I've spoken about this with my wife, actually. And what I tell her is, if someone looked at what I do most of the working day, they would get totally bored. And yet, I'm having a blast! Figuring things out, communicating electronically with people everywhere, making new designs work as I think they should, and working out possible disagreements with others, to implement these new designs. And knowing that people's lives depend on all of this being right. But it's not easy see all of this furious activity from outside of my own head!
Let's get real, guys. TV and movies need to keep the viewer entertained. How is it remotely entertaining, to the casual viewer, to watch someone figuring out problems? If you can't show lots of action, you need to show lots of drama or emotion-charged situations. Those "eureka" moments we get just aren't visually stimulating enough for TV. But inside, we know different.
Yes becuase engineers harly get into any drama in real life. All these shows and movies are depiction of society. They normally have stories taken or inspired from real world. Engineers hardly get into any dramatic encounters like fashion designers or moview stars/doctors/lawyers or police men.
While not technically an engineer, at least Dr. Gregory House uses a decent amount of logic and deductive reasoning. McGiver may have arguably been the last "engineer" (not even sure if that was his title). In any case, if we can get people and kids interested in thinking logically and problem solving we may be able to reel them in to engineering.
Sheetal's point is a good one, I think. It's not so much that engineers don't get into dramatic situations, perhaps, but it's that these situations don't typically constitute part of our job.
The most drama I get in my job is the dreaded meetings. Meetings are where you spoon-feed managers, essentially, because they can't get this stuff on their own. So as far as the actual job goes, the drama part is when you're mostly wasting your time.
Whereas, Dr. Gregory House, since someone brought him up, has to deal with people more directly, as the most important part of his job. That *is* his job.
Let's face it, engineering work doesn't make interesting television. We aren't actively saving lives, chasing bad guys or making dramatic arguments in court.
Perhaps one can imagine a dramatic series that has an engineer as a character and that places him or her in tough situations, where engineering expertise is used to save the day -- think of Scotty on Star Trek.
But even Scotty's work would have looked very boring on TV if he had been doing it all when the Enterprise was in dry dock back on Earth. But put him out in space, with the ship under attack, and suddenly his engineering work is very exciting.
Looks like many in entertainment business completely overlooked successes of shows like CSI and build on it. I have enjoyed many episodes where characters cite things like Curies temperatures, piezoelectric effects, etc.
Engineers are the behind the scenes types for now in every day drama. But wait till this alternate energy and clean tech takes off... we will move to the forefront!
@Bert22306: I hear you! I am NOT one of those managers -it is the other way around, I give a lot of ideas/feedback to my team in meetings!
Engineers to be brought into TV shows.xamples are those in space research, satelite designs,sophisticated instruments in the fields of medical diagonasis,geology,contributors towards education,inventors of new technology . definitely pople will enjoy viewing their achivements and it will induce the minds of youth.
Two comments to the above:
--yes, there are shows where engineers are key to the plotline or to helping the lead characters, but that's not the same as being the lead
--re McGyver: I heard so much about this series over the years that I actually got DVDs of the series from a library, watched about 10-12 episodes, and was very disappointed: the actual amount of "engineering" or improvisation is very, very little. Somehow, the show has a lingering reputation that is much more impressive than the episodes I saw!
ok. you have to realize that McGyver back in a day was awesome and solved problems with ordinary items. That's what inspired us young'uns to look more closely at engineering--- and how to blow up our kitchen with common household items;)
I keep on meaning to do something about this ... but I always get hung up on who we should get to play me on TV and on the big screen ... we need to keep it realistic, of course ... perhaps today's version of a young Tom Cruise...
A bizarre subspecies of some sort? Hum, let me think. I guess I can relate to that. Yes, I'm sure I can. There are the software guys that don't know which end of a soldering iron to hold (although the learning curve is quite short), there are the hardware types that think data classes are taken in college, and there are the chemical types ...
One of my professors in college broke the physical sciences into three categories: if it moves, it's biology; if it stinks, it's chemistry; if it doesn't work, it's physics.
Yes, I can relate to a bizarre subspecies. I really can.
I find that the better I do my job the less visible I am. As a profession, I think that is also largely the case as well. A lot of the moments when I get special credit happen when I am fixing something that is broken, either a design or a schedule. Engineering in media is too often unrealistic or negative. Not seeing engineering happen on TV probably does not hurt us at all.
The best "enginering" shows on TV are all on Discovery and Science networks.
Build It Bigger (with an architect host ... sigh)
Big Bigger Biggest
How It's Made
But, an engineer as the protagonist or antagonist in a drama? Batman and Ironman come to mind :-)
How about the Rodney McKay character of Stargate Atlantis? Whenever I saw the shows, he was kinda like a souped up Scotty of Star Trek.
Oh well...all of it wasn't real so why should the characters be portrayed correctly?
As others have said, most engineering is problem solving that to outsiders looks incredibly dull. However from a TV show perspective, Eureka is fun, and has engineering/physics etc all mixed in. Certainly not accurate, but does somewhat glamorize the tech field, which is more than what can be said about Big Bang Theory.
Apollo 13 was both dramatic and engineering front and center. Never mind that it was due to a failure of a part in space that threatened the lives of the astronauts. It showed an engineering approach to solving a problem with limited time, resources, AND high stakes. Perhaps, more shows could emulate that recipe?
I think the Cooking channels have already laid a path for us. We can have an exciting contest like Iron Chef with 2 teams, a "secret ingredient" and 3 judges. All it needs is glamor and charisma. We could have our own "Bizzare Products" where a host can visit companies that make "Bizzare" products. Someone mentioned MythBusters which is a great show. More shows along those lines would help.
Cooking is definitely both chemistry and physics, two things that are big parts of engineering. Unfortunately Hollywood seems to portray many engineering types as not very exciting people. As for McGiver, he almost always violated the laws of physics and material strength to the point of being absurd. And anybody familiar with ordinance knows that you never have a counter displayed to show seconds until detonation.
MythBusters and Junkyard Wars did certainly display the use of engineering principles.
But how exciting would it be to show me walking into a plant that I have never seen, working with folks that I don't know, to repair an undocumented machine that I have never seen before, and have only a vague description of the malfunction? I find it exciting and a worthy effort, but looking at it from outside would not be that entertaining, unless possibly one were the plant manager.
The problem is with the writers. They don't have an engineering background and can't just "wing it" as with other genres. The creator of Spongebob Squarepants is a marine biologist who created an entertaining show from elements of his field. Engineers can be writers too, and not just for cartoons.
I have to admitt that I miss having engineers on TV; however, most of the time it would make for a boring show--- except to us fellow engineers. Then again, whenever there is a scientists/engineer on a show us fellow engineers tend to be the most critical about "That's not possible" or "They have no clue what they are talking about" so....mayb it's just as well.
Frank's comment about Scotty is to the point. There are plenty of crisis situations, where racing the crisis is drama. Imagine a show about the engineers in the space program, trying to get somebody alive to the Moon and back before Russia does. Or a special about Apollo 13 from an engineer's point of view. A show about a technological arms race would have plenty of engineering driven situations. The engineering itself would not be the focus, rather the situation the engineers are trying to resolve, the brainstorms, the failed tests. You would only see the design work in passing. What it would show (again, in passing) would be the detail we get into. The amount of things that goes on inside our heads (again from Star Trek - McCoy: Aren't you supposed to be working on your time warp calculations? Spock (Raising an eyebrow): I am.) and the dependance of corporations, salesmen, and workers on our success (as in, they can't move until we succeed).
I feel compelled to point out that the second-longest-running, live-action, family sitcom on TV featured an aeronautical engineer and, when his work life spilled over into his personal life, did a pretty good job of realistically showing his work.
The show still had a strong following up until it was moved to a ridiculous time slot, which killed it. Too bad it's been 40 years since anyone thought fit to build My Three Sons around an engineer.
As I see it, part of the problem is the complexity of the engineering job. Engineering difficult for most people to understand and it's rarely something that can be made into drama.
Police, Paramedics, Doctors... They all work in the public eye. People see them all the time and even if the tools of the trade aren't well understood by the general public, we've all seen them in use and they are familiar. Engineers don't work in public view.
When we do see "engineering" on TV or in movies, it's so blown out of realism that it's not really the same thing. Think of the "computer work" in "Swordfish", "The Net", "Tron" (though, I loved both Trons) and almost all other movies that have engineering in them. Those characters are to real engineers what Rambo is to real soldiering.
I can think of two examples of realish engineering / forensic investigation, but I have to go waaay back. "Fate is The Hunter": Glen Ford, the investigator goes through a process of trying to duplicate the circumstances surrounding an airline crash in precise detail.
The other is an old Jimmy Stewart movie: "No Highway in The Sky." Again, they do a pretty good job of following a debugging process and end with an example of one remote, un-considered factor being the key.
To @Duane, I don't agree with your statement that engineering is more complex than law or medicine. In fact many people would argue otherwise, it takes more years to become a doctor or a lawyer than to become an engineer! The problem I think is difficulty in translating engineering work into something exciting. Some criminal dramas, like CSI, try to do to some extent but the truth is engineering is just boring for all non-engineering people! Let's just do our engineering work and leave movies to Hollywood! Kris
I work at Raw TV, a multi award winning television production company that produces high-end documentaries, and docu-drama series for all major UK and US broadcasters including the BBC, Discovery and National Geographic.
We are currently developing a new engineering series. From reading all of the comments above, I'd welcome any suggestions you might have.
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