Questions for ‘Keeping TV science honest’


Temperance Brennan (played by Emily Deschanel) and Camille Saroyan (played by Tamara Taylor) hunt for evidence at a crime scene on Bones. A science advisor helps them learn to pronounce the terms the script has them say — and even suggests aspects of the drama.

Patrick McElhenney/FOX


Before reading:

  1. How accurate do you think the science and medicine are on television?
  2. How much of the action — surgeries, chemistry experiments, laser use — is real or just done with special effects?

During reading:

  1. Give an example of an anecdote that Donna Cline offered the script writers that later showed up in the show.
  2. What kind of homework resources does Cline use in her consulting work for the Bones?
  3. What kind of college degree does Cline have that makes her a good resource for the show?
  4. Name two food items that sometimes stand in for real bugs on the show.
  5. What kind of “extras” on the show participate in some surgical scenes on Chicago Med?
  6. Describe at least three examples of how they “fake” medical procedures on the show in the name of cast safety.
  7. What is David Saltzberg’s training that makes him qualified to consult on The Big Bang Theory?
  8. What type of scientist does Mayim Bialik play on the show and why does she not need help from Saltzberg on that role?
  9. What are two examples given in the story that show how this show is not all that realistic in its portrayal of science?
  10. Explain why the line in a Bones script about a fractured cerebellum constituted a blooper.

After reading:

  1. Identify your favorite (nonreality) show on television and what kind of scientists or engineers might be needed to make sure the dialogue and story line are accurate. What kind of research or academic training would they need to do a good job in advising the script writers and cast?
  2. Watch a TV show that involves science, medicine or technology to some extent and catalog the instances where an advisor should have been on hand to show or tell the cast and crew how to keep the vocabulary and actions true to life?