Shows Like House, CSI, Numb3rs, The Mentalist etc. And Public Perception Of Science

  • #1
It seems like a growing trend for shows now to focus on characters who are critical thinkers and atheists (as opposed to, for example, in the 90's, when it was cool for characters to be psychics, or angels, ... or some other sort of paranormal type thing).

So just wondering what everyone here thinks about this trend. Not necessarily about the quality of the shows themselves, which I must confess I enjoy for pure entertainment value... especially House; the plot's getting thick this season!

PROS:
- public awareness of science, and that it's actually useful, and not just a bunch of evil nerds sitting around a table trying to destroy Jesus.
- makes science topics "fun" for the general public. possibly piques the interest of people into further reading (for example, the Numb3rs website has a different mathematical puzzle every week, usually somehow related to the plot of the show, provided by Wolfram Research).
- makes critical thinking "cool." (what's cooler than House constantly proving everyone else an "idiot" via his super-duper deductive reasoning abilities).

CONS:
- sometimes turns science into magic. (I mean, clearly it's just a show so we shouldn't expect complete realism. but when the guy on Numb3rs, by some magical "algorithm", guesses everything about the murderer down to when was the last time his grandma kissed him goodnight and what color lipstick she was wearing... I mean, it's stretching it a bit far).


Do you think it's just a trend, or would you say it shows that people are actually becoming more interested in this sort of thing. I mean, production companies only greenlight projects for which there is a high demand.

I personally hope that it's a sign that the public is accepting critical thinking and skepticism more and more. ... I mean, they've actually elected a president who admitted that "non-believers" are Americans too! in his inaugural speech! :eek:
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
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Yeah, my favorite "science magic" is the ubiquitous scroll through low-resolution security footage and then stop and "enhance that" into a HD-quality portrait.
 
  • #3
Monique
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CSI has lead to an increase in applications for studies that allow you to work in forensic sciences. Of course their view on the job is highly romanticized, most will quit once they find out the real scope of the work.

I do think it is good to change the geeky status of science. About 10 years ago I gave a tour for parents of prospective students that were interested in studying medical biology. I explained and showed them the process of genetic fingerprinting, it's a very satisfying job to educate the public and get them interested in the science behind the everyday life.

I always was a big fan of the X-files, where Mulder had his mind on the paranormal and Scully on the science.
 
  • #4
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X-Files is by far my favorite show to have ever been produced.

I'm in a forensic science class and while its not quite the same as CSI shows, its pretty similar. While its only a highschool class we've gotten fairly in depth doing things such as DNA fingerprinting and most recently blood spatter (like using the measurments of a sample to determine the angle of impact, point of origin, etc)
 
  • #5
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I think it's a great thing! I've always liked math and science but it's nice in a way to have popular, smart fictional characters to identify with instead junk like the characters on 'Desperate House' or 'The O.C.' or degrading shows like 'Big Bang Theory'. I couldn't give a hoot less what the public thinks about my discipline so my motivation for liking these sort of shows is strictly personal :)
 
  • #6
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I think these shows generally suck, and they don't really convey any real science, or the scientific process.

Shows like CSI, House, and numbers don't convey any realistic views of science: worse they perpetuate a false understanding of basic science.

I honestly have not watched a regular show in years. I don't have time nor care for TV anymore. The only things I do watch on ocassion are Bizzare Foods, CNN, or a movie on TBS, or world series of poker.

...The few things worth watching on tv anymore.

Real trends on tv would be programs like: NOVA and other PBS like quality programs.

The problem with the public perception of science is cultural ignorance. John Q. Public is stupid. But the problem isn't that they are stupid, but that they relish the fact that they are stupid. Oh, im not good at math! -at if it's something to be proud of.

At one point in time (The 60's), being educated was highly valued. And if you didn't go to college, you still learned the basic fundamentals of science so you had a conceptual understanding.

Now-a-days you don't have to learn anything about science. But it's ok, all the kids in India and China do learn about science, and they are going to take all our jobs and were going to go down as a super power as a result.

But hey, I'm not good at math!
 
  • #7
Ivan Seeking
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I honestly have not watched a regular show in years. I don't have time nor care for TV anymore. The only things I do watch on ocassion are Bizzare Foods, CNN, or a movie on TBS, or world series of poker.
Ahem, Charlie is going to get his feelings hurt. You mention the world series of poker before him?!?!? :surprised
 
  • #8
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Ahem, Charlie is going to get his feelings hurt. You mention the world series of poker before him?!?!? :surprised
I watch Rose online now. Plus, WSOP (poker) is on the weekends. Charlie is M-F :biggrin:

But seriously, tv sucks big time.
 
  • #9
Ivan Seeking
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I watch Rose online now.
True for me for many programs as well.

It is hard to beat PBS for quality science and political programs. And best of all, most can be watched online.

Back in the bad old days, before I returned to college, I used to rush home from work to watch The Mechanical Universe every afternoon.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7292513217416289653
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7292513217416289653 [Broken]
 
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  • #10
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True for me for many programs as well.

It is hard to beat PBS for quality science and political programs. And best of all, most can be watched online.

Back in the bad old days, before I returned to college, I used to rush home from work to watch The Mechanical Universe every afternoon.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7292513217416289653
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7292513217416289653 [Broken]
Ah yes! They replay this on one of the local tv channels!
 
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  • #11
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Apparently House is fairly accurate, most Dr's are colossal egos, so I was told by a cardiologist anyway. :smile:

No one in their right mind is going to become a Dr after watching House. Although some people might be masochistic enough to give it a go. No it's not real to any degree, but it can be that competitive apparently.

I have to say I really like House, CSI I can take or leave, but it's usually pretty good.
 
  • #12
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I hate Fringe and Numb3rs, but I watch them every week.
It could be argued that I'm a masochist.
 
  • #13


I think these shows generally suck, and they don't really convey any real science, or the scientific process.

Shows like CSI, House, and numbers don't convey any realistic views of science ...
lol well I certainly didn't mean that I expect anyone to learn something from them. the purpose of a fictional TV show isn't to teach science... but rather that they present a familiar face of the scientific community, or of being educated and "clever" in general... to many people, the notion of a scientist is very alien. If they turn on their TV every week and see a mathematician they can relate to, I don't see the harm in that.

But the problem isn't that they are stupid, but that they relish the fact that they are stupid. Oh, im not good at math! -at if it's something to be proud of.
Yea, I've noticed that too.
Then isn't it nice to have characters like House and the mentalist who make being educated look badass?
 
  • #14
baywax
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CSI has lead to an increase in applications for studies that allow you to work in forensic sciences. Of course their view on the job is highly romanticized, most will quit once they find out the real scope of the work.

I do think it is good to change the geeky status of science. About 10 years ago I gave a tour for parents of prospective students that were interested in studying medical biology. I explained and showed them the process of genetic fingerprinting, it's a very satisfying job to educate the public and get them interested in the science behind the everyday life.

I always was a big fan of the X-files, where Mulder had his mind on the paranormal and Scully on the science.
I have to say its hard to believe any police labs are as well equipped as those seen in CSI Miami or even CSI Las Vegas. And the talking to the dead body in the morgue helped me kick that habit of watching the otherwise engaging shows. The coroner's morgue in my home town bares no resemblance to the ones on CSI, and the forensic lab is equipped with instruments that range from the 1950s to the 80s. That may have changed... and the change may be due in part to the expectations of new recruits who have seen the CSI shows.

So, all in all I think the TV shows that raise expectations concerning the efficiency of police work are a good thing. Its sort of a backwards "leading by example". I do know that the Simon Fraser Univ. forensics program produced a guy that actually did come up with a triangulation method using maps, algorithms and scenes of the crime that lead to many arrests that would otherwise not have taken place.
 
  • #15
LowlyPion
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or would you say it shows that people are actually becoming more interested in this sort of thing. I mean, production companies only greenlight projects for which there is a high demand.
Maybe it's that people are more educated, and the threshold for the suspension of disbelief is greater as a growing number of people have greater expectations?

Certainly the shows wouldn't be made without demand from the marketplace.
 
  • #16
JasonRox
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I think people misinterpret what they like about the show. When I watch it, and listen to people, I noticed what they really like is the drama. It's a different kind of drama, and not like the ones we used to see relating only to relationships and such. Of course, it still has the same kind, but there are many varieties in these shows now. That's what makes them so addicting.

Anyways, I watch Lacrosse on weekends, comedy shows for little breaks, and movies on weekends where I want to relax (the free ones on TV, like TBS, CTV, and so on...)

I'm curious to know who on here watches these shows. Do you?
 
  • #17
Monique
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I have to say its hard to believe any police labs are as well equipped as those seen in CSI Miami or even CSI Las Vegas. And the talking to the dead body in the morgue helped me kick that habit of watching the otherwise engaging shows. The coroner's morgue in my home town bares no resemblance to the ones on CSI, and the forensic lab is equipped with instruments that range from the 1950s to the 80s. That may have changed... and the change may be due in part to the expectations of new recruits who have seen the CSI shows.
In the Netherlands we only have one forensic institute. I've never visited that place, but I image the work there is on the level of being a technician: you follow standard procedures and get the work done. Of course it can be a satisfying job to have, but the dynamics is nothing like the t.v. shows where one person gets to do the whole investigation. Since there is only one institutes, the number of jobs that are available are also very limited.

The only show I ever really watched was the X-files, I don't have the patience/attention to watch the other shows.
 
  • #18
baywax
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In the Netherlands we only have one forensic institute. I've never visited that place, but I image the work there is on the level of being a technician: you follow standard procedures and get the work done. Of course it can be a satisfying job to have, but the dynamics is nothing like the t.v. shows where one person gets to do the whole investigation. Since there is only one institutes, the number of jobs that are available are also very limited.

The only show I ever really watched was the X-files, I don't have the patience/attention to watch the other shows.
Hi Monique, Netherlands rock!

Well you liked the X-files... you should have seen the trouble that went into making them. They were made here in British Columbia mostly in Vancouver (named after a Netherlander who worked for the British Navy).

Lets just say the rain and the fog is, for the most part, real in those shows.

Do you remember the flashlights Scully and Mouldy were always hauling around? They were hooked up to car batteries to get that full-on effect... nothing else was bright enough.

David is a very nice man who, at the time, only had a puppy for a close friend. Then he made the comments about it being too rainy in Vancouver and I think the puppy turned on him!!
 
  • #19
Ivan Seeking
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I once saw an interview with Duchovny and Anderson. Turns out that she is a bit of a paranormal buff and Duchovny's not.

Best episode - the Christmas special with Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin. [quit looking at my hole!]

As for the OP, Moe, I think the current popularity of these shows is just a fad. But generally speaking, detective stories have always been popular. I don't know if they are any better than past shows, just up to date. Back in the day, shows like Quincy were very popular as well.
 
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  • #20
baywax
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I once saw an interview with Duchovny and Anderson. Turns out that she is a bit of a paranormal buff and Duchovny's not.

Best episode - the Christmas special with Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin. [quit looking at my hole!]

As for the OP, Moe, I think the current popularity of these shows is just a fad. But generally speaking, detective stories have always been popular. I don't know if they are any better than past shows, just up to date. Back in the day, shows like Quincy were very popular as well.
Come to think of it, Sherlock Holmes really brought the sleuth out in people. Noticing a hair out of place or a foot print on the ceiling... its really all about astute observation and deduction. And the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys had a similar following without all the gadgets.
 
  • #21
Monique
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Hi Monique, Netherlands rock!
:biggrin:
Lets just say the rain and the fog is, for the most part, real in those shows.

Do you remember the flashlights Scully and Mouldy were always hauling around? They were hooked up to car batteries to get that full-on effect... nothing else was bright enough.
That part of Canada is on my list of places to visit. I do remember the flashlight, I didn't know they had them hooked up to car batteries, that's crazy.
David is a very nice man who, at the time, only had a puppy for a close friend. Then he made the comments about it being too rainy in Vancouver and I think the puppy turned on him!!
I had a crush on Duchovny, of course he is a very nice man :tongue: I watched the pilot episode while staying at a hosting family in London (I was 15), after that I watched every single episode up 'till season 5 when I moved to the US where I didn't have a television. I still need to watch the last two seasons (but of course Mulder got replaced by the other agent, so it won't be as fun to watch).

Oops, now everyone knows I didn't watch the show for the science :rofl:
 
  • #22
baywax
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Oops, now everyone knows I didn't watch the show for the science :rofl:
That's ok... I watched to see if I could see my missing sneakers and to try and figure out what lip gloss Jillian was wearing. Very shiny... probably hooked up to car batteries.:wink:
 
  • #23
G01
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Science itself may not be represented well on TV, but my big problem is how scientists and physicists in particular are represented on TV. For instance, in "The Big Bang Theory," physicists are represented as comical caricatures and stereotyped geeks.

I think the BBT is a very funny show, but I don't think it does justice to the image of scientists in the public eye. Sure I can just see it now, all the little kids wanting to go into physics because they want to be like the dorks on the Big Bang Theory!:rolleyes:
 
  • #24
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I don't get The Big Bang theory, it's comedy so I don't care if it's stereotypical, I just don't think it's very funny.

This show does geek better, 2 different sorts of geek.

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=gt9j80Jkc_A
 
  • #25
Ivan Seeking
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Back in the 60s and early 70s, there was an entire genre of popular sci-fi movies that portrayed physicists as being very cool. It seems that most went to Cal-Tech. :biggrin:
 
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