Everyone Knows the Obscure Agency
Agencies that nobody knows in Real Life don't have to explain themselves in fiction
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(permanent link) added: 2012-01-15 21:32:22 sponsor: Westrim (last reply: 2013-05-08 10:40:19)

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With the roaring success of CSI (and perhaps earlier) came the search for ever more unknown, esoteric, and focused agencies and task forces to base a story on or create. This can have several pitfalls, but the one covered here is that it's unlikely that many people, even in the show universe, will know of the agency yet they'll still announce themselves first, foremost, and sometimes only as members of that agency, instead of saying police, federal agents, or something else that clearly expresses their authority.

May be related to Men In Black and No Such Agency.

Examples:
  • NCIS agents do sometimes declare themselves as federal agents, but at least as often just shout "NCIS!" Only a couple times in the first season does anyone ask who they are.
    • NCIS: Los Angeles is even worse, as there's no reason for a layperson to expect a military presence in Los Angeles.
  • Detectives from the CBI on The Mentalist rarely have to explain what "CBI" is (California Bureau of Investigation). This makes some sense with the law enforcement they meet, as they are often specifically called in by them (acting as a kind of major case support for smaller departments), but none of the witnesses they meet have any trouble. Since the agency doesn't exist in Real Life, perhaps they're just more well known in universe, but we have no indication of that.
  • The CSI verse apparently has given forensics scientists/detectives a lot more exposure, as no one bats an eye at being questioned by them rather than an actual detective.
  • Averted in a Law & Order episode. The Sanitation Police try to arrest some people, who at first have no idea that there's even such a thing. Then the detectives show up and are also surprised to learn that there's a police force for garbage.
  • In Castle the trope is much milder since most of them are regular cops, but still present since one is a writer. Rarely does anyone question or complain about his presence.
  • In the "Mathnet" Show Within The Show from Square One TV everyone knows what Mathnet is, even if it's not well explained to the viewer what it is; some kind of math-based division of the LA Police (or NYPD in season 4).
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