The first rule of television and film drama.

The first rule for drama programmes on television and films is this:

Everything that you see in a television or film drama is wrong. Everything.

Simply put: It's fiction, you should not expect truth.

To expand: Dramatic licence is taken with everything in television and film drama. People often spot errors in fields with which they are familiar. For examples:

But this principle applies everywhere to all fields. Dumb errors and complete misrepresentations of reality are done for everything in film and television drama, not just for technology but for everything, from law and history to medicine and botany.

Cynics say that if television scriptwriters understoood this stuff, they wouldn't need to be television scriptwriters. A more charitable view is that telling a story means adjusting a lot of what actually happens in reality. It's not just the names and dialogue that get "altered for dramatic purposes", as the disclaimers on the inspired-by-real-events stories all say. Vast amounts of reality are altered for dramatic purposes, from how long it takes the characters to get from police station to crime scene to how most humans have to go to the toilet from time to time.

The big problem is where the consensus reality of scriptwriting diverges unckecked as the real universe changes, and television and film drama starts to look as silly and unrealistic as plays from centuries ago.

For example: It sort of used to be the case that tracing a call involved physically looking at the settings on the clockwork Strowger mechanisms, but this hasn't been true since the 1960s at the latest, when electronic systems replaced mechanical ones. Scriptwriters have stuck with the "Keep them on the call!" dialogue for almost two thirds of a century past it being anywhere near true, and even over that time refined it with further nonsense about "30 seconds" being some magic number; where the real universe has diverged from this ever more greatly over the decades, to the point that the gap between scriptwriter consensus reality and actual reality is now huge. People know about caller-ID, caller-ID blocking, the fact that one can call the 'phone company to report calls after the fact, that the police can request information not available to the general public, and that there are call metadata famously analysed by governments; and obviously the 'phone company has to keep records for such a reporting system and the police access and the government analyses to work. But the scriptwriter universe has so diverged from this that "They hung up! We've lost them!" doesn't fit with this at all, nowadays.

© Copyright 2023 Jonathan de Boyne Pollard. "Moral" rights asserted.
Permission is hereby granted to copy and to distribute this web page in its original, unmodified form as long as its last modification datestamp is preserved.