparently unaware exists. (I already knew about duty to report laws; I just didn't know the specifics for Wyoming.) In short, when the county sheriff showed up asking if the kid had any problems at home, the teacher should not have hesitated, or, if she did, it should have been a different sort of CYA dance.

It occurs to me that minor annoyances like that are possibly the reason we don't binge watch anything. If we did, the cumulative bloopers would have me vowing to never watch another episode of The Walking Dead/Longmire/Bosch/whatever long before we got to the end of the series. As it is, we move through the Netflix queue and what's on Amazon Prime at the proverbial snail's pace. By the time "Longmire" comes around again I'll have forgotten how annoyed I got at it this time.

The S.O. also has some pet peeves that come up while watching television or movies, but his usually involve aircraft, like if we're watching something that's supposedly a flashback to the Vietnam war and he spots wire-strike protection on the helicopters.

5 comments:

  1. I started watching "Outlander," and even though it was a fantasy, it was just so outrageous I couldn't even stand it. You know who gets it right? David Simon. "The Wire" is really good, and his new one, "the Duce" is also good though stomach-wrenching.

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    1. I actually like "Outlander," probably because it is pure fantasy. I'm not too thrilled with the way the show treats the stones as though they're a cosmic bus stop -- just show up and hop on an express to a different century -- and I think the 18th century looks much too clean, but most of my quibbles with it overall are minor. The eye candy helps.

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  2. I feel your frustration when people write about subject areas you are familiar with.
    Most of John LeCarre's novels are set in Europe and if there are lapses in accuracy, I don't know enough to spot them. But in The Constant Gardener, part of the action takes place in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Yeah. He transposes European distances, conditions and culture. The results are hilarious.
    Same with western novels. Louis L'Amour is supposed to have intimate first hand knowledge of every hill and water hole he writes about. Could be as I am not familiar with the geography of the western USA. BUT one of his books features a cattle drive up the Mississippi River and across Western Canada to a BC mining camp. You can find the names on a map but certainly not where and how one would drive cattle. A ludicrous plot to start with and it only got worse.

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  3. who cares about facts on outlander? have you seen his ass?

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    1. Exactly.

      BTW, I love the way they aged the actors 20 years by giving Claire a streak of gray hair and making Jamie wear glasses for reading. Other than that, no one looks different.

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