Wiki Headlines
We've switched servers and will be updating the old code over the next couple months, meaning that several things might break. Please report issues here.
Everyone Knows the Obscure Agency
Agencies that nobody knows in Real Life don't have to explain themselves in fiction
Needs Examples Description Needs Help

(permanent link) added: 2012-01-15 21:32:22 sponsor: Westrim (last reply: 2014-09-26 10:28:03)

Add Tag:
With the roaring success of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (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

Literature

Live-Action TV
  • 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. If it weren't for the show few people would know the agency in Real Life, for that matter.
    • NCIS: Los Angeles is even worse, as there's no reason for a layperson to expect a military presence in Los Angeles.
    • NCIS: New Orleans dials it back a little bit, but it's still full of plainclothes representatives of the same agency throwing their weight around in public without declaration and no one questioning their authority to do so.
  • 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 either. 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: Crime Scene Investigation 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).
  • Series/Warehouse13 usually averts this. Since their status as Warehouse agents is both secret and very hard to explain or believe, it comes in handy that the main characters are technically Secret Service and ATF on loan who still have their badges- but they still get regularly called out on it being unusual for their agencies to investigate whatever they're looking into.

replies: 23

TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy