Barry, don’t you lose my number

The portrait of telephones on TV is often a source of great entertainment. Everyone knows how a phone is supposed to work, but that doesn’t keep show producers from messing up in the most imaginative of ways (they are creative people after all!).

This time it’s a short scene from FX’s Tyrant (2×09) I noticed last week. I managed to forget about posting it, but fortunately the scene was repeated in this week’s recap segment so I have a second chance. Hooray!

In the scene, General Whatshisface needs the phone number of Khalil (aka Barry aka Bassam al-Fayeed), the leader of the Red Hand Brigade. The President doesn’t want to give it to him so he’s asking the first lady instead. She actually manages to get the number out of the presidential smartphone and sends it to General Whatshisface:

(c) FX

(c) FX

That’s nice of her and all – but that’s not how phone numbers look like. See, there’s a standard called E.164 defining the numbering plan for international phone numbers. Following this standard, an international phone number consists of three parts:

  • the country calling code, which can be between 1 and 3 digits long and is prefixed by a ‘+’ sign on modern phones
  • the area code, which can be anything between 1 and 5 digits long
  • the subscriber number, which is the actual phone number assigned to the line you want to call

Public phone networks around the globe have to follow these guidelines because they also have to be able to handle international calls. Thus, even in a fictional country like Abuddin a number like +555-0183 would lead absolutely nowhere because the country calling code 555 doesn’t exist. Unless they want Abuddin to have the country code +555, but that would be equally stupid since country codes starting with 5 are traditionally used for Latin America – Abuddin would likely have a country code starting with a 9 instead (+978, +990 and +997 are unassigned, for example, and could be used for that purpose). Even then the number format would be off, since at least some part of the remaining four digits ‘0183’ would then become the area code, leaving almost no room for the actual subscriber number. Since Abuddin isn’t that small, it’s hard to believe they’d only require three-digit subscriber numbers.

How this came to pass is easy to understand. In the US, there is a specific range of phone numbers assigned for fictional use: 555-0100 to 555-0199. Looking at Khalil’s supposed number 555-0183, it falls inside that exact range. Since the show is not set in the US, the prop people forgot to add a country code, instead prefixing the usual fake phone number with the ‘+’ sign for international numbers, causing me to write this incredibly detailed post on such a small matter. How dare they!

Bonus for artistic impression

Honestly, Partners in Crime: The Secret Adversary (BBC) was barely worth watching thanks to the glacial pacing and mediocre acting, but I did it anyway just to encounter this surprising “twist” at the end. Be warned: this post reveals the ending, so click below if you dare.

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Mythbusters

(c) ABC

(c) ABC

Just a quick one about the latest episode (1×10) of The Whispers (ABC) in which a scientist named Theo (pictured above) tries to explain to Wes why “his alien” – the entity called Drill – is “literally” becoming less powerful:

Theo: Maybe it’s different where he’s from.
But in this planet, in this atmosphere,
he’s basically chewing celery.

Wes: I don’t understand.

Neither do I, but go on …

Theo: It takes more energy to chew celery
than the celery can provide, so a human being
eating nothing but celery…

Wes: … will starve to death.

Err … that doesn’t sound quite right, my dear. Let’s hear what Uncle Wikipedia has to say about celery and nutrition:

Celery is used in weight-loss diets, where it provides low-calorie dietary fibre bulk. Celery is often incorrectly thought to be a “negative-calorie food,” the digestion of which burns more calories than the body can obtain. In fact, eating celery provides positive net calories, with digestion only consuming a small proportion of the calories taken in.

Huh. And that guy calls himself a scientist? Well, it’s probably the glasses, they could fool anyone.

(c) ABC

(c) ABC

Later in that episode, the kid of a government employee who has the codes to the DSN in his home safe (!) is convinced by Drill to steal said codes. Apparently, these codes change daily, but they still put them in a neat little binder so they can be put in a safe in someone’s home.

Fortunately, the code to that safe is right up there on the wall for everyone to see:

(c) ABC

(c) ABC

They seriously want to make us believe the keys to America’s satellite network are locked in somebody’s cheap consumer-grade safe with the combination right next to them? What if the combination needs to be changed? Is he going to buy three new baseball jerseys? Shouldn’t the combination on such important safe be changed rather frequently anyway?

Unfortunately, we’re not done yet.

When they trap Drill inside an abandoned school – abandoned for three years no less, but all windows and light bulbs seem to be intact – the weather’s really acting up:

(c) ABC

(c) ABC

It’s clearly not raining anymore and there are hardly a few drops on their clothes (let alone the hair) but the ambience sounds like its raining cats and dogs. As soon as the camera angle shifts, there’s heavy rainfall visible in the lower right corner, but the actress stays dry. And no, they aren’t standing under a pavillon, because as you can see above, they are standing right in front of one instead.

(c) ABC

(c) ABC

At least that way the entertainment value stays high enough for me to care, because frankly, that show is not even cheesy enough to be good.

Here, there & everywhere

As I said countless times before, it’s a-okay to shoot a show in a different city than where it’s supposed to be set. I just don’t want to see shots showing landmarks that don’t belong there and are easy to identify. Want (yet another) example? Take season 3, episode 7 of Audience’s pretty enjoyable crime drama Rogue. The story is set in Chicago but the show is actually filmed in Toronto. Some shots try to establish locale, like this one …

(c) Audience Network

(c) Audience Network

… or that one …

(c) Audience Network

(c) Audience Network

… but the illusion is quickly dispelled by a face in the background:

(c) Audience Network

(c) Audience Network

That face and the rest of the graffito belong to a street art project in – you guessed it – Toronto, as identified by this article from the Toronto Star:

(c) Toronto Star

(c) Toronto Star

Unless the street artists also painted exactly the same motives on an identical bridge in Chicago, of course, but that sounds kind of unlikely, doesn’t it?