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Can’t anybody give the producers of Crisis some tips on how to properly use GPS coordinates on their show? Because they clearly don’t seem to even understand the most basic things about them, as becomes obvious from watching episode 2.

But before we come to that kind of rocket science, lets start with something old-school: a simple newspaper. The hostages get their hands on a copy of the paper with Amber’s face on the cover, and it seems like everything is in order – until Amber reads the front page and, likely by accident, the back sheets peel back …

Picture (c) NBC

Picture (c) NBC

… to reveal the entire paper is a prop with empty pages to pad out the few ones they actually printed. They didn’t even last until after the credits this time!

That was pretty funny already, wasn’t it? However, the number of GPS coordinate problems this episode has is absolutely mind-boggling. Either the production crew didn’t care at all, or they just didn’t know it better, but in any case, the outcome is pretty damn poor.

The FBI figures out where Hurst, the Secret Service guy who shot his partner, was hanging out during his hour of “personal time”: the Pakistani embassy. They have marked his whereabouts on a handy map …

Picture (c) NBC

Picture (c) NBC

… which is absolutely useless since all five spots are marked with the exact same coordinates (15.94749 -140.28631), and even the “area designation” is identical. Where these coordinates lead to, you ask?

Picture (c) Google

Picture (c) Google

Why, the open sea hundreds of miles east of Hawaii of course! Where else would you expect the Pakistani embassy?

But it gets worse. After some back and forth, we get a more detailed description of the location:

Picture (c) NBC

Picture (c) NBC

Here, we are introduced to a completely new concept: two coordinates for the same spot, and both lead to the middle of nowhere. The top one to somewhere south of the southernmost tip of the African continent …

Picture (c) Google

Picture (c) Google

… and the other is really hard to read, but the part I can make out is -6 -147 which leads to somewhere “near” (read: several hundred miles southeast) Kiribati. So no matter which coordinate you take, you’d end up anywhere but the Pakistan embassy in Washington D.C.

This idiocy continues in a later scene when the formerly disabled GPS tracker of one of the kids suddenly activates inside the embassy:

Picture (c) NBC

Picture (c) NBC

The coordinates listed for the embassy look like they are the hard to read coordinates seen in the last picture and put them at -6.02052 -147.39134, although that doesn’t make them any less wrong. The coordinates for Kyle Devore are listed as 77.47995000 39.97963125, a location somewhere in the Barents Sea “near” the island of Svalbard. Even from just looking at the coordinates in relation to the ones listed for the embassy should make it obvious that something can’t be right, which gives me the impression the production crew just couldn’t be bothered.

Later, another GPS tracker comes online, and “this can’t be right: it’s tracking to this building” – right to the FBI headquarters.

Picture (c) NBC

Picture (c) NBC

This can’t be right indeed: 77.44957500 39.87720937 is pretty close to the coordinates shown for Kyle Devore in the previous screenshot, which, as we already established, point to somewhere to the far northern coast of Sweden. As you can imagine, these also do, although their location is a bit more to the east.

Whoever developed the tracking software for the FBI has some explaining to do.

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Why so serious?

After the GPS issues revealed in episode 3 of NBC’s show Crisis, I knew I should go back and watch the older episodes again. And so I did, starting with the show’s pilot episode, and boy, did I find some comedy gold in there – probably the only thing redeeming this mess of a show.

So, the episode starts with the kids of about two dozen influential parents – among them the US president’s son – being taken hostage by some rather well informed kidnappers. The kids get shoved into a truck trailer where they have to stand next to each other along the walls. They are all pretty frightened as they would be when being abducted by obviously dangerous criminals with automatic rifles … well, all but one at least. Can you spot him?

Picture (c) NBC

Picture (c) NBC

Yeah, he’s third from the left and looks like he’s going to explode into a fit of laughter any second now. Here, have some more shots of him:

Picture (c) NBC

Picture (c) NBC

At least he can see the funny side of it all.

However, that’s not the only thing that went wrong here. After some other scenes, everyone has been loaded into the truck and the kidnappers are closing the door. We get this shot of some of the key characters standing side by side looking frightened (well, except that one guy to the right who’s now looking rather ill from having to suppress all that laughter, but he’s quick to turn his head away this time). Here, let me number them for you for easier reference:

Picture (c) NBC

Picture (c) NBC

The very next shot shows the entire truck interior with the hostages who are starting to sit down, and it clearly shows the characters have moved around:

Picture (c) NBC

Picture (c) NBC

I’m not 100% sure about number 3, but judging by the clothes and the hair it’s probably safe to assume that it’s indeed her.

When the news break about the kids being taken, the school is under siege by the FBI and obviously the media as well. There are lots of trucks and cars outside with camera crews setting up, and our FBI agent is rushing through towards the school to explain to the parents that the FBI is clueless. She passes a media truck …

Picture (c) NBC

Picture (c) NBC

… with an empty license plate holder at the front. At least according to Wikipedia, cars in Washington D.C. are required to sport a license plate on front and back, so it’s probably not a good idea to park your van with a missing license plate right next to the cops, crisis or no crisis.

Please don’t let this be a coincidence

Just as I was pleased with Continuum doing things well, I came across this … oddity … in episode 3 of season 3:

Picture (c) Showcase

Picture (c) Showcase

So there are three banks that are robbed in this episode, all with fake names – Transnational, BregenzerBank, DeutscheBank … hey, wait a minute!

Picture (c) The Guardian UK

Picture (c) The Guardian UK

Yeah, I’m totally aware that the logo isn’t identical, but the name of the bank still is, and it’s a real bank. But wait, there’s more: the fake logo seems to incorporate one from another existing bank:

citibank

I can’t shake the feeling someone from the production crew wanted to express some kind of … concern … with these banks? And look, they even whipped up some cool marketing stuff:

Picture (c) Showcase

Picture (c) Showcase

Am I imagining things? Did they really invent obvious fake names for two of the banks just to suddenly forget about the fact that the Deutsche Bank – an extremely large, powerful and ruthless bank – exists? And not just that, but they create a logo that shares a key element with yet another bank of similar size and ruthlessness?

Does sound a wee bit too convenient to be a coincidence, doesn’t it?

Even fake software needs standards

While watching the pilot episode of Believe again just to make sure I didn’t miss anything interesting, I noticed the following screen showing on a computer used in the prison escape sequence:

Picture (c) NBC

Picture (c) NBC

Of course, the entire thing is fake, but that’s not the point. I remembered the exact same  “software suite” being used before in another show: Person of Interest.

I must have a really good memory for irrelevant things, because I was correct – in season 2, episode 10, this screen shows up on Finch’s computer:

Picture (c) CBS

Picture (c) CBS

And it’s not just the same program; the content of the screen is identical down to the placement of windows and even the numbers, with the exception of some animated elements not being visible in both scenes. The only thing that’s really different is the greenish tint in the Believe version – everything else is exactly the same.

Of course, it’s perfectly logical to have two surveillance teams use the same software for the same things – in both cases they are essentially wiretapping someone – but it’s definitely not logical the data displayed on both screens would be identical to the last digit.

Given both shows are produced by Bad Robot, it’s probably not even that big a surprise, but like so much else in Believe, it’s still a complete hack job.

The Fog

It’s hard to believe (ha!) but episode 5 of NBC’s show Believe features exactly zero instances of location warping. It almost looks like they wizened up because they don’t mention real addresses at all – or the writers didn’t feel the need to do so, which is more likely. However, there seems to be no episode without glaring continuity errors, and this one is no exception. Read on, if you dare.

The episode starts with Ben the fake journalist blogger receiving the scoop about Dr. Skouras from an unknown source. Or so he thought: he’s so bedazzled by the fact that someone hijacked his computer that he doesn’t notice the PDF the hacker opens for him contains only Lipsum text. Maybe he has to read between the lines?

Picture (c) NBC

Picture (c) NBC

As we see the hacker’s screen, he’s clearly using some kind of backdoor software to control the blogger’s computer.

Picture (c) NBC

Picture (c) NBC

That’s a C99 root shell used to gain control over web servers. Unless the blogger was running a web server on his MacBook, there’s no way in hell the hacker would have been able to even access this software. Here’s the same script running on my own computer; I had to install a web server to be able to run it. It’s a more recent version but most of the interface looks the same:

c99shell

What’s worse is that you can’t use this backdoor to gain control over the target computer’s screen – and you can’t see the screen either, which is no problem because web servers usually don’t even have graphical user interfaces. And of course you also can’t talk the victim, let alone speak with a fake voice. Oh, and a “Voice Modulator” changes your voice, it doesn’t do text-to-speech – that’s a speech synthesizer‘s job.

Now things start to get a little foggy.

After some other scenes that introduced Bo to Taryn, the blogger’s wife, we see the two of them sitting in their living room. The sun seems to be shining brightly through the windows.

Picture (c) NBC

Picture (c) NBC

One scene later, Winter finds out that the blogger lives just next door from their safe house which is obviously not good. What’s also not good is the weather: it’s foggy as hell.

Picture (c) NBC

Picture (c) NBC

Winter decides that Bo and Tate need to leave because it’s too dangerous. Channing barges in on them to tell them to pack up, and the weather’s suddenly bright and sunny again. You can even see sun rays on the table in several cuts.

Picture (c) NBC

Picture (c) NBC

Bo doesn’t want to go and destroys the TV with her powers, leaving a perfectly centered hole in the screen. The Wootens next door are packing their stuff, only to be interrupted by Skouras’ minion who’s inviting them for tea. It really looks pretty foggy outside.

Picture (c) NBC

Picture (c) NBC

Not foggy enough? Maybe this will help:

Picture (c) NBC

Picture (c) NBC

Channing, Bo and Tate are running to the neighbor’s house, and while it’s not a bright, sunny day, it’s certainly nowhere near as foggy as before:

Picture (c) NBC

Picture (c) NBC

In none of the following shots outside the apartment there is any fog visible at all. Its very grey and looks like it might be raining soon, but that’s it. Yet, when Tate and Skouras’ dude are fighting, it’s suddenly a bright sunny day again if only for seconds at a time (in several scenes, you can see sunshine, while in some cuts it’s grey again):

Picture (c) NBC

Picture (c) NBC

When they leave the house, it’s grey again, but not foggy …

Picture (c) NBC

Picture (c) NBC

… but the fog sets in as soon as we see Skouras’ enforcer run after them.

Picture (c) NBC

Picture (c) NBC

But the real kicker is when we see them drive away just a split second later, the thick fog that covers everything would make John Carpenter proud.

Picture (c) NBC

Picture (c) NBC

And yet, there’s no fog to be seen from inside the car.

Picture (c) NBC

Picture (c) NBC

I guess stuff like this happens when you give your continuity manager the day off.

Anyway, after some lengthy, dialogue-heavy scenes that actually seem fine, Ben the blogger takes a cab to a train station to meet the mysterious source.

Picture (c) NBC

Picture (c) NBC

The taxi is an obvious fake, but this also doesn’t look like a train station at all, and for good reason: while the set decorator bothered to put up a “Station” sign, he failed to remove or conceal the bleedingly obvious sign reading “Moët Hennessy USA”. Why would a train station have such a sign? It’s not flashy enough to be advertising, so what is it?

Well, here’s a Street View shot of the real deal:

Picture (c) Google

Picture (c) Google

This building is the Moët Hennessy USA company headquarter and is located at 85 10th Avenue in New York City.

Elsewhere, Tate grabs their stuff from the not too safe “safe house”. And guess what, the weather is acting up again: no fog here …

Picture (c) NBC

Picture (c) NBC

… but as soon as he leaves mere seconds later, there is:

Picture (c) NBC

Picture (c) NBC

They all roll up on the train station the blogger went to. Bonus info: the entire exterior scene was shot at W 120th St and Lenox Avenue (if you look very closely, you can see the pillars of Mt. Olivet Church reflecting in the car door window).

I have no idea which train station was used to film the following scenes – it does look real with the exception of the same fake “Station” sign they also used outside – but what I do know is that there are some obvious continuity problems: when Bo starts to scream at the mind wiper, the clock next to him shows 5:16pm …

Picture (c) NBC

Picture (c) NBC

… and when the window behind him explodes, the time has been turned back to 5:15pm …

Picture (c) NBC

Picture (c) NBC

… and as soon as they carry Ben to the exit, it’s either 4:26pm or 5:26pm (it’s pretty hard to see, but it’s definitely not 5:15pm) …

Picture (c) NBC

Picture (c) NBC

… no wait, it’s actually 11:35am!

Picture (c) NBC

Picture (c) NBC

So much for continuity. I fear the person responsible for this mess might need to find a job soon. Security guy sounds nice, that way he could even be in the picture on occasion …

This just in: proper GPS coordinates are possible! Film at 11!

Showcase’s sci-fi show Continuum is something like a guilty pleasure of mine: it’s cheesy as hell, but it’s well aware of that and doesn’t try to hide it, making it damn fun to watch. Still, production values aren’t exactly the highest, so when the first episode of season 3 featured GPS coordinates, I was very curious what would hide behind them this time. After all, GPS coordinates are usually a recipe for disaster on TV shows, so would Continuum be any different?

In the scene, Alec buries his time travel device in a park and saves the coordinates to his cellphone. That’s probably not the best idea in the world and will likely used against him sooner or later, but I guess I’ll find out. The first surprise was that the phone actually displays properly formatted coordinates:

Picture (c) Showcase

Picture (c) Showcase

The coordinates given are 49° 17′ 08.5518″ -123°06′ 12.7578″, and if you enter them into Google Maps, you’ll see that they lead to Portside Park in Vancouver, Canada, where the story is set. So at least they found a proper place to put them, right? Well, not just that: it’s actually inside the exact park where the scene is shot, as becomes evident as soon as you use Google Street View on the closest road, which is East Waterfront Rd right outside the park …

Picture (c) Google

Picture (c) Google

… and compare the skyline in the background with that in the scene:

Picture (c) Showcase

Picture (c) Showcase

Turns out they actually bothered to use proper coordinates which is like the closest thing to a miracle. I am well aware that this is exactly the opposite of a “TV Fail”, but I felt I had to report on that anyway because it’s so perfectly done and shows that its perfectly possible to use correct GPS coordinates – if only you want to. Thanks, Showcase, you’ve given me hope.

The mindbending magic of virtual reactors

I should probably not even bother with Intelligence, a show currently running on CBS in its first season, because its excessive use of fake computers and moon logic automatically disqualifies it from applying any kind of common sense to the story anyway. The entire show is basically one giant advertisement for the US Cyber Command and a vehicle for Josh Holloway who’s seriously wasting his talent (and money) here.

However, in episode 11, the writers went so overboard with everything that I couldn’t just ignore it. Whats particularly baffling is how computer interfaces are displayed, because the intended target audience – 18-29yr old men and maybe women because Josh Holloway – should be well aware of how computers work and what you can do with them.

Let’s just ignore the ludicrous premise of the brain-implanted supercomputer-on-a-chip that seemingly works without any kind of power supply and get down to business. Some juvenile hacker has written a clever worm to hack company servers and hold their data hostage until they pay him $currency. Suddenly, the power grid supplying the West Coast fails and of course, that’s not thanks to the terrible state of the power infrastructure but some Russian mobsters who have stolen the worm and are now using it to extort the US government into releasing one of their incarcerated brothers. Yeah. Oh, this is the hacker:

Picture (c) CBS

Picture (c) CBS

He looks like a cross between the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Barack Obama (no offense to either), but certainly not like someone who pulls regular all-weekers in front of his computer. He even wears a phat chain around his neck!

This serious mistake in casting aside, he’s able to read source code that looks like this:

Picture (c) CBS

Picture (c) CBS

This must be the most unergonomic code editor ever – red on black with blue borders? The “code” looks like someone took a bit of Java (or possibly C++, can’t tell) and pasted some Base64-encoded stuff over it, but it makes no sense whatsoever. Not that it’s important anyway.

What is important however is the final sequence of the episode. By then we found out that the worm is targeting a nuclear power plant. We also found out that it’s behaving “like a kitten playing with string” which sounds like it doesn’t know what the hell it is doing. Anyway, the USCC decides to give the Russians what they want, and so Gabriel et al meet them to do the swap. Of course, this goes wrong, the mobsters escape and blow up the van containing the “mothership” computer they were supposed to hand over. It’s a giant explosion with fire and stuff, and afterwards, the van looks like this:

Picture (c) CBS

Picture (c) CBS

Actually … you know what, it really looked more like this:

Picture (c) CBS

Picture (c) CBS

Oh well. At least the computer – sorry, the “mothership” – is toast, which is bad. But the guys have an idea: why not build a “virtual nuclear reactor” and have the worm target that instead? Unfortunately, they don’t have all that much time, so instead of having a few programmers sit down and code the thing (or, you know, they could just ask the genius hacker to do it for them), they have Gabriel dream it up using his chip. It’s “immensely complicated, even with Gabriel”, because the worm is “impossible to predict”, but hey, if you don’t try, you can’t fail, or something.

Gabriel starts with the reactor blueprints, which involves him walking onto the open parking lot and staring at the sky while green things swirl around. Doing that is commonly called “compiling the system core” among chip-implanted humans. To anyone with just one brain, it’s called “having an acid trip”.

Picture (c) CBS

Picture (c) CBS

And because this is all very complicated, even with Gabriel, the “basic build” is complete before the next ad break:

Picture (c) CBS

Picture (c) CBS

But he’s it’s not sexy enough for the worm, so he has to add a bit of T&A to it … by making everything look a bit brighter.

Picture (c) CBS

Picture (c) CBS

Good work! Now “the mouse trap is all set. Do you see it?”.

Picture (c) CBS

Picture (c) CBS

Honestly? The only thing I see is a lot of green stuff that makes no sense whatsoever. Our young genius hacker is happy, though. The USCC leaders are looking at the same image, seriously asking “What do we see here?”. Morons.

Picture (c) CBS

Picture (c) CBS

Still nothing except a jumbled mess of green nobody who’s not on a serious acid trip would even pretend to “understand”, but they quickly nod their heads in approval. “Awesome!”, they exclaim, probably to prevent the scientist in attendance to judge them for being bumbling idiots who can’t even remotely comprehend the marvels of technology they are looking at with his help.

Back at the parking lot virtual reactor, our guys are watching the worm getting its thing on:

Picture (c) CBS

Picture (c) CBS

He is “sniffing it out”, because computer worms do that.

Picture (c) CBS

Picture (c) CBS

But no, the worm’s too clever to just fall for the trap. He “saw the phantom reactor for what it is … a fake!” …

Picture (c) CBS

Picture (c) CBS

… junior scientist exclaims while looking at Gabriel with a mix of sadness and utter disgust. Everyone’s trying their best to look mortified with varying degrees of success, until …

Picture (c) CBS

Picture (c) CBS

… it is turning around! And not just that, it’s totally falling for the virtual reactor! Everyone’s rejoicing, and young hacker dude exclaims “I can’t believe it worked”, despite him being the computer genius who developed that thing in the first place. Oh, and guess how the “virtual reactor” looks after being invaded by the worm:

Picture (c) CBS

Picture (c) CBS

It turned to red! “Our data is disappearing!” The world is saved!