I got this note in response to my “Fiction is Reality on Television” post:
I was amused by your post on CSI, because I work in a forensics lab [name and location omitted] and CSI has affected our business, too, albeit in different ways than it’s affected yours. One problem we have is that with CSI and NEW DETECTIVES and the like, everybody’s an expert (as Briscoe
wise-cracked on one episode of LAW & ORDER). Except, of course, they’re not.
Example: this week, a cop brings in a case. Some landscapers were doing work in a yard when they unearthed a tin labeled with an engraved plate bearing a name, birth date, and death date. Inside
were burned bone fragments. The cop gives us his theory: he thinks it’s a young kid, but the remains are very small for the three-year lifespan on the cover, so the kid was clearly malnourished. The cremation was done by the parents, in some improvised way, before they got rid of the kid. He had a very strange, lurid scenario worked out.
So we open the tin up, dump it into the screens to sift, and what do we find? A buckle. From a collar.
This wasn’t a kid. It was somebody’s pet cat.
The good news: CSI’s success means a) funding and b) jobs. The bad news: people actually *believe* what they see on the show, down to the bizarre plots.
I’m sure people on jurys now consider themselves forensic experts, too. I wonder what impact the show is having in America’s courtrooms.