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Cars & TV

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On: Tue, Oct 4, 2011 at 2:47PM | By: Peter C Sessler

Cars & TV

If you're into cars and actually even like them, then you already have an idea how TV and the movies usually portray cars—incorrectly and stupidly.  Generally, you'll find that the typical TV writer has little or no knowledge of cars but has probably heard of some automotive terms. So they think if they throw them around, they'll sound credible enough. That might be enough for someone who thinks of cars as merely appliances, but for anyone who knows a little more than that, the overall effect is to lose respect for the writer and the show's credibility ends up suffering.

For example, a guy rolls into town in a 1970s Charger and someone ask him, “Wow, what you got in that engine bay!” and he answers, “Hemi.” A true car guy car guy knows Hemi engines were available only on certain Chrysler cars. I saw a remake of a car movie made in the 1970s where the hero eventually ends up hitting a barricade at full speed (and dying)—someone asks the cops how fast was he going? They answer 180 mph. Anyone who knows cars from that era would know that there was no way that the car would hit that kind of speed, even if you dropped it from the space shuttle! They even do it with late model cars, getting their facts mixed up because they are too lazy to do the proper research. Actually, it's arrogance.

Ok, I suppose we can dismiss a lot of that stuff if the show or movie happens to be really good—“Ronin” comes to mind, or the “Fast and Furious” movies.

But, on TV shows, again, they can't help themselves from doing the same stupid things over and over. For example, how many times have you seen two people in the front seat of a car talking to each other—and the driver turns his head and talks at great length without looking at the road? C'mon, if you or I did that, we'd be in the woods! Or how about seeing a car going around a fast turn and you hear the usual tire screeching—the noise is fine, but on a dirt road?

Another thing about cars on TV is that they seem to explode at the slightest provocation, especially if they are driven by the bad guys. Every time they crash, they explode and catch on fire—Ba-ba-boom! It's a fairly rare occurrence for a car to explode in a real life accident, but not on TV.

And, of course, they must also think we don't notice what kind of car someone is driving. Last week, I saw the season finale of a show, and in one particular scene, I noticed that one of the characters was driving a 2000 or 2001 Ford Taurus. The car was very clean, but the minute I saw it, I knew that the car (and the driver) would probably end up having an accident or dying (and they did, too). Whenever you see someone driving an inexpensive older car, you know that the possibility of it being wrecked is great—the show producers aren't going to ruin a more valuable new car, unless they have a very big budget. Get ready for an explosion…

It's the same thing with some of the extras in a typical TV show. Ever notice when a talking character says something like "You two, come with me" all they ever do is nod their heads? If they said any words, they would have to get paid more because they would then have a speaking role. These things might seem small but they tend to ruin the illusion for someone who knows. And now, you know too!

There are some movies which treat cars realistically. One of my favorites is the 1968 movie "Bullitt" which starred Steve McQueen. There is a fabulous car chase between a Mustang and a Dodge Charger in San Francisco. Yes, the bad guy's car does end up exploding (Ba-ba-boom!) but they didn't resort to things such as speeding up the film to make the scene more "realistic". They drove those cars the way they would have in a real situation. So if it's on, catch it—it's also a pretty good movie.


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