It’s 2015 and Computers are Still Magical

March 5, 2015


You guys are artists, I get that. You write emotional dialogue, design gorgeous sets and costumes and you put it all together in such a away where we can’t can’t stop watching your shows and films for even a day. But you guys, both writers and artists do not understand computers. Or the internet. Which is pretty weird because, unless typewriters are back in vogue, you all have to use them to type out your scripts? So why do you all suck so much when it comes to writing about computers?

We're in what?

We’re in what?

This isn’t the late 80’s or 90’s when personal computing was still a new enough thing to the TV-watching public that you can just throw a ‘mainframe’, a ‘white hat’ or a ‘source code’ in there to make it sound jargony enough. This is 2015 and not only does everyone have an internet-capable computer sitting on their desk, they more than likely have one in their pocket too, or even connected right to their TV. And although most people still don’t know much about the how and why these devices do what they do, writers still can’t get away with the same kind of shit they could in the 80’s.

This is actually a review for CSI: Cyber’s pilot episode (which aired not two hours before I began writing this post) and I feel the long introduction is kind of necessary because an 80’s movie was exactly what I felt like I was watching, but not in the fun “Back to the Future” kind of way.

All in all, the pilot episode had a kind of reasonable plot; babies being kidnapped from their homes after being auctioned off via hacked nannycams. Okay, it wasn’t that reasonable but people are buying and selling unsavory things over the darknet all the time and, although it’s mostly just illegal drugs and child pornography in reality, a human trafficking ring isn’t entirely too absurd for fiction. But that was more or less the most reasonable thing about the episode. The cybercrimes guys only even get this case to begin with solely because of the presence of the nannycam/baby monitor in the room that the baby was taken from, which is a pretty poor standard to judge something a cybercrime by.

Jargon was used and abused, a lot and the term “source code” was thrown out at least three times when it really shouldn’t have. There was one character who was very obviously supposed to be into video games but his dialogue was so shaky and awkward when it came to talking about them that it makes you wonder if the writers and actor knew what a video game was. There’s a really bad habit in media like this of overusing jargon and slang, to the point where all dialogue sounds like an incredibly forced attempt to say “we know what we’re talking about guys, really!”.

The show’s biggest flaw comes from its abuse of fantastical technology. The show’s main premise seems to be that of the new breed of crime that we’re seeing more and more of each year in the real world. Let’s face it, cybercrime is a real thing, it’s growing and it’s dangerous. However, writing a story about a very real and threatening phenomenon is immediately undermined when one character conducts an autopsy via goddamn hologram and another magically translates an audio recording directly into English, with the original speakers’ voices reciting what they had been saying before, but in accented English. I know the original CSI shows weren’t really trying when it came to forensic science, but it now feels like they’ve lost all pretense of trying to fall within the bounds of belief. There was also some weird thing about the cyber police ordering a DNA test (without a warrant!) and getting the results back within the day. Come to think of it, this show might have taken place in the future. But, like, the shitty future.

Whomever designed the visual assets for the show’s computer screens seemed like they had not seen a browser window or webpage since 1999 but were told to make things “look more modern”. A bunch of weird psudocode flashed around on the screen a bunch in order to demonstrate exactly how computers do not work, I guess. At one point someone found some openly available pictures on this universe’s Facebook knockoff* and another character might have described this as ‘hacking’. I’m not sure though, as this was about the time when the aneurysm was really starting to kick in.

You know what show understood computers to a reasonable extent? Halt and Catch Fire. Go watch Halt and Catch Fire. 

On the actual TV show stuff:

  • The acting was bad. Really bad. Whatserface needs her recent Oscar revoked immediately.
  • The cast were Stereotypes: The TV Show. We had Neckbeard Computer Guy, Spunky Asian Girl with Colourful Highlights, Former Criminal Black Guy, and White Lady, whose character is so boring I can literally think of nothing to say about her other than her sex and race.

There, now I’m done with the TV show stuff.

CSI: Cyber cyber-sucked.

But I’m going to tune in again next week anyway, because I don’t value my time and enjoy slowing down when I pass by car wrecks. If the show is even on next week.

Is this how doctors feel when they watch House?