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Critical Research Failures in live-action TV.


Unintentional Examples

  • Adam Ruins Everything:
    • In the episode about dog breeding:
      • Adam neglects to mention the fact that several pure dog breeds are known for long lives, particularly smaller breeds. For example, the Australian Shepherd on average lives to be 15 years old, as do the Maltese, Beagle, Shih-tzu, and the Lahsa Apso. Toy poodles live to be about 16 years. The Chihuahua? 17.
      • The episode claims that dog breeds originated in the Victorian era due to dog shows becoming a popular trend. This ignores the fact that breeding is required to domesticate an animal, so breeding dogs has been going on since domestic dogs were a species. Many modern breeds date back centuries or even millennia prior to Queen Victoria's birth, such as the Pekingese or Akita Inu. This error is especially egregious because a gag features a mad scientist creating the Pembroke Corgi...which dates back at least as far as the early 12th century.
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    • The interview where John Ehrlichman claimed racial motivations for the drug war came to light from the man who did the interview but only decades after it had occurred and after John himself was dead and thus unable to say if he had ever said those things, things his children and colleagues all claim he would not have said. The show itself presents the quote from the interview as an undisputed fact.
    • The "Electric Cars" episode pointed out that the electricity comes from the grid - which does not do much more to mitigate the carbon footprint due to how much electricity is produced by things such as coal, oil, or natural gas. This is ignoring that electric vehicles are sold in countries besides the United States and Canada which have far less "polluting" electric grids. It also neglects to mention how much goes into refining the oil before it can be used. He also cited a power grid that used far less renewable energy than the grid of when the episode was produced.
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    • "Ruins Summer Fun" features Adam making the claim that Nintendo had to market video games for boys because they had to pick a side. They didn't. Most retailers like Walmart and Target, even in the 1990s, placed video games right next to the toy section in their own aisle - which eventually grew to the catch-all "Electronics section". The ads are also all shown to be targeted towards boys, but it ignored a LOT of marketing that was just for "kids".
    • "Adam Ruins Weddings" has Queen Victoria appear for a gag saying "Oh, my cake is a white as all my friends!" While it could have been about upper class spotless splendor, rather than her friends' skin colour, Victoria had several notable non-white friends, including her goddaughter Sara Forbes Bonetta, of West African origin, and Abdul Karim, her Indian attendant.
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    • In "Ruins Forensic Science" he ends the episode claiming that DNA evidence is the most reliable and foolproof method...when it's actually quite the opposite; DNA can be tracked onto a crime scene in any number of ways, even just a few skin flakes on the bottom of a shoe can plant the DNA of someone who had never been to the site in their life. Even if this weren't the case, most of the time all it would prove is that the person was at the scene of the crime at some point. Furthermore, it really can't be used to identify a culprit since most people aren't registered in the database. Though in all fairness in a later episode he did retract the statement.
    • Adam claims that mammograms are a bad idea, as they cannot tell the difference between the aggressive and more benign cancers, and can result in painful, invasive and even harmful treatments being performed on the benign ones. He's half right here, it's true that mammograms can't tell the difference between types of cancers. However, it's standard procedure for a doctor to order a biopsy after detecting cancer so that they can figure out how to properly treat it or even if they need to do it.
  • Ally McBeal, another David E. Kelley show, makes many legal errors, but the law firm is shown to be "functionally corrupt" and ethically questionable in many ways. Why every single other person in the entire bloody legal system plays by the same rules, on the other hand, is an open question.
  • In season two of Arrow, Laurel Lance is the prosecuting attorney for Moira Queen's trial. In the real world, this would never happen because her presence could get any conviction overturned on appeal, considering not just that she is the ex-girlfriend of Moira's son (who publicly cheated on Laurel with her sister, leading to said sister's death) but also the fact that her boyfriend was one of the victims. In fact, even the fact that the trial was in Starling City is suspicious, in the real world, there probably would have been a change of venue, because it would be impossible for Moira to get a fair trial in the city she tried to destroy.
  • The Big Bang Theory:
    • In "The Nerdvana Annihilation", when Leonard is trying to sell off his toys, one of the toys mentioned is a 1979 Mattel Millennium Falcon — it, and other Star Wars toys, were made in 1978 by Kenner, not Mattel.
    • One episode has Sheldon wanting to become friends with his rival Kripke because Kripke could grant him access to special equipment. He goes to a book store and asks for books about making friends, and is told that all those books are in the children's section. Apparently the writers (or perhaps the sellers) have never heard of the world famous book "How to Win Friends and Influence People," or the concept of self help books in general.
    • In another episode, Sheldon fills his office with hydrogen sulphide and ammonia in an attempt to drive out Raj. Raj retaliates by lighting aromatherapy candles, but accidentally ignites the flammable gases, causing them to explode. However, hydrogen sulphide is highly toxic, and the concentration needed for it to ignite is 43 times higher than the concentration required for it to kill a person. Therefore, the amount Sheldon produced would have also been more than enough to cause Raj and Leonard, who was also in the room, to instantly collapse.
  • Blackadder takes plenty of liberties with history under Rule of Drama and Rule of Funny, but in "Corporal Punishment", it's stated that General Melchett has raised Speckled Jim, his pet pigeon, since he was a child, and the episode kicks off when Blackadder kills him. Melchett is in his 50s at least, and a pigeon's maximum life span is under 20 years. The Blackadder wiki speculates that the original Speckled Jim died, and Melchett was given another pigeon (possibly more than once), and was simply too stupid to notice, which is far more believable.
  • The British "historical" drama miniseries Bonekickers was so rife with simple factual errors, Diamanda Hagan deliberately avoided doing research herself when reviewing it, reasoning that she could get more than enough material to criticize just from what she passively knew was wrong. She was correct.
  • Boston Legal frequently makes errors obvious to even non-lawyers. Lawyers routinely meet with judges without the presence of opposing counsel, evidence that has nothing to do with the case is introduced at the last minute, and the same firm occasionally represents both sides in a case.
  • In the 2012 episode of Brad Meltzer's Decoded, Brad brings up the prophecy of the "Blue Star Kachina" and mentions how NASA has recently discovered an actual blue star. They go on as if it was possible for an actual honest-to-goodness star to hit the Earth come December 21, 2012, and ask a NASA guy about it.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" Amy casts a love spell by invoking Diana whom she describes as "goddess of love and the hunt". While Diana was indeed the Roman goddess of the hunt, anyone could tell you that Venus was the goddess of love. What's more is that Diana was one of three goddesses who swore never to marry. And she guarded her virginity so jealously that she turned a man into a deer because he happened to see her bathing. The closest she comes to being associated with love is becoming a goddess of childbirth in other myths. Of course, this could be why the spell goes so badly wrong, but it was more likely a coincidence since, like some other creators named on this page, Joss Whedon boasted about not doing any research.
  • In season 12 of Criminal Minds, an important childhood event for Dr. Tara Lewis is that, while at a school in Germany, she had to correct everybody's pronunciation of her name since they automatically pronounced it wrong ("Terra"). In real life, the pronunciation she insists on is the one that would come natural to native German speakers. A German boy teased her by repeating the "wrong" pronunciation over and over escalating to that boy beating up Tara's brother and painting a swastika onto her locker. The swastika would get a student onto the short list for being expelled, given that the symbol is outlawed and even scribbling it into one's own papers would get a student into trouble. Also, German schools don't have lockers, making the whole event appear to be scripted for a US school and then moved to Germany.
  • Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders makes slews of mistakes easily spotted by anyone who's been to these countries.
    • It's obvious when an episode is not shot on location by the large number of American-style vehicles in places where RHD vehicles are mandated by law.
    • "The Harmful One" has a killer inspired to perform Human Sacrifice via Buddhism...which forbids harm to any living being.
    • Japan is called "the suicide capital of the world." That would actually be Guyana. (Japan is 17th).
    • The plot of "Iqniso" has a killer hunting members of the Apartheid-era "Office of State Security" who were given new identities with amnesty after testifying at the Truth and Reconciliation Commision. First, it was actually the Bureau of State Security or "BOSS". Second, the entire point of the Truth and Reconciliation Commision was that both pro-Apartheid and anti-Apartheid criminals would come forward with their crimes in an effort to promote national reconciliation. All the amnesties are a matter of public record, there was no "witness protection" style cover-up.
    • An episode has a cruise ship landing in Libya...in June of 2014.
    • "The Lonely Heart" has the team radiocarboning a metal object. Radiocarb only works on organic materials.
    • Those knowledgeable about bullfighting have to laugh at "El Toro Bravo." It perpetuates the myth that bullfighting is an equal contest where the bull has a fair chance of defeating the matador. It also claims that a bull trainer reveres and cares for the animals as much as anyone. Finally, it has the odd idea that if a fight takes place on a holiday, the bull is considered "sacred." In reality, fights are always planned for the matador to win. Second, if a bull were to kill a matador, the "caring" trainers would kill not just the bull but its entire line. And a bull on a holiday fight is no more "sacred" than a goose on Christmas.
  • In the "killer gamers" episode of CSI: Miami, the bad guys are basing their crimes on the plot of a video game. The only way the team can find out what happens next is to play the game since the game company executive they talk to refuses to tell them the plot since it's a "trade secret". Even if you have zero knowledge of video games, you've probably heard of Wikipedia, and know that the plots of all media can be found on it. At least Horatio immediately has the executive arrested for obstruction of justice.
  • An episode of CSI: NY had a corrupt ex-coroner who'd been stealing organs and tissues for a reason other than organ theft: to process them for the drugs they contained; the victims were all dead drug addicts from cases that came through his morgue. There wouldn't be enough of the drug left to get out, and it would be difficult to do so.
  • Designated Survivor: Much is made about Tom Kirkman being the first independent president of the United States, except that there have already been two independent presidents.
  • A major episode of Desperate Housewives had a tornado hitting the neighborhood. It's shown on newscasts as a major blob of red/yellow coloring slowly coming forward and folks are shown packing up hours in advance to get away. As soon as the episode aired, the viewer reaction forced the writers to admit that they thought a tornado was like a hurricane, which are predicted days in advance. In reality, a tornado is a byproduct of a powerful storm, and while the storm itself can be tracked, tornadoes are notorious for popping up with little to no warning and are nearly impossible to predict until they're literally happening. The best a meteorologist can tell you is if the conditions are right for one to appear.
  • Dexter would sometimes look up potential victims of his prey, as well as their victims, on his police computer at the police station. Even if the computer's search history itself wasn't monitored, the police databases he would pull this info from had to be protected enough to keep tabs on who keeps asking for information...
  • Doctor Who — being a science-fiction show — can get away with a fair bit; but sometimes the only reaction to something has to be "no, it isn't".
    • In "The Impossible Planet", the Doctor and Rose find themselves on the titular planet, which apparently is so-called because it's in orbit about a black hole. Which is perfectly possible; a planet can orbit a black hole as easily as it can orbit any other massive body. What would be much more difficult would be to remain hovering over the hole, while material in the hole's accretion disk (which is in orbit) continually blows over it. That's actually the situation in the story, but somewhere along the way the exposition fell over and sprained an ankle.
    • An even more egregious example came in the 2014 episode "Kill the Moon", which shamelessly breaks the Willing Suspension of Disbelief several times over.
      • The Moon's mass increasing tenfold caused "high tide everywhere at once". Quite apart from the question of where the extra water is supposed to come from, anyone who knows anything about lunar tides knows that they bulge out along the line to the moon, not in all directions. Also, the Moon having an Earth-like gravity should have made a tidally-locked binary system.
      • The "giant single celled prokaryotic bacteria" have teeth, hair, saliva, and joints, which are features too complex for a prokaryotic organism, and downright impossible to have if the entire thing is just one cell.
      • The entire concept of the Moon being an egg. An egg is a closed system with the same mass from when it's laid to when it hatches, meaning the Moon could not have just suddenly gained extra mass out of nowhere.
      • The egg breaking apart harmlessly, despite logic dictating that the gigantic pieces of shell should now rain down on Earth as fiery meteor chunks (this is especially bad because one of the characters is treated as morally deficient for pointing out the danger and not expecting the Deus ex Machina dissolution). Also, the strange lack of flooded continents, despite tides having been mentioned as a problem.
      • The egg creature flying away at the end, by flapping its "wings". In space. Which is a vacuum. There is no possible way flapping wings can gain any propulsion without mass to propel against.
      • The creature hatching from the egg immediately lays another egg, which becomes Earth's new moon. Not only would it be impossible for a brand-new hatchling to lay an egg right away (especially considering the egg is bigger than the creature is), it's also impossible for both the creature and the new egg to both fit inside the original moon-egg.
  • On January 18, 2012, the commercials for Entertainment Tonight previewed a story about the Concordia cruise ship capsizing disaster, which they called "The Real Life Titanic". One would think the real-life Titanic would be, well, the Titanic.
  • The premise of Family Affair was that three children from Terre Haute, Indiana move in with their uncle after the deaths of their parents. You'd think they'd know how to pronounce the name of the town they're from, right? No. They kept calling it "Terra Hut." People actually from there pronounce it "Terra Hoat," rhymes with goat.
  • The Flash (2014) episode "The Sound and the Fury" is full of chess metaphors, but the actual game between Harrison and Hartley disregards the rules. Harrison, in check, moves his rook in front of Hartley's king, which is illegal because it doesn't remove the threat to his own king. Even if it were legal, it would only put Hartley in check because Hartley could have taken Harrison's rook with his knight.
  • Forever
    • In "Hitler on the Half-Shell", we see Henry's flashback to 1812, where he learned his father was involved with the slave trade. However, it had been abolished in 1807, and there's no indication this is illegal trading. This builds on the error in the pilot episode, in which Henry is shown on a ship carrying a black man described as "property" some time after 1814 (Henry narrates his first death as "almost two centuries ago" speaking from 2014). To add insult to injury, the ship is flying an out of date British merchant ensign - the ensign clearly lacks the cross of St Patrick, which was added to the flag in 1801 after the Act of Union with Ireland.
    • In "The Man in the Killer Suit" the fake aristocrat claims that he's not a Lord, he's a Viscount, despite the fact that a Viscount is by definition a Lord. His fake passport also, incorrectly, contains the title "Viscount". Given the amount of research the woman training him did to help him with his role, you'd have thought she'd spend five minutes checking Debrett's, which would have prevented these errors.
  • Foyle's War, otherwise impeccably researched, makes a doctrinal goof in "Plan of Attack" when a Catholic man confesses to breaking the Sixth Commandment by committing murder. This is indeed the Sixth Commandment in the Anglican church, but the Fifth in Catholicism.
  • In Friends, Phoebe's boyfriend David ends their relationship when he takes on a scientific grant of some kind in Minsk, which he excitedly declares is in Russia. Even the cheapest world atlas would demonstrate Minsk is the capital of a different country bordering Russia, Belarus, and one made before 1991 would have still marked it as the capital of the Byelorussian SSR and a city in the USSR, not Soviet Russia.
  • Full House: One particular episode features Joey cleaning out his car and finding a number of baseball cards. Included in this list is a Nolan Ryan card, which DJ gives to Scott. Later, it's mentioned that a Nolan Ryan rookie card sold for over $3,000 and Scott goes to try and find it. There are two issues with this one, number one, Nolan Ryan's 1968 Topps rookie card was a two player card featuring Ryan and Jerry Koosman, who is not mentioned at all. Second, the only way the card would be worth $3,000 is if it was in "near mint condition" or 8 on a scale of 10 in terms of condition. Since it was in the back of Joey's car for a number of years, it is next to impossible for a card to be near mint.
  • The Good Doctor: The opening of the episode "Oliver" introduces Shaun's neighbor, a Gamer Chick named Lea, when she comes over to his apartment to borrow batteries. Her cited reason for doing this is because she's playing Uncharted and her controller died. There are only two consoles she could possibly be using to play an Uncharted game and they both use controllers with rechargeable batteries. This wouldn't be so critical, except that this meeting forms the basis for their subsequent interactions, and Shaun even references it again in the episode "Point Three Percent" when he talks about their friendship and implies that it has happened more than once ("I lend her batteries sometimes").
  • Grace and Frankie: A major source of conflict in Season 2 is that Brianna wants to put palm oil in Frankie's lube formula, which Frankie adamantly opposes on moral grounds. She really should be opposing it on more practical grounds: oil of any kind is bad for vaginal health and only silicone- or water-based lubes should be used. Frankie, supposed champion of women's health, should know that, and if she didn't, the research team at Say Grace definitely should.
  • Heroes:
    • Almost any time someone mentions evolution, you can bet it will be entirely wrong. The book of a biology professor claims that the right combination of genes could do things that blatantly break the laws of physics. The son of said professor seems to believe natural selection works by destiny, randomly selecting an individual to be awesome, instead of gradually weeding out unfavorable mutations and allowing better mutations a better chance to survive.
    • The son also states that individuals with beneficial mutations have to fight harder than other people to survive. Which not only fails biology, but also inverts the definition of "beneficial".
    • And those ever-so-convenient eclipses, which somehow occur all over the planet. Even in Japan and the United States simultaneously, never mind how it'd be the middle of the night in one when it's mid-day in the other. Season 3 even has a two-parter where an eclipse lasts for several hours (which is... unlikely, to say the least).
  • In the 2000 TV series The Invisible Man, Darien's surface temperature drops below freezing when he turns invisible. The reason given is that no light is hitting him, but this isn't a plausible one as his body is still generating heat. Not to mention that people's skins generally don't start freezing if they turn the lights out.
  • The final episode of Kamen Rider Wizard is fought in the World of Monsters, and has the Final Boss use various monsters from the past Kamen Rider series that had been defeated by the titular riders. Amongst said monsters are Undeads, Dopants, and Zodiarts, who had all been defeated nonlethally by the Riders from their respective shows. While the presence of the Undeads can be explained away by being Undeads defeated by non-Blade Ridersnote , there is no such explanation for why the Zodiarts or Dopants could be there, other than to have monsters from all the previous series present.
  • The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Dana Carvey's impression of John Bolton on the March 28, 2018 show was mistakenly credited by CNN to Saturday Night Live on which Carvey is a regular, despite the fact that the episode aired on a Wednesday. Colbert had a field day pointing out the goof.
  • A plot point in Legends of Tomorrow has Legends accidentally stopping George Lucas from directing Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, the second of which was actually directed by Steven Spielberg.
  • The Taiwanese adaptation of The Million Pound Drop does this often enough to lead to suspicions that the show is rigged. Frequently, a blatantly false "correct" answer is given for an answer that happens to be one that the contestants left empty. One particularly obvious incident was when they claimed the correct answer to "Which of these animals is warm-blooded?" was salmon.
  • In an episode of Mr. Belvedere, George tries to cheer up Mr. Belvedere's failed attempt at publishing a book by pointing out that Dr. Seuss's first book was a failure. Belvedere counters that Seuss's first book was The Cat in the Hat, while George thought it was Horton Hears a Who!. They're both wrong on all points. Dr. Seuss's first book was Boners, published in 1931, which was a huge success. His first children's book was And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street in 1937, which actually wasn't particularly successful but gained high praise from critics. Horton Hears a Who! was published in 1954 and was clearly pretty successful if it was adapted into a movie. Finally, The Cat in the Hat was published in 1957. So, George was closer to being right as Seuss's first children's book was not a hit and that Horton does predate Cat. That said, Cat in the Hat was the first book in Random House's Beginner Books series, which may explain the confusion.
  • The O'Reilly Factor:
    • In an example that produced no fewer than two memes, O'Reilly claimed that there was no scientific explanation for tides, notoriously claiming "You can't explain that!"note  while the guest he was interviewing, David Silverman, stared at him with a face that just screamed "you can't be serious"note . For bonus points, when the mechanics behind tides were later explained to him, he showed his lack of understanding of the scientific method by claiming that tidal forces are "just a theory."
    • A viewer wrote that the average life expectancy in Canada is higher than in the US. Bill replies that this is only natural... then makes a statement that would fit right in as a "spot the flaw in the logic" problem in an elementary school math class: 'The USA has ten times as many people as Canada, leading to ten times as many violent crimes and accidents, leading to a lower average life expectancy.'
  • In Red Dwarf, the usually very well-informed Kryten thinks that Virgil's Aeneid is about the rescue of Helen of Troy. Nope: that was Homer's Iliad.
    • Though in fairness, the Aeneid does at least feature the rescue of Helen (as part of the flashback in book 2) whereas the Iliad ends before the rescue of Helen. And the Iliad is specifically stated from its opening line to be about the Wrath of Achilles.
    • Another something one would expect Kryten to know is how to pronounce ASCII (e.g. ass-key), which stands for American Standard Code for Information Interchange. Actually, he thinks the "II" at the end is a Roman numeral, so he calls it an "A.S.C. 2" code.
  • Reviews on the Run's 2010 Blu-Ray award special gave the best voice actor to Kevin Conroy for his performance in Batman: Under the Red Hood. While Conroy voiced Batman in the DC Animated Universe and for some other projects, he wasn't in Under The Red Hood. That was Bruce Greenwood.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch:
    • In the season 3 episode "The Pom Pom Incident", Sabrina, in an effort to dissuade Valerie from joining the cheerleading squad claims "No president has ever been a cheerleader!". When the episode aired in October 1998 three American Presidents had been cheerleaders, with a fourth former cheerleader elected just two years later.
    • In the episode "Sweet and Sour Victory", Sabrina enters a martial arts competition and uses her powers to become an instant expert, then feels guilty after defeating the current champion, a man. Like most athletic competitions, martial arts tournaments are strictly divided by gender, and Sabrina, being a girl, would only be allowed to fight in the women's division.
  • In one episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, a character describes Picard as being "two meters tall". Given that he isn't even close to that height (equivalent to about 6 foot 7 inches), the writer clearly didn't know the metric system (they might have mistaken meters for yards)note . Joked about in Picard's last appearance, Star Trek: Nemesis — Picard and his clone both lament not having reached two meters in height.
  • Seinfeld: In "The Contest", Jerry watches Tiny Toon Adventures, singing along to "The Wheels on the Bus", a song that has never been on the show, acting as if the show is meant for toddlers.note 
  • Schitt's Creek: Moira gets offered a part in a movie shooting in Bosnia that will be released only in neighboring countries and pay in "local Baltic currency." Bosnia and the other named countries are Balkan, not Baltic. Furthermore, there is no "local Baltic currency," as all three Baltic nations now use the euro. Balkan countries do have their own currencies.
  • Sleepy Hollow features a character who was born and educated in England in the late 18th century:
    • “It’s Middle English. I studied it at Oxford.” (The history of the English language was not taught at Oxford until late in the 19th century.)
    • The gravestone of the main character’s wife says “Burned as a witch”. (Witches in what is now the United States were hanged, not burned.)
  • Stargate SG-1: In "Between Two Fires", the SGC gets an ion cannon to defend the planet against Goa'uld ships in orbit. However, the cannon can only shoot line of sight, so the planet still has a large blind spot. Samantha Carter calculates that they would need 38 cannons at minimum to effectively protect Earth. Considering each cannon has 180-degrees laterally and longitudinally to aim, you would only need 4 cannons to cover all the blind spots on a sphere. It's possible she meant that only one cannon protecting a given region of space would be insufficient; an attacking force might destroy the sole cannon targeting them.
  • Stranger Things: When Will tells Dr. Owens that his favorite candy is Reese's Pieces, Owens agrees that "chocolate and peanut butter are an unbeatable combination." But anyone who's ever eaten Reese's Pieces can tell you that there's no chocolate in Reese's Pieces, just peanut butter and a candy coating. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, on the other hand, do have that unbeatable combination.
  • Supernatural: In an early second-season episode, John Winchester's blood type is shown on his dogtags as AB (though no Rh factor is given). Early in Season Ten, Dean's blood type is established as O. This creates an interesting situation that is just this side of Accidentally Correct Writing in that it is technically possible but extremely unlikely. Dean can't actually have type O blood as the type A and B genes are dominant, so Dean should have inherited one or the other from his father and have either type A or type B blood. However, it is possible that Dean has the very rare h/h blood type also known as "Bombay blood" (denoted as h/h or Oh). People with Oh blood are missing the H antigen which is the precursor of the A or B antigen. So an individual with Oh blood will appear to have type O blood even if they have the genes for A or B antigens because they simply can't make them. Basic blood tests won't pick up the difference, so Dean could have "type O" blood.
  • True Detective: In season 2, Athena's father tells her she was named after the goddess of love. Athena was actually the Greek goddess of wisdom. Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love.
  • Averted in the episode "Jess-Belle" of The Twilight Zone (1959), when an Appalachian witch turns herself into a leopard — with spots — instead of the geographically plausible monochrome mountain lion. On the leopard’s last appearance, a character observes "I’ve never seen a wildcat with spots." note 
  • The Universe had an episode on Mercury and Venus, calling them the two most hostile terrestrial planets in the solar system. So far, so good. The problem was that when the narrator said "Mercury" in the opening, Venus was shown, and vice versa. The two planets look nothing alike: Mercury looks like our moon, while Venus's surface is completely hidden by its clouds.
  • The Weakest Link research team has proved itself to be the weakest link on occasion. When the question "Montreal is the capital city of which Canadian province?" was asked to a contestant, the show claimed the answer was Quebec, while in fact the correct answer is "none": Quebec City is the capital of Quebec.
  • White Collar
    • The pilot revolves around the counterfeiting of "Spanish Victory Bonds", some rare 1944 bonds issued by the US government "to support the Spanish underground in their battle against the Axis". But the Axis did not invade Spain during WW2, a neutral (and Axis-leaning) country through the whole war, and while there was a Spanish underground against The Franco Regime in 1944, the US never supported it financially or diplomatically. The plot could have been easily saved if the writers had explained the bonds' rarity as a result of the US government considering intervention in Spain and then cancelling it for some reason, but we are told that these bonds were printed in Madrid (what underground controls the nation's capital?) and then hidden in Cantabria's Altamira Caves, which would mean that the Axis invaded Spain from the south.
    • The Season 4 two-parter premiere "Wanted"/"Most Wanted" has Neal hiding from the FBI in Cape Verde. In a bizarre case of Latin Land, this episode is filmed entirely in Puerto Rico and there is no attempt to hide it. So while Cape Verde is correctly stated to be a former Portuguese colony, everyone speaks Spanish and has Spanish names. And in spite of Cape Verde being off the coast of Africa and a former hub of the Slave Trade, with a 78% Creole and 21% Black population in real life, the only black people seen are the American FBI agents trying to find Neal.
  • Who Dares Wins once had the contestants tasked to fill in a list of countries in Asia. During the run-down of answers that weren't given by them, one of the apparent correct answers was United Kingdom, which is nowhere near Asia. Especially embarrassing for a British show.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess was famous for playing fast and loose not only with myths but history and religion as well, often lampshaded in the scripts, but the worst example has to be the episode "One Against An Army" (based on the film Zulu and the battle of Rorke's Drift), in which Thermopylae (remember 300?) is located between Marathon and Athens and the Persians are said to have arrived in three-masted "tall ships".
  • Zero Hour!, which centers around a conspiracy related to Jesus' apostles, seems to think that Luke was one of the twelve. Ten seconds on Google would have confirmed that he wasn't.

In-Universe and Invoked Examples

  • Most episodes of Amazing Animals have a segment where the unseen narrator has Henry give a report on something related to the subject of the episode. The reports are always full of ridiculously incorrect claims about animals, such as claiming basking sharks eat entire islands, passenger pigeons disappeared because they went to outer space, and animals go on strike when the rainforest floods. The narrator then corrects Henry and explains the truth.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Whenever Andrew flexes his storyteller muscles, he'll usually include events of which he has no first-hand knowledge (i.e. previous seasons) in his spiel and is thus occasionally widely off the mark. For example, when he talks to the Potential Slayers about Faith he claims that she killed a Vulcan, "the most pacifist and logical of races". Flashback to Faith locked in deadly hand-to-hand combat with a Vulcan. In reality she killed a volcanologist. When one of the Potentials tries to correct him, he says "Why would she kill someone who studies Vulcans?"
  • An episode of Class has Matteusz draw a comparison between the characters' situation (fighting amongst themselves after they're forced to tell the truth to each other) and Susan Pevensie from The Chronicles of Narnia, citing the scene in which she magically overhears a friend gossiping about her (which ruins their friendship). Except this didn't happen to Susan, it happened to Lucy in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
  • Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report uses this intentionally and mixes it with Insane Troll Logic for laughs. This is really the entire premise of the show.
  • On Deception (2018), Cameron Black's team of magic helpers is aiding him in FBI investigations. Dina tells the young member Jordan to start reading up on Agatha Christie in order to understand murders. When Jordan replies that "I looked her up on Twitter and didn't see an account", Dina has to restrain herself from smacking him.
    • Twitter has had an Agatha Christie account advertising her works since 2009.
  • Doctor Who: In "Voyage of the Damned", Mr. Copper, the ship's historian, describes Earth before escorting a group of passengers down for a visit.
    Mr. Copper: To repeat, I am Mr. Copper, the ship's historian, and I shall be taking you to old London town in the country of U.K., ruled over by Good King Wenceslas. Now, human beings worship the great god Santa, a creature with fearsome claws, and his wife Mary. And every Christmas Eve, the people of U.K. go to war with the country of Turkey. They then eat the Turkey people for Christmas dinner... like savages!
    The Doctor: [eyebrow raised, raises hand] 'Scuse me? Sorry, sorry, but, um... where did you get all this from?
    Mr. Copper: Well, I have a first-class degree in Earthonomics.
    • It is later revealed that Mr. Copper actually got his degree from the outer-space equivalent of a diploma mill.
  • Downton Abbey: Cora (mother of three girls) grumbles about having daughters: "you think it's going to be like Little Women but instead they're at each other's throats." It must have been a while since she read the book, since at least two of the little women (Jo and Amy) were constantly at each other's throats.
  • One scene from Flight of the Conchords's HBO series has a racist fruit vendor mistake Australian stereotypes for New Zealander ones.
    Jemaine: I'm a person. Bret's a person. You're a person. That person over there's a person. And each person deserves to be treated like a person.
    Vendor: That's a great speech. Too bad New Zealanders are a bunch of cocky a-holes descended from criminals and retarded monkeys.
    Jemaine: Hey, you're thinking of Australians.
    Vendor: No no no, New Zealanders, "throw another shrimp on the barbie", ride around on your kangaroos all day.
    Jemaine: No-no-no, that's Australians. You're thinking of Australians; that's not us.
    Vendor: I've totally confused you with Australians, I feel terrible. It's just your accents are just kinda similar.
    Jemaine: Our accents are completely different. They're like: "Where's the cahh?" and we're like "where's the cahh?"
  • The pilot for 2018's For the People has newly minted public defender Jay defending a man accused of some minor fraud. His opening statement notes how the man needs to be on bail to take care of his twin brother who's dying of cancer. Prosecutor Kate then stands up to note that the defendant's brother doesn't have cancer and doesn't exist and the man is a long-standing con artist whose "minor fraud" involved creating a fake agency to bilk hundreds of people out of their money. She openly tells a stunned Jay that "it's not hard to look this up if you do a little research" as he realizes too late he's in over his head.
  • How I Met Your Mother: Barney's "Platinum Rule" was based off his belief that the Golden Rule was "Love your neighbor." The other characters were quick to point out that it's actually "Treat others as you yourself would want to be treated."
  • The Last Man on Earth: In-universe. OK, fine, Tucson is Phil #1's hometown, but as Phil #2 points out, it's high on the list of the worst possible choices for a post-apocalyptic abode on the North American continent.
  • Played with on Legends of Tomorrow as the time-traveling team finds things that may seem wrong. But given this is a super-hero universe where history has taken different turns, it can actually work out and often a "failure" is just a sign of time going wrong.
    • When they travel to a time matching Camelot, historian Nate tells the others Camelot was only a myth. Also, he insists on dressing just as books say people did in this time and mocks the others for "looking like you're at a Renaissance Faire." Cue them met by knights from a very much real Camelot who think Nate is a leper thanks to his outfit. It turns out Camelot exists because another time traveler had previously recreated it based on the myth.
  • Moesha has her paying for this. After getting a job for the local paper, Moesha runs into a young boy who talks of being illiterate and from a terrible home and struggling to get by. Moesha writes his story and it's soon a hit and talk of it being picked up by national papers. At which point, the boy shows up in nice clothes and proceeds to read the story, revealing he's a pathological liar looking for attention. Telling this to the paper's editor, Moesha expects him to blame the kid like she has. Instead, the editor rightly puts the blame on Moesha for just writing the story without bothering to do any checking that would have easily revealed the truth. He tells her to forget writing again until she figures out basic journalistic skills.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000:
    • Crow doing this trope is a Running Gag. Crow makes a documentary about The American Civil War. Titled Crow T. Robot's Bram Stoker's The Civil War, it opens with this line... which is actually pretty much the film's high point when it comes to historical accuracy:
      Crow: The Civil War was a war that took place during a certain period in our nation's history. When, exactly? No one can say.
    • He's also done reports about Rutherford B. Hayes ("Serving heroically in the Civil War, Hayes later admitted that it was in the army he first tasted human flesh.") and a PSA about how to treat women that mostly asserts that women are a cryptozoological phenomenon, like Bigfoot, except for the very, very end:
      Crow: Ah.... Oh, um, yes. So anyway Mike, in conclusion, in the off chance that you do run into a woman, uh, you know, treat her with respect and stuff.
      Mike: You know, Crow, you do know women. Now what about Pearl?
      Crow: OK, so one woman exists. That means all women exist?
    • Tom Servo is also guilty of this, in the episode The Skydivers. During the prologue he puts on a planetarium show, giving us such gems as referring to the speed of light as "well over 500 miles an hour" (which is true, but in the same way it's true to say the Pacific Ocean is more than a gallon of water: the speed of light is well over 600 million miles per hour) and calling Mars "the brightest star in our galaxy."
  • NewsRadio: Bill, while trying to stage an office rebellion, shouts, "Do you think the Pilgrims really cared about all the tea they dumped into Baltimore Harbor?" It may well be a shout-out to Bluto's speech in Animal House.
    • He attributed the line "gather ye rosebuds while ye may" to John Keats in 1776. It was Robert Herrick, 1648, and neither Herrick (died 1674) nor Keats (born 1795) were even alive in 1776. He claimed his ancestors came to America on board the Mayflower "from...Portugal, or something", and - in what is definitely a shout-out, yelled that he "didn't expect the Danish Inquisition!" He's the show's resident Know-Nothing Know-It-All.
  • When Power Rangers Ninja Storm's Rangers first enter the fray, the usually smart Lothor protests that nobody told him there were Power Rangers on Earth (he's referring to active Rangers, as his initial plan was based on attacking the Ninja Academies specifically to prevent the activation of any Power Ranger team he knew of, but still...).
  • Shawn Spencer of Psych may be a genius at solving crimes but it's shown he has a really bad record with actual research stuff. It's not that he's stupid so much as he's lazy at times and other times makes the mistake of thinking being an ace at deduction means you always have all the right answers.
    • One episode actually focuses on this. The beginning has a flashback to a young Shawn starts writing a book report on Charlotte's Web without finishing the book. He says there's no reason to as from the first four chapters "it's obvious Wilbur wins the fair and he and Charlotte live happily ever after." Henry makes a bet with him getting it wrong. Cut to the present day, where Shawn is about to accuse a guy of murder before Henry takes him aside and points out the guy is innocent because of a detail in the police report Shawn didn't bother reading. Shawn still manages to get the guy by framing the whole thing as an elabroate ruse to catch the real guy. According to Henry, this is due to Shawn getting sloppy due to not being challenged enough. Shawn gets back up to snuff after he realizes he got tricked by a think tank that hired him and Gus.
    • Unrelated to the above, Shawn complains over getting a failing grade on a major report he wrote about a past U.S. President. Gus points out that the "report" was all about Kevin Kline's character from Dave. Shawn seems to be under the impression Kline was playing a real President.
    • See also the countless times Shawn mixes up nationalities.
  • On The Resident, arrogant doctor turned chief Bell is meeting three candidates for a major position at the hospital, impressed by each of their credentials. Head of the hospital board Marshall interrupts to show how Bell hasn't done his homework: One CEO is under investigation for tax evasion; a second claims to have degrees from Harvard and Wharton but actually graduated from a college in Arizona; and the third has basically driven his hospital to bankruptcy with his terrible methods. Marshall tells the humiliated Bell to "stick with what you know" and let Marshall handle the business side.
  • On Scream Queens (2015), Chad gives a speech against cancelling Halloween because of a serial killer, referring to John F. Kennedy. He somehow knows Kennedy wrote a book called Profiles in Courage, but everything else...
    Chad: As our great 60th president John Kennedy, Jr. said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
    Munsch: [after he's done] I have no idea how you got into this college.
  • Baroski correcting the Sons of Anarchy on the use of the term "Persian" is both intentional and unintentional. The country has officially been called Iran by the West since 1935 and by the East long before that. However, some of its people culturally self-identify as Persian. It would be acceptable to call the pornographers Persian if they identify as such, but it's never made clear if this is the case. If the Sons are also unaware, it would be better to refer to them as Iranian (while most Iranians are ethnically Persian, minorities of Arabs, Azeris and Kurds also exist). Baroski's claim that "Persia hasn't been a country since 637 AD" is incorrect; the Persian Empire fell that year, but that doesn't mean it ceased to exist as a country.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: Played for Laughs with Pavel Chekov, who sometimes gets his Russian history wrong, claiming just about everything to be a Russian invention. That was probably what he was taught, though, as this was before The Great Politics Mess-Up, and the USSR in the 1960s really did have this attitude in its education. According to Diane Duane's novels, he's joking, as when he claims that the roller coaster is a Russian invention and is not believed he protests that this time it's true.note 
  • Supernatural: Dean loves cowboys (perhaps a bit too much), but he has no idea how they dressed.
    Cas: Is it customary to wear a blanket?
    Dean: It's a serape. And yes.
    • He refers to a poncho as a "serape" (they're similar, sort of, but they're constructed differently, worn differently, and were invented by two different cultures), treats it as street clothes (it was cold-weather gear), and wears it in the Midwest (it was Southwestern). Naturally, when the brothers have to travel back in time to the days of the cowboy:
      Cowboy: Nice blanket.
  • This sketch from That Mitchell and Webb Look. Many faults are pure and simple Artistic License – Sports, but not all:
    • "West Germany, famously a bunch of cheats" references East Germany's history with performance-enhancing drugs. And "Cricket? 'Ere in Yorkshire?" makes no sense as cricket is really popular in Yorkshire.
    • The Ashes isn't a tournament with "second rounds" and "semi-finals". It's a revered test cricket series between the national teams of England and Australia. The West Indies, the Dallas Cowboys (an American football team), West Germany (a country that ceased existing for 17 years at the time of airing and in which most people have no idea what cricket actually is) and Pisswiddle Steel Batters are ineligible. Manchester United is an Association Football team.
    • Mitchell and Webb have a whole series of skits based on two screenwriters who never, ever, do any research. The medical drama in particular is hilarious.
      "Now he's poorly from too much electric."
    • There's also the archaeologist who makes the incredible find of an ancient Roman... videotape. It appears to show several people having a toga party, but he and other researchers talk about the incredible discoveries they're making, while one stares at them in disbelief, and eventually brings up the obvious. He's then guilt-tripped into going along with it.
  • Characters on The West Wing are consistently getting called out for this; it's usually Played for Laughs. Perhaps the best example occurs in the pilot episode, where Sam Seaborn is asked to speak to Mallory's fourth-grade class about the history of the White House, on which subject he's clueless. Meeting them in the Roosevelt Room, he fakes it, saying the room is named after "our eighteenth president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt." After listening to Sam spew out factoids for a few moments, Mallory asks to speak to him outside the room:
    Mallory: I'm sorry to be rude, but are you a moron?
    Sam: In this particular area, yes.
    Mallory: The 18th president was Ulysses S. Grant and the Roosevelt Room was named for Theodore.
    Sam: Really?
    Mallory: There's like a six-foot painting on the wall of Teddy Roosevelt.note 
    Sam: I should have put two and two together.
    Mallory: Yes.
    Sam: The thing is, while there really are a great many things on which I can speak with authority, I'm not good at talking about the White House.
    Mallory: You're the White House Deputy Communications Director and you're not good at talking about the White House?
    Sam: Ironic, isn't it?
He has a point. He deals with political messaging. The person to ask for information about the White House as a building would be a tour guide, which means that whoever decided he needed to talk to the class about it had their own failure.
  • The Young Ones:
    • When Rick is trying desperately to recall his history lessons, he finishes the statement "Crop rotation in the 14th century was considerably more widespread after..." with a year that isn't even in the 14th century, 1172. Though thanks to the qualifier of "after", he is not technically wrong.note .
    • Neil never sleeps because he thinks sleep causes cancer.


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