Airplane! The Sequel

NBC’s The Blacklist: Redemption is on the air for a few weeks now and as I predicted it’s utter dreck. James Spader is missing every second, and the entire premise just feels extremely forced. Tom “I just want to be a dad” Keen suddenly spends all his time at his mother’s beck and call instead of doing that parenting thing he always dreamed of. Liz doesn’t really seem to mind or even notice – and how could she when she’s out chasing bad guys for Reddington in the main series?

Without Spader, there’s no comic relief either – unless the computer nerd counts, but his kind of humor really doesn’t click with me. Or maybe Solomon? He’s cool, but he’s ultimately a bad guy (not unlike Reddington, but Red’s just more charming).

After all, however, Redemption isn’t so different from your standard Blacklist fare: the storylines are ridiculous, the computers can’t be controlled without hammering on some kind of holo-keyboard (ever heared of a mouse, guys?) and Famke Janssen plays every bit as terrible and wooden as Megan Boone. The only upside is Terry O’Quinn, but his character is just not written well enough to be of much interest.

This post is a bit long, read on if you dare.

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Airplane! (Updated)

Note: the original post went up a little bit early. After thinking about the episode more than I should have, I have found other discrepancies worth mentioning. I have edited them into the article below.

Just when I said that current shows just don’t cut it in terms of epic failures, well, turns out Blindspot returned! In the most recent installment (1×11) of NBC’s rather unimpressive tattoo show, there’s just too much wrong to ignore.

It starts with the plot. Now Blindspot was always rather ridiculous in terms of narrative and this episode surely wasn’t the only one with “problems” in the storytelling department, but with so much else going wrong, it felt like they were just taking the piss.

So there’s another tattoo on Jane’s ink-riddled body and of course it’s been decrypted by Patterson, a character that truly annoys me for many reasons. In the puzzle, she found coordinates leading to a tiny island in the Black Sea:

(c) NBC

(c) NBC

The map is actually correct, by the way, although the group of islands doesn’t exist in the real world aka Google Maps. No matter, Jane, KURT (sorry for caps but his voice’s too manly to spell his name any other way) and the gang grab their go-bags and off they go to Turkey, where they are greeted by a guy driving an army Jeep.

(c) NBC

(c) NBC

With British plates and right-side steering wheel. Huh. Wonder what that’s doing in Turkey?

Why there’s an airport on such a small island is another question entirely – according to the narrative, it was built by a mining company in the 80s, so maybe. Anyway, the team finds a MD83 airplane sitting in a hangar – and not just any plane:

(c) NBC

(c) NBC

Sure enough, the tail number is fake as N-numbers can’t have a zero after the N, but the team still recognizes the plane as Pan-Asian Flight 921, a “commercial flight between Istanbul and New York”. Now I’m certainly no aviation expert but it seems kinda wrong to use a MD83 for such a flight as the distance between Europe and the East Coast is way over 3,000 miles and the MD83 can only go 2,350 miles without refueling.

The team quickly gets caught by – you guessed it – terrorists who have an especially devious ridiculous plan: they want to use the plane to get into Earth’s orbit by using a Pegasus rocket attached to the aircraft. Up there, they want to release 3D printed micro-satellites to disrupt the GPS satelites by means of EMP. Yep, it’s buzzword bingo time alright, and if this doesn’t sound like a plot straight from a James Bond movie I don’t know what would.

Because terrorists aren’t usually the brightest tools in the shed, they don’t really have the first idea on how to carry out such a plan, so they also forced an aerospace engineer who was on the abducted flight to do their bidding. Smart idea! However, it would have been much smarter to ask said engineer if the plane would be even able to reach Earth’s orbit in the first place, because, as she tells us way too late, the plane would break apart way before reaching such an altitude. Not to mention that the mere idea of flying into the orbit, opening a door and tossing out the satellites is utterly ludicrious. There’s no oxygen at such a high altitude and it’s really fucking cold, so whoever opens a door would be asphyxiated and frozen solid in no time – and also likely orbiting Earth very quickly thanks to the pressure drop in the cabin.

Also, the GPS satellites aren’t all stationed on the same spot, but are spread around the globe – with the micro-satellites having no way to move on their own, how would they even get close to their targets? Just tossing them out in almost-space would not achieve anything except for polluting Earth’s orbit even more.

So the plan sounds ridiculous and wouldn’t work anyway, but that doesn’t stop the common terrorist. The engineer telling them about the risks probably didn’t convince them to abandon their foolish quest. So what did the abducted passengers do? Well – they built a satellite telephone from scraps laying around the satellite factory. It’s a bit rough and doesn’t transmit audio – just morse code – but it would work, if only they could find a battery. However they came to the conclusion that their design was functional without any way to test it is beyond me, but KURT and the gang quickly decide they’d just need a battery from a cattle prod the terrorists are using and they’d be out of there in no time. Since cattle prods seem to use normal batteries, that might work – except that a satellite phone also needs some kind of SIM card to actually connect to the network, and I highly doubt they also got their hands on one of these. If they did, the card was likely already inserted into a satellite phone, so why not steal that instead and actually call somebody instead of resorting to morse code?

Anyway, of course it works, and of course they are able to call Patterson, and of course Patterson instantly deciphers the morse code in her head and of course she instantly recognizes where it originates from. She may be annoying like hell but she sure is smart! Doesn’t really help KURT much because suddenly the aircraft is on the airstrip and lots of shooting ensues. While the plane is being fueled, we can spot something decidedly odd:

(c) NBC

(c) NBC

On the … thing … below the fuel port, we can clearly read “OPERATED BY AMERISTAR CHARTERS”. Ameristar Jet Charters is a real company that operates executive charter jets in, you guessed it, the USA. And considering that the episode was sponsored by exactly that company:

(c) NBC

(c) NBC

Suddenly it all makes sense. They didn’t use a proper plane that could actually fly the distance between Turkey and the USA because they got the MD83 for free. Who cares for all these logical fallacies if you can stay on budget! Do you know what renting an Airbus would cost?!

No idea what Ameristar Charters got out of that deal – you can hardly see their company name and the jet itself doesn’t sport a logo or anything. Lending their jet to be used in context of a plane hijacking and a terrorist plot also doesn’t scream “great advertising” to me.

However, while we are at it, there’s another company logo in rather plain sight while all the kerfuffle at the airport happens:

(c) NBC

(c) NBC

That’s the logo of Atlantic Aviation, a company specializing in aviation services at many airports in the United States. It makes absolutely no sense on an abandoned airstrip in  Turkey. Sure, the set dressers made sure to put up a few signs in turkish, but that doesn’t fool anyone if the rest of the airport isn’t transformed to look the part.

Oh, and when the plane starts and lands, things get even more obvious:

(c) NBC

(c) NBC

I have no idea what airport this may be, but it’s kinda unlikely to be a small abandoned airfield on an island because it’s simply far too big. There are multiple runways which a mining company would never need because how many planes are going to start or land there per day? Exactly. There’s also a rather large terminal building visible, something you’d not expect on a private airfield.

But before KURT and the gang (hey, this sounds like a really cheesy band name!) are getting back down to earth, they need to somehow stop the terrorists, right? First, we are treated to an exterior view of the plane ascending rapidly.

(c) NBC

(c) NBC

There’s a good reason passengers and crew are required to sit down and fasten their seat belts while ascending – it’s a bumpy ride and people would fall all over each other because they wouldn’t be able to keep standing at that angle. However, when we see our heroes inside the avionics bay they don’t seem to be bothered by gravity at all. None of them is even trying to hold on to something in order not to fall, and there’s barely any movement either.

(c) NBC

(c) NBC

Maybe the plane isn’t ascending as rapidly as they think it is? Well, the altimeter surely tells us different – it’s going up at a brisk pace alright. But when we get a view over the pilot’s shoulder, there’s something we shouldn’t be able to see at all: the ground.

(c) NBC

(c) NBC

Hey – all things considered, this episode wasn’t so bad! Except for the story, the “acting” and all the other nonsense, of course.

Reader review

Don’t think I’m gone! I’m actively watching about anything that moves on television – well, the stuff I care about anyway. There’s just not much interesting to tell about any of it, and since I don’t want to resort to exposing petty mistakes, I prefer to wait until something really fun comes along.

But my readers – yes, I do have readers, fortunately! – have uncovered some rather amusing goofs recently I wanted to share with you in a more in-depth manner.

The first one was found by Gabriella O. in The Blacklist, more specifically in season 2, episode 15. You might remember it, it was part of the whole “Tom Keen becomes a Neo Nazi” mess of a story arc.

In the episode before that, we’re treated to this picture of Dresden, Germany:

(c) NBC

(c) NBC

That’s a fine view over Dresden alright – we can identify the Frauenkirche to the left, the Katholische Hofkirche in the center and the Semperoper to the right. However, in episode 15, we’re shown another view of “Dresden, Germany”, this time at night:

(c) NBC

(c) NBC

The trouble with this picture is – it’s not Dresden, and it’s not even a German city. Instead, it’s the Hungarian city of Budapest! Compare the screenshot to this stock video – it’s not exactly the same view, but it clearly shows this isn’t Dresden at all. As Gabriella explains in detail:

[…] it’s Budapest, Hungary and the night-view of the Chain Bridge over the river Danube. It’s clearly recognizable (at least for me, who is from there), that the left side of the screen shows the hillier Buda side of the capital of Hungary with the lit-up view of the King Matthias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion in the background.

I’m not really sure how this could happen – maybe they liked that view better than a view of Dresden at night? Maybe it’s just ignorance since “every European city looks the same anyway”? Given the rather glaring issues with the rest of these two episodes, this wouldn’t be exactly unlikely.

The second goof – this time for Homeland – was reported by an anonymous reader. You might remember there were some massive logical errors with the CIA watching a feed from an Berlin airport – BER to be precise. Now BER is still under construction and won’t open to the public for … I don’t know, maybe never, given the poor state it is in. However, their surveillance feed clearly showed passengers fleeing, leaving their luggage behind:

(c) Showtime

(c) Showtime

An important thing I missed watching the episode was that there’s a map next to Saul. On the map, there’s a circle supposedly marking where the feed originates from. Unfortunately enough, the circle isn’t marking BER – which is in the south – but the actually functional airport Tegel. So they are in fact watching an airport where terrorists could find targets to gas, but since Allison told Saul BER was the target, wouldn’t that be the wrong airport? And if they are indeed watching Tegel, why is the feed marked as originating from BER?

It’s really baffling that nobody on the production crew has spotted this absolutely glaring error. Many of the staffers were Germans anyway, why would they have let this slip? The only explanation I have is that the script originally called for Tegel as the target, but they moved to the non-functional BER instead to make things a bit less frightening and simply forgot about changing the map in post production. But considering the train station was the real thing, why would they bother changing airports?

That’s it for today! Thank you, dear readers, for providing me with even more interesting observations – I hope to see much more of that in the future. Hopefully the fall season will provide us with more goofy entertainment – the current shows just aren’t campy enough 😦

No-one to gas there, move along

Yes, the current season of Homeland is utterly fantastic and even better than the last one, if that’s even possible. Filming in Berlin was a great idea, they employed really good German actors for all the right roles and even got the German dialogue (mostly) right. So, no problems, right?

Well, not for the most part, at least. Sure, the Deutsche Post logo on the post office where Quinn’s kill box was located is just plain wrong, but I assume the Deutsche Post didn’t want their logo associated with hitmen. On that note, VW didn’t seem to be too bothered about that, but they are lying bastards anyway, so no surprise there. Sometimes the dialogue changes from German to English for no apparent reason, even if the involved characters are known to speak German, but I’m happy they used native speakers at all, so I’m willing to let that one slide as well.

Unfortunately, episode 11 became exactly the clusterfuck I didn’t want it to be, and for no good reason either. When Allison lied about the terrorist’s target, she named “BER”, which is the IATA code for Berlin Brandenburg Airport. An airport would be a great target for terrorists, of course, especially one as large as BER, so that’s not the issue. No, the problem is that the airport isn’t operational yet and won’t be for the next few years. Right now, the last announced opening date was sometime in 2017 and it’s already certain BER won’t be opened that year. To the best of my knowledge, no passenger aircraft has ever departed from or landed on BER, and it’s not even clear if that’ll ever happen because the airport is constructed so poorly that it might need to be torn down and rebuilt from scratch.

And still, when Saul watches a live feed from BER, there’s an array of luggage visible, like the passengers just fled the scene.

(c) Showcase

(c) Showcase

Every German knows about this, by the way – the BER fuckup is a huge scandal in Germany – so there’s absolutely no way the BND guys wouldn’t have laughed that idea out of the office in an instant. In fact, I’d wager some high ranking people would be happy if terrorists blew up BER for them because it’d save them millions in deconstruction. Also, potential attackers would really need to try hard to cause any casualties at all because there’s next to no-one working on BER anyway.

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?

Do it, but do it well

Although it might look like ABC’s drama soap Revenge is set in the Hamptons and New York City, it’s actually filmed nowhere near the Big Apple – instead, all the city scenes are produced in downtown Los Angeles. Usually, this isn’t a big problem, since most of the show is filmed in a studio environment anyway and the outdoor scenes could be located more or less anywhere. If in doubt, just add some NYC cabs and drop the name of some hipster deli and you’re good to go.

Or so I thought. In episode 17 of the current fourth season of the show, there’s a scene with Margeaux and EmilyAmanda set in a busy NYC street. Margeaux is entering the scene through a door that looks like it could lead to a subway station – in this case, Fulton Street, which is located close to Wall Street. Makes perfect sense for Margeaux to be there, since it’s only logical her company’s office is located in that area. There’s a NYC cab waiting outside as well. Looks perfectly innocent, right?

Picture (c) ABC

Picture (c) ABC

Would I not already know that Revenge isn’t filmed in NYC, this could perhaps fooled me, but the picture above is just the end of a sweeping shot establishing the locale. This is the rest:

Image (c) ABC

Image (c) ABC

More NYC taxis, but also a storefront called Caravan Book Store. If you search for it on Google, you’ll quickly find out that it’s a real store and that it’s located on 550 S Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles. Google Streetview is just one click away:

Image (c) Google

Image (c) Google

This is where the scene was shot – the door Margeaux emerges from is really the door to the Water Grill restaurant. They went through some trouble to transform the restaurant’s sign and the sign next to the door to establish location just to blow it all by not covering up the damn bookstore? Seriously, guys, that’s basically the definition of “half-assed” …

Bonus continuity error! In the same scene, Margeaux stands with her back towards the street while talking to EmilyAmanda. First, a suburban passes by in the background …

Image (c) ABC

… followed by two smaller cars …

Image (c) ABC

Image (c) ABC

… and the same suburban again. Oops.

Image (c) ABC

Image (c) ABC

Suddenly, Nazis

It’s always the same: as soon as (usually American) script writers run out of ideas, they add something about Nazis, usually set either in Germany or at least with some lines of German. If you aren’t German, well, you’ll likely not notice anything suspicious. If you are German, however, this often enough becomes an absolute riot and makes the whole thing so much more entertaining. That’s exactly what happened on the two most recent episodes of The Blacklist, a show I enjoy mostly for James Spader and less for the ridiculous story.

It started in episode 14 of the current second season. When Tom Keen – who isn’t dead despite being left for dead twice already – gets asked how his German is, I instantly knew this would become great, campy fun. Apparently, Tom is supposed to go to Dresden and infiltrate a gang of neo-nazis. Well, at least Dresden certainly has an abundance of neo-nazis, so that’s quite realistic. For this job he has to prepare.

First, put on German music, in this case “Major Tom” by Peter Schilling. It’s a track from the 80s and not related to Nazis in any way, but I guess the writer did like the play on the protagonist’s name.

Second, shave your hair:

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

Sexy.

Third, get inked while smoking and chilling to the haunting tunes of Major Tom.

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

The SS symbol is VERBOTEN in Germany and will get you arrested if the cops notice it. Well done, Mr. Keen, this should look convincing! Unless anyone bothers to check out his other tattoo …

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

The SS logo on the right is mirrored, but that’s not what I’m getting at. You see, the neo-nazis use the slogan “Deutschland den Deutschen” to protest against foreigners in Germany. Translated into English, this would … ah, let’s do a little experiment, shall we.

  1. Go to Google Translator.
  2. Enter “Deutschland den Deutschen” into the left hand field, put it to “detect language”
  3. Put the output language to English
  4. Voilá, we get “Germany for the Germans”
  5. Now, reverse it …
  6. Aha, “Deutschland für die Deutschen”!

Funny how it works sometimes. With a tattoo like that, (Major) Tom would be discovered quite quickly. Hell, he’d be likely arrested on the spot when trying to enter Germany.

Fourth, he needs a passport:

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

As you might have noticed, there are a few … problems … with this passport. Let me break them down to you:

  1. on EU passports, the photographs aren’t glued on, they are embedded into the passport and cannot be replaced without destroying the whole thing
  2. the color and background suggests its a passport from Poland, not Germany, but all text is in German – on a Polish passport, the main language would be Polish, of course. German passports are greenish and bear the “Bundesadler”.
  3. Tom Keen … sorry, Mr. Mannheim … is born on April 26th, 1979. Now while dates in the EU would be written either as 1979-04-26 or 26.04.1979 or 26/04/1979, the passport issue and renew before date are wrong as well. Unless Mr. Mannheim got his passport on his birthday in 1999, of course, but even then, the renew before date would be 2009, not 2019, since EU passports for ages 24 and up have to be renewed every 10 years.
  4. This is hard to read on the screen cap, but they managed to write “Unterschrift des Bearer” (Bearer’s signature) instead of “Unterschrift des Ausweisinhabers”. Any customs or police officer would spot that in an instant because the word’s length doesn’t match and it makes no fricking sense.
  5. Another obvious error: the number should be 790426 as its derived from Mr. Mannheim’s birthday.
  6. Oh, and just to add insult to injury, the personal card of modern EU passports don’t bend because they are made from plastic instead of paper.

The main question, however, is – why does Tom Keen have a Polish passport if he’s supposed to be German? Why does his birthplace sound Polish? Given the history between Poland and Germany during WW2, wouldn’t that kind of detail make people suspicious?

Oh, and before I forget – in Germany, you don’t use your passport to identify yourself, you use your ID card. The passport is only for travel outside of the EU. It would be rather suspicious to a German police officer would you identify yourself with your passport, which by the way is called “Reisepass” in German – “travel passport”.

So, Tom Keen is no more. Born from his ashes is Christof Mannheim the neo-nazi. He arrives in Dresden, Germany, and quickly finds new friends:

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

Honestly? They just look like bikers to me. Here’s a picture of real neo-nazis demonstrating in Germany:

Image (c) taz.de

Image (c) taz.de

Hrm. Okay, this might be me nitpicking more than usual, but …

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

… oh look, ZZ Top is there as well!

Oddly enough, they are not just drinking while listening to cliché metal music, oh no – they are playing games! What games, you might ask? Manly stuff like arm wrestling maybe? Or illegal nazi fist fights? Ah, you’ll be sorely disappointed:

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

They are trying to drive nails into wood with one strike of a hammer. For cold, hard Euro no less. What kind of Kindergarten nazis are they? Do they have rug time? I loved rug time!

Anyway, Tom Christof quickly does the one thing I’d never do among an illegal group of hooligans – he introduces himself. His name is Christof. “Fair enough”, you say, “his name is Christof, so why not tell them?” Because he’s not content telling them his first name:

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

Might as well wave his fake passport around. Why would he tell them his last name, so every undercover cop in Dresden is aware of him? Great start there, Tom Christof.

Did I mention they all speak terrible German? None of them would pass for being German with that kind of mangled grammar, the pronunciation is way off, and they all sound like they have to try really hard to utter one coherent sentence. Shouldn’t be hard and/or expensive to find a few people in New York City who speak better German than these tools.

Onto the next episode, 2×15. The relevant segment of the episode starts like this:

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

This could really be anywhere, so the subtitle is a nice idea to establish location. The security camera (top right) makes me wonder why neo-nazis would party there, but hey, maybe their Bier got stolen once too many.

Anyway, the scene is set to a Rammstein song I can’t identify because I don’t really listen to Rammstein – but neither would neo-nazis as they tend to enjoy music way worse than that. But it has German lyrics so it fits, right?

The Nazis are discussing their weapon procurement issues and in that context, they mention they don’t want to cross borders because that could spell trouble. That doesn’t seem to concern Tom Christof who quickly suggests he knows a guy in Salzburg – which is in Austria, across borders. No wonder his idea gets axed quickly, but that doesn’t get him closer to winning the Nazi’s trust, so he has to devise a different approach: he’s going to kill their arms dealer and bring in his own to save the day. Genius!

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

Here are the arms dealers dealing arms. Again, this could be absolutely anywhere, so this picture is just there for your enjoyment. But look, they must be in Germany because they are driving a BMW!

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

However, with a license plate like that they are just inviting the cops because that’s not a German license plate, that’s just nonsense. This is how a real license plate from Dresden, Germany looks like:

(c) olavsplates.com

(c) olavsplates.com

Also, while the BMW is a German car – but they do have foreign cars in Germany, in case you are wondering – the model they use is the US version of the 528i xDrive. You can clearly see the car has space for the differently shaped number plates used in the US, as opposed to the German version which looks like this:

(c) auto-news.de

(c) auto-news.de

If that wasn’t enough proof, the next street scene shows yet another car with bogus Dresden plates, and from the small white stripe underneath the plate you can see its yet another US version. Also, the pickup truck in the center background proudly sports US plates just for the heck of it.

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

Tom Christof shoots the driver and flees the scene on his bike, leaving the driver-less car careen into the next wall. The entire scene doesn’t look like it could be set in Dresden to anyone who was even remotely near Dresden in the last decade, but you can’t blame them for trying. Look, there even is Bernds Brauhaus (brewing house, usually a place to drink freshly brewed beer) in the background, because as anyone knows, these things are like Starbucks in Germany – literally everywhere. And look, the building is “ZU VERMIETEN” (to let) as well! Looks legit!

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

What’s with the red arrow, you ask? Oh, that … I wonder what “Aperture” means and why it would be written across the facade of a Brauhaus in Dresden?

Image (c) Google

Image (c) Google

Oh, it’s the Aperture Foundation located at 550 W 27th Street in New York City? Huh, someone must have mixed up the footage there. Whoops!

And let’s just take a look where the car ended up after the driver died:

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

Right in front of a delivery truck covered in German graffito, if anyone still had any doubts about the location.