Jammin’

Ransom, a rather new show on CBS, is about a team of professional – and commercial – hostage crisis negotiators. Why that’s a thing is beyond me as usually the police is pretty good at doing that already, but why not. Since it’s a CBS filler show – heck, it airs on Saturdays! – it’s pretty much a given that the paper-thin plot is peppered with plot holes and the cast is just as dull, and that’s okay – not every show can be the next Homeland. Oh, by the way – this is the gig Frank Spotnitz left The Man in the High Castle for. No, really. Must be a long way to fall from this height, but he finally hit rock bottom.

So far, the episodes were just your average nonsense but the third one pretty much did it for me. As usual, the script author probably read something about something, thought “hell, why not!” and went with it, logic be damned.

So there’s a hostage situation in a bank. The two hostage takers don’t want to negotiate because it’s not really about money, and obviously that’s a problem for our crisis negotiation team since they are hired to negotiate, not sit around in their thousand dollar suits and look pretty. The perps collected all the phones the hostages had on them so there’s no way to go around them and simply contact a hostage instead.

ransom103-smartwatch

Image (c) CBS

Luck has it, however, that one of the two rent-a-cops in the bank wears a smart watch, more specifically a Samsung Galaxy Gear. How do they know that? Because it’s visible on the security cameras, duh! Unfortunately, the police has a cell jammer active and doesn’t want to shut it down just because some smart looking fella asks them nicely.

What’s the idea here? Well, the lead negotiator pairs his smartphone with the watch and starts to send messages to it. Why any given smartwatch would be able to receive messages directly from the paired smartphone is beyond me as there’s really no need for that kind of feature. Remember: the watch is normally paired to the wearer’s phone, which is likely in their pocket – what good would it do to be able to send messages from the phone to the watch? Except for resolving a hostage crisis, of course, but I doubt that’s high on the priority list when developing a smart watch.

That kind of nonsense aside, the security guy wearing the watch is laying on the floor (he got shot) pretty far from the bank’s entrance and the negotiator is standing a few meters away from it as well. Given how supposedly terrible the Samsung Galaxy Gear’s bluetooth range is – way less than the average of 30 feet, which is about 9 meters – and the fact that there’s a wall and several desks between the phone and the watch, the entire “I’ll just pair my phone with his watch” thing likely wouldn’t work in the first place.

But it gets better. After the negotiator manages to send some messages to the smart watch and gather information about what’s going on inside the bank, he can convince the cops to drop the cellphone jammer in order to get a “dedicated signal” to the phone connected to the smart watch (which, at this point, would still be his own … yeah, this is really through through). Actual cell jammers do have a feature to allow certain phones, although I highly doubt there’s need to shut down the jammer to configure it. The whole “dedicated signal” stuff is nonsense anyway – the cell jammer would simply be blacklisting any and all mobile signals except the ones that are on the whitelist, in this case the phone inside the bank and the negotiator’s phone, and the phones used by the cops.

Fantastic technical research, guys. No, really. No wonder Mr. Robot gets glowing reviews for their way of displaying actual technology at work when everyone else is just doing a hack job out of it every single time. Doesn’t really take much to shine in this colorful CSI world most shows tend to live in. Ugh.

Oh, and while we’re at it – what the fuck is this:

ransom103-screen

Image (c) CBS

No, I don’t mean the cop grinning like a moron, although … yeah, that too. No, what I’m talking about is the … holographic screen that is perfectly readable against bright sunlight. There’s even some room for nonsensical widgets that don’t seem to display any feasible information, and let’s not forget the very important company logo which is  always a great use of screen real estate! Now that’s some prime CSI tech right there! Must have blown out their entire SFX budget given an explosion of four blocks of C4 in a tight air duct looks like this:

ransom103-boom

Image sequence (c) CBS

Oh well. At least there still was some cash left to add a bunch of colored lights to the detonator.

Playing video games

SIX recently started on History Channel, and while it’s got decent production values and a good cast incuding Walton Goggins and Barry Sloane, it still looks and feels far too much like they took Call of Duty and made a TV show out of it. Maybe it’s because we Germans simply don’t value our military service personnel as much as we maybe should, but all this heroic brouhaha is a bit annoying. Of course, all these brave, stereotypical soldiers have families and everyone has their own baggage, but it’s all far too shallow and predictable to be of much interest to me. But hey, at least History Channel finally manages to air something else than documentaries about Hitler or UFOs – or Hitler and UFOs – so that’s a start.

Fitting the overall impression of the show being a video game coming to life, the writers also took a page out of the book of reality. Remember when Edward Snowden revealed that terrorists were using multiplayer video games to talk about their evil plans? Well, the SIX scribes thought it would be a cool idea to implement that idea into episode two of their show. Unfortunately, instead of just faking a chat on any given (or fake) MMO, they resorted to … this:

six102-playingvideogames.jpg

Image (c) History Channel

What happens here is as follows: some terrorist dude puts on a wireless headset and talks to another terrorist dude via voice chat in a video game. While they are talking on the voice chat, the exact words appear on the screen as well, as if the game could magically guess what the guys said. It’s pretty clear neither of the terrorists is typing anything, so how does this work? Of course there’s a thing called speech recognition, but why on earth would you bother with stuff like that in a video game, especially one as crappy as the one they use?

So far, so ridiculous, but there’s more! To their merit, they did everything right in the first scene this comes up, which makes their blunder even more damning. In a later scene, one of the operators comes home to find his little son playing Gears of War:

six102-playingactualvideogames

Image (c) History Channel

To wit: two cables running to the TV (power/HDMI), the screen is actually powered on.

six102-playingactualvideogameswithactualcontrollers

Image (c) History Channel

Exhibit 2: the controller is an actual Xbox One controller and – woohoo! – powered on! It’s really hard to see due to the reflection on the glossy surface but in this freeze frame the button is clearly lit. Rosewood set decorators, take note: this is how it’s done!

Or not. Daddy goes to check on his daughter and finds her with a boy. She claims they didn’t do nuthin’ but daddy still finds this behaviour entirely unacceptable and throws the boyfriend out. I wonder what he was doing at that age in his spare time, knitting?

six102-playingdifferentvideogames

Image (c) History Channel

While the boyfriend is escorted out of the house, we pass the TV once more, and all of a sudden there’s an entirely different game to be seen: Sunset Overdrive. And what’s even better, the game is already in progress which is quite a feat given that the player would have to quit Gears of War, find Sunset Overdrive on the console, launch it and start playing, all within about 20 seconds. I highly doubt this is even possible given the sluggish menu of the Xbox One as well as the long load times and endless splash screens most games have.

No, the real reason for this mistake is likely them filming out of sequence again – possibly on different days as well – and not remembering which game they loaded up. Or maybe the kid actor wanted to play something else because Gears of War got boring. You know, kids. They just go and do as they please. More power to them.

Autocorrect is a way of life

While Rush Hour (CBS) occasionally features rather funny writing, it’s main bullet point seems to be the terrible production quality which is on par with the worst NBC shows.  Of course, the show is cheaply made, but some of the more glaring mistakes could have easily been avoided by taking a little extra care (or at least one more look at whatever you’re filming).

This post is about episode 11 in the show’s first (and thanks to early cancellation, last) season. Captain Cole has a date at the LA Concert Hall (also known as Walt Disney Concert Hall), but it doesn’t really go as planned. The guy she dates is a total bore, and for good reason: he’s talking like he wants to advertise something.

Boring date
But it’s not just about looking good. CrossFit is a way of life.

Captain Cole
Huh. Is that a fact?

Boring date
Yeah. Cardio boxing for endurance and tai chi for precision and focus.

Captain Cole
Oh, fantastic.

Fantastic, yeah, considering CrossFit isn’t just a way of life, it’s also a real product, so this dialogue turns out to be actual advertising. And it’s definitely not a coincidence either, since the CrossFit brand is dropped on another CBS show as well – American Gothic (episode 7):

Reporter
So, how married are you exactly?

Allison
Very publicly married with two kids, as you know.

Reporter
And yet you still somehow find the time for… CrossFit, I’m guessing?

No, actually she finds time to fool around with her lesbian lover, but I disgress.

Anyway, of course things go sideways when armed gangsters storm the concert hall and take hostages. Before all that, we get a look at the concert hall’s loading dock where we can spot a very sloppily redressed sign:

Image (c) CBS

Image (c) CBS

Of course it was too expensive to print a new sign instead of just taping over the real phone number. Renting the LA Concert Hall was probably cutting into the budget so much nothing was left to put up a proper sign.

When Cole finds out there’s something going on, she pulls out her gun (on a date? no wonder she’s not dating well!) and her cell and – as luck would have it – she has the LAPD on speed dial:

Image (c) CBS

Image (c) CBS

Unfortunately, her phone doesn’t have service so she can’t actually place the call. She tosses her phone and moves on just to find two guys on the ground along with a purse and another cellphone. After some shooting, she grabs the phone from the ground (why she ditched her own phone in the first place is beyond me) and hides in an unlocked room. Here, she uses the phone she picked up to call the cops, and lo and behold – it has service!

Image (c) CBS

Image (c) CBS

What we see is the lock screen of an Android phone (although it looks like it was doctored as there’s no carrier designation in the upper left corner). While there’s definitely a way to call the police or emergency services from the lock screen, I doubt it would show up as “LAPD” just like on her own phone – it just makes no sense, especially after learning later on that the cell belongs to a person who lives in Switzerland. Instead, it would likely say “Emergency Services” or something unspecific like that.

Cole manages to call for help and the cavalry arrives. She’s on the move through the venue, looking for the kidnappers. Suddenly, the phone has no reception any more. Despite being an experienced police woman, she’s standing out in the open where everyone can see her, and that’s exactly what happens: she gets jumped. She manages to knock her attacker unconscious and would be able to go into hiding, but she doesn’t. Instead, she’s kneeling down basically right next to the downed guy and rifles through his duffle bag. Oh well, at least she gets some intel about the kidnappers.

She then sends a short message to Carter’s phone:

Image (c) CBS

Image (c) CBS

Carter (while looking at his phone)
Unknown number.

Carter (reading aloud)
“I’m upstairs. Alone.”

Carter 
Ah, this must be that Latin chick I met at the club last night.

Carter (writing message)
Busy right now. Will hit your sexy ass back later.

Cole
Come on, you worthless piece of…

Carter (reading aloud)
“Carter, you loudmouth jackass.”

Carter
It’s Cole!

Image (c) CBS

Image (c) CBS

Carter runs to the commander to tell him about this revelation when Cole starts to type another SMS:

Image (c) CBS

Image (c) CBS

However, thanks to the autocorrect function, the message she actually sends reads:

Image (c) CBS

Image (c) CBS

That’s not how autocorrect works – she should have seen the wrong words as she was typing the message, and since we could see her screen, it’s clear there was no autocorrect at work here. Not to mention that it’s highly unlikely to get the word “grenade” corrected to “Teddy” and the word “Picture” to “Peanut” – at least the second word is so damn common that it would never be autocorrected even by the worst autocorrect ever. What’s also odd is that the message was supposed to read “Grenades, Picture of … Pickering” yet the word “of” vanished entirely. It’s also noteworthy that her previous SMS didn’t have any issues in that regard despite using words like “jackass” and “loudmouth” which would be equally prone to auto correction.

Of course, Cole gets caught and is used by the kidnappers to communicate their demands to the police outside. The cops send a negotiator to, well, negotiate. As you can see, he’s clearly the only one at the top of the stairs aside from the kidnapper and Cole:

Image (c) CBS

Image (c) CBS

So why is there someone standing behind him in the reflection?

Image (c) CBS

Image (c) CBS

Ah, it’s probably nothing (or it’s the steadycam operator, which is more likely).

After much back and forth, the two detectives decide to sneak inside the theater to get to Cole. But the entire building is surrounded by police snipers, so it’s kind of difficult to get inside. Their solution? Dress up like theater guests and just go inside via a stairwell on the back of the venue. I have the feeling police snipers would definitely report two civilians sneaking around the area but maybe the snipers fell asleep, who knows? Even if the snipers knew the detectives played dress-up, they’d still have to report it since order was that nobody gets in or out (especially not Carter and Lee, who have been more or less banned from the area for disobeying orders).

But they do get in via an air duct and quickly stumble upon a kidnapper:

Image (c) CBS

Image (c) CBS

There’s a clock hanging on the wall. It’s 9:55pm and 20 seconds.

Image (c) CBS

Image (c) CBS

After Lee downs the kidnapper, Carter comes out of the air duct and the clock still shows the exact same time – in fact, the seconds don’t move at all during the entire scene. The clock is obviously out of batteries in order to make preserving continuity easier, but since it’s so clearly visible, the effect this achieves is exactly the opposite. The timeline fits, though, as we can see on Carter’s cellphone:

Image (c) CBS

Image (c) CBS

Ah well. Shouldn’t expect too much from these movie adaptations, should you? These mistakes aren’t exactly shocking, but they really show the creators aren’t exactly commited to excellence either.

Jump in

Despite all the bad press about 50 Cent being broke, his personal TV show Power still goes on. Season 3 has finally started and it seems they managed to secure a little marketing deal. It’s probably for the best since executive producer 50 Cent isn’t going to provide much more than his namesake’s worth of currency if the rumors are true.

In episode 2, James St. Patrick’s kids have a sleepover at Angela’s place, and what’s better to calm a juvenile than video games? That’s right! Angela has got the technology all set up and also provides the game of choice:

Angela
Hey, Tariq, I got you your favorite video game.
You can play it now if you want.
Everything’s set up, I think.

Image (c) Starz

Image (c) Starz

Killer-Instinct-Xbox-One-Box-ArtIt’s only visible for a few frames but that’s a Killer Instinct box – exactly the one pictured on the left, by the way, so the Day One edition. If you look closely, it’s already unwrapped, so maybe she got it used? I don’t know.

Tariq couldn’t possibly be more excited about that gift:

 

Image (c) Starz

Image (c) Starz

He really doesn’t look like he has seen the game ever before because that’s not a look you have on your face if you’re excited about something you love. It’s more the look you have on your face if you’re not sure what the fuck is this thing in my hand but hey, that might just be me (if you give me my favourite video game, I sure as hell wouldn’t read the box because I already know it).

The kid objects:

Tariq
That TV’s way too small.
My mom got a big screen at home.

That’s right, folks! Microsoft wants you to know Xbox One plays best on a BIG SCREEN TV!

Fortunately, before any more discussion about the viability of smaller TVs can ensue, the Xbox boots up – presumably without the game disc inside because we never see the box leave Tariq’s hands – with its (likely) trademark sound. Father and son can Jump in!

Image (c) Starz

Image (c) Starz

It’s (almost) all good – the console is clearly an Xbox One. It’s turned on (wow!). The controllers are not PlayStation or Wii controllers for once (woo!). They aren’t turned on (boo!) but at least the game is indeed Killer Instinct (hooray!). So what am I complaining about?

Oh, just that the Xbox One doesn’t exactly boot up that fast, let alone start a game that’s not installed (which can be assumed since Angela is fishing the game box out of her purse). Even considering the game was already installed, the console would take way longer to jump into action than one second. Sure, the Xbox One has a standby mode, but then you won’t get the boot sound, it just wakes up from hibernation. But of course, since the entire scene is obviously paid for by Microsoft, we can’t possibly wait the entire minute the damn thing usually takes to boot …

Fakesimile

I kinda liked NBC’s Aquarius last year so I was quite happy to see it was renewed. Unfortunately, the three-hour (!) premiere of season 2 was far too slow for my taste and should probably aired in separate episodes so the viewer doesn’t get tired from the endlessly meandering plot. However, this was a problem with the first season as well – it didn’t really pick up the pace until later – so I’ll give it some time.

There’s one thing that bugged me more than the slow pacing, though. At some point, Detective Hodiak gets a message from another Sheriff’s Department. Since it’s 1969, there was no internet or email, so the message is printed on a TeleType Model 33 – basically a precursor to modern fax machines. This is what the thing looks like:

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

Pretty damn ancient from our point of view, right? These machines could only transmit text at a rather slow pace (about as slow as the story moved in this episode) and they printed the document just like a typewriter.

How come then that the document Hodiak recieves contains two pictures that look just like they came out of a laser printer?

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

To be frank, the entire document he’s looking at feels like it was made in Photoshop and printed on a modern printer. The horizontal lines make no sense – TeleType machines didn’t scan the document, the text had to be entered via the keyboard (that’s why they had one in the first place!) so there would be no graphical features on the transmitted document at all.

To quote Detective Hodiak:

Ah. How’s it work?
A-actually, I don’t care. Do not care.

Neither does NBC by the looks of it.

It’s not a trick, it’s a Sony

After a hiatus of over a year and a half, Person of Interest is back with it’s final season. Which is a crying shame, because it was a serious guilty pleasure of mine and probably one of the finest examples of a terrible show that was retooled to become absolutely awesome. The premiere had everything I expected – lots of shooting, lots of blank-eyed staring from Jim Caviezel and a lot of witty banter to boot.

Unfortunately, that’s where the good ended and the bad began. Of course, PoI is hardly a show oozing with realism, but the plot in this episode was just so mind-blowingly stupid I just had to go and write a little post about it. And by “little”, I mean “a little longer”. As Mr. Finch would probably say: “Oh dear!”.

It all starts where it ends: the machine is in a suitcase full of RAM chips and batteries and Mr. Reese is carrying it around. After a bit of shooting, we get it: the longer the machine stays in the suitcase, the bigger the chance it’ll break forever. So, there’s a great deal of urgency in the dialogue, for example:

Mr. Finch:
Damage to a single bit of the code of the Machine
in its presently compressed state would equal terabytes of lost data. Irretrievable, irreparable. It’s running now on the lithium-ion backup, but if that light starts blinking, we’re in big trouble. Even then, I’m not sure I can fix the battery, much less decompress the Machine. It would take vast amounts of processing power, which I don’t currently have available.

That’s not good, isn’t it? Obviously, the light starts to blink pretty soon afterwards and not soon after …

Mr. Finch:
It’s powering down. There’s only a very small amount of residual power remaining. The RAM chips could be losing their data even as we speak.

According to this research paper (PDF), RAM chips lose their data “within microseconds, at best within seconds”. So once the battery power is gone, there’s basically zero chance to recover the machine in a state in which it could still decompress, let alone run. The degradation becomes even worse in warmer environments. Keep that in mind for later.

I was a bit puzzled by the “terabytes of data” that would apparently be lost when all the suitcase contains is a ton of RAM chips, but apparently that’s a thing since 2013. Who would have known?

Anyway, as they come to their old HQ in the subway, Mr. Finch immediately begins to open the suitcase to recover whatever’s left of the machine. Mr. Reese gets a phone call from Fusco, and because this is way more important than the time-sensitive recovery of his wonderous machine, Mr. Finch spends the entire time of the call by listening in and making conversation (oh, and checking the web as well!). After 47 seconds, Mr. Finch is exactly where he started: the suitcase is still closed and the light on it doesn’t even blink any more. Also, he’s not able to pry the damn thing open, which leads to a funny moment at least. If there was any hope for the machine being able to recover, he just wasted almost a minute of it. Fantastic.

Image (c) CBS

Image (c) CBS

Later, Mr. Finch manages to set fire to the machine (and half his lab) by short-circuiting the damn thing. If the surge didn’t kill off the remaining data, the fire surely will – remember what I wrote earlier? Temperature is important! Not that anything would matter at this point, this has gone on for far too long. After the fire, the contents of the suitcase look like this:

Image (c) CBS

Image (c) CBS

Meanwhile, Root is up to something – she’s visiting an old russian “friend” of hers, who happens to run an electronics recycling center. After some more shooting and a save by Mr. Reese (because this guy is literally everywhere at once), she gets an idea how to obtain some raw processing power:

Image (c) CBS

Image (c) CBS

Yep, that’s a Playstation 3 – fat model, by the way, which is accurate in terms of narrative. She’s going to need “about 300 of these”, because, you guessed it, she’ll build a server farm out of them!

Oh, in case you’re wondering – of course the chips are dead already. Even the characters know that:

Mr. Reese:
What about the RAM chips? Have they lost all their data?

Mr. Finch:
Battery’s dead. It has no power source. Could be a residual charge in the lithium-ion backup. If there was, I fried it.

Mr. Reese:
Come on, Finch, there’s got to be a way to resuscitate it.

Mr. Finch:
Mr. Reese, even if there were battery power left, we don’t have enough processing power to decompress the Machine.

Well, that can be helped, of course:

Root:
These particular gaming consoles have a unique cellular structure that can be scaled. Networked, they approach the processing power of a supercomputer,  but only use about 1/10 of the power, and their OS can be overwritten with Linux.

According to Wikipedia, there’s some truth to it …

In November 2010 the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) created a powerful supercomputer by connecting together 1,760 Sony PS3s which include 168 separate graphical processing units and 84 coordinating servers in a parallel array capable of performing 500 trillion floating-point operations per second (500 TFLOPS). As built the Condor Cluster was the 33rd largest supercomputer in the world and would be used to analyze high definition satellite imagery.

… and that’s likely where the script writer got his idea. There’s just one teensy-tiny problem: you can’t just build a supercomputer out of 300 used PS3 consoles, at least not given the extremely short amount of time the team has to complete this task.

First of all, you’ll need to obtain 300 consoles that still work. The PS3 model in question was the launch version, so it’s at least ten years old. These consoles had technical issues causing them to fail early (the so-called “Yellow Light of Death” or YLOD, where the console would die from overheating), and considering Root found the hardware on a recycling yard, it’s not hard to guess why they ended up there. Since she can’t know if they still work or not, she’d have to test them all to ensure they don’t fail seconds into decompressing the machine.

Second, even if all the consoles still work, the OtherOS functionality that came with the original model was removed with a firmware update in 2010. Considering many later games required the user to update the firmware in order for them to run and considering what purpose a PS3 usually has (beside building supercomputers, of course), there’s a good chance none of the consoles Root acquired still have that functionality. She’d have to check for that as well.

Third, the OtherOS feature doesn’t just work out of the box. You can’t just start a PS3 and expect it to boot into Linux – you’ll have to install it first, a procedure which will likely take at least a few hours unless Root happens to have a disc ready for each of the consoles, which seems unlikely considering the sparse equipment in the lab. Also, only a handful of Linux distributions even worked with OtherOS, which makes things even harder. They are still obtainable, of course, but all these things waste precious time – time the team doesn’t have!

Fourth, even after installing Linux, making a supercomputer out of a bunch of PS3s probably won’t work without a good amount of fiddling – it’s Linux, right? Even genius hackers like Root and Mr. Finch can’t type faster than their fingers move, and as we learned more than once in this episode, time is of the essence – at least as long as it’s okay with the plot.

Fifth, Mr. Finch was talking about “terabytes of data” that would be lost from a single error in the compressed RAM, so we can assume the machine requires at least a few terabytes of storage to even boot, let alone do its thing. PS3 consoles simply don’t offer that much storage – their memory (RAM) is only 256 Megabytes and the stock hard drive was between 20 and 160 Gigabytes. The final count of consoles used was only 70 (see below) so the max. storage space on stock drives would only be around 10 TB. Of course, the drives could have been upgraded, but that’d take even more time, plus Root would also need to get her hands on a huge number of hopefully undamaged hard drives.

Of course, none of these glaring problems stop them from building their supercomputer anyway. Here’s how it looks:

Image (c) CBS

Image (c) CBS

Seems my doubts weren’t entirely unfounded since that’s only about 70 PS3s, not 300 – maybe the rest of them simply didn’t work. Not quite as big a supercomputer as Root might have had in mind, but still, that’s some impressive hardware. I’m a bit confused about the amount of CAT5 cables hanging everywhere, though. Since the PS3 doesn’t have more than one network port, there shouldn’t be more than one colored wire coming from each console, but there clearly are. Take a look at the leftmost console in the lower shelf for an example, there’s a green network cable coming out of the HDMI port which is right above of the network connector (which a blue cable is connected to):

Image (c) CBS

Image (c) CBS

Also, many of them don’t seem to be connected to the power grid at all, which is odd since they all light up. Which by the way is also odd since I don’t remember the PS3 having a colored LED on the back of the machine. All that wiring must have been great fun to set up under pressure anyway, but it seems like Mr. Reese was able to help with that, even though he doesn’t speak nerd.

Of course the whole thing almost blows up because the PS3s can’t keep up with the machine’s demand of processing power. One by one, the consoles crap out with sparks and a nice fluff of magic smoke, which would actually strain the remaining ones even harder, but since time is only a problem if the script asks for it, Mr. Reese manages to grab a liquid nitrogen container from the street (now at least that’s realistic, these safety hazards are literally just standing around at every corner in NYC) and is able to cool down the cluster so much the machine is still able to recover. Take that, science!

Down the drain

European press went nuts last week over the release of Netflix’ new drama Marseille, instantly comparing it to House of Cards, Netflix other great political drama. Well, I’m sorry to disappoint all you journalists out there who can’t research for half a second, but if Marseille has to be compared to another show, it’s a french take on Boss. Which is good, because that show was seriously underrated and cancelled far too early. It’s also not as entertaining as Boss was, but it’s still not a bad show and it’s nice to see Netflix do something in Europe, can’t fault them for trying.

During the first two episodes, the mayor repeatedly gets strange emails – to his outlook.com account no less. The entire show seems to be heavily sponsored by Microsoft so there’s Windows 10, Windows Phones and Surface tablets everywhere. Anyway, these emails contain a scan of a newspaper cutout:

Image (c) Netflix

Image (c) Netflix

Looks like the mayor has a little secret, doesn’t it? Well, in episode two, there’s a scene where prison guards are searching a female inmate’s cell. What they ultimately find is this damning piece of “evidence” – it’s hidden in the toilet, by the way, hence my not-so-clever post title:

Image (c) Netflix

Image (c) Netflix

Looks like they found the culprit, doesn’t it? That’s the image that was sent to the mayor alright! However, they shouldn’t jump to conclusions too quickly as there was no way the inmate could have sent these emails, at least not with that cellphone. You see, it’s a Thomson Tlink11, which, among other features, offers MP3 playback, a FM tuner and 200 phone book entries. It doesn’t, however, offer access to the internet or even just email. It doesn’t even run Windows! What a dumb phone.

It also feels like a seriously bad idea to hide a phone down a toilet and not turn it off before you do. Considering you can’t just recharge it in the open as much as you like – it’s a prison, after all, and cell phones aren’t allowed in there – why not turn it off and save battery? It’s also decidedly odd that the phone is still showing the picture instead of a lock screen, something you’d expect once the phone hasn’t been used for a while (and “for a while” with these old cells means basically as soon as you don’t press any buttons for all of five seconds).

Seems the mayor still has something to worry about, and so do we as this isn’t exactly a great start to a show that’s supposedly the “french answer to House of Cards” And it isn’t. But still..