As usual, the following is only my opinion. Maybe you feel like throwing rotten tomatoes at me after reading this post? Good! Write a comment. I like critique!
This post is about science in TV series. I know a lot about making science, and virtually nothing about making TV series. So please don't hate me for messing around with your favorite TV shows, as I don't know better ;-)
About a million years ago, I watched the X-Files and loved it. But that was also the first time I thought 'Man! They should get a scientist to show them how to do that stuff properly!' But I'm not writing about X-Files today, I'm writing about BBC's Sherlock and CSI Las Vegas. Let's start with the latter. You have to forgive me, I only made it to the end of season 6, I just couldn't take it any more.
CSI Las Vegas: To me, this is a prime example of how science shouldn't be used in films. The show's focus is so much on these technicalities. It looks cool if you watch one episode, maybe even two, but after a whole season you may ask 'Why do almost all suspects leave semen on a crime scene?' All I can remember from CSI is the machines, the pipettes, the things-that-go-beep and for the heck of it I couldn't tell you about motives, about the characters, about the story behind it. Sorry, that's all I can say about CSI after watching A LOT of episodes. If it wouldn't have been for educational purposes, I would have stopped after season 1. The latest.
BBC's Sherlock. What brilliant entertainment! These dialogues! And Sherlock's monologues! Very funny laughing-my-head-off scenes in almost every episode. Someone please let me into Steven Moffat's brain?
The two main characters are excellently casted, each episode has such a quick pace that one could get worried about people with a pacemaker (But maybe they have a little knobby to turn heart rate higher if needed?). Great attention has been payed to Conan Doyle's work and the way it has been adapted to modern times is ingenious.
There are two things I like most about Moffat's/Gattis' Sherlock series:
1.) The new Watson is more observant than Conan Doyle's (who is as blind as a mole if you ask me). Reading the Conan Doyle's short stories gave me the impression that Sherlock only seems brilliant because Watson is so stupid.
2.) Sherlock got a much more interesting character. The 'old' Sherlock is a gentleman who lives in a unobservant world, with very defined roles for men (educated, earns money, has resposibility) and women (at home, cooks, gives birth, raises children). No wonder he's not married. He sees more than anyone else, and thats what sets him apart from the rest of humanity.
The new Sherlock is razor sharp (as the old Sherlock), but rather ignorant of people's feelings and needs (except when a crime needs to be solved). I say ignorant, as I think that he observes, but puts it aside as insignificant information. He is "The Freak" who calls himself a highly functioning sociopath (whatever that is). Much like the 'old Sherlock' he filters unwanted information out (solar system crap) and I can very much sympathize with that. Both Sherlocks are like colleagues to me, nerdy scientists that live in a world full of non-scientists (how can normal people survive like that?). You see, I love that series.
But, I must complain a little bit, and I hope Sherlock fans can forgive me. Sherlock Holmes is the World's best (and only) consulting detective. His unmatched intelligence and analytical skills are formidably shown in the series. But the science in BBC's Sherlock is rather dull (forgive me for beeing so blunt). Sherlock identifies chemical compounds (that look very much like swimming bacteria) using a high-school microscope. The lab equippment is OK, he works in a lab that could even be functional, some colourful liquids have been added, but nothing looks very interesting (to me at least).
But there are endless possibilities to make science in films look believable, beautiful, smart, and captivating. And it doesn't have to look like CSI! How much cooler could Sherlock be if he would work with lab equippment as he works with everything else: Super accurate and with lightning speed. Or if he actually had the equippment to identify chemical compounds with. The 'old Sherlock' did a lot of these funny experiments that went "caboom" and there would be a lot of modern-times-equivalents for the old-times caboom.
Anyways, I shouldn't babble too much. Just tell BBC and Hartswood films to think about getting a science advisor for season 3. If not, I will still watch it and still very much enjoy it, just like nine million other people.
PS (science nerds, get your rotten tomatoes ready now): Science in TV shows doesn't need to be correct (impact of first tomato), if you are showing fiction, but it should be entertaining! But that's exactly where a scientist can come in. Not to correct, but to stimulate your brain cells with crazy ideas!
OK, will go wash that stinky ketchup off my face now.