Thursday, October 16, 2008

Eleventh Hour Facts


I should start out by saying that I haven't actually seen an episode of the new CBS version of the Eleventh Hour yet. Our household has been watching Life on Mars, and I haven't felt compelled to watch a second hour of (recorded) drama. Fortunately, they are available for viewing online if I do feel the urge to watch.

The premise of the show isn't too different from Fox's Fringe, at least superficially. An attractive blond female FBI agent, Rachel Young, is the handler for "brilliant biophysicist" Dr. Jacob Hood. The two of them investigate science-related crimes across the country. The primary difference, as far as I can tell, is that instead of Fringe's almost-paranormal fringe science, Eleventh Hour plays the science straight. See, for example, this SciFi.com interview with the series' stars where they emphasize the "reality" of the science on the show.

But do they really use good science? It seems not so much. In Annalee Newitz's review of the first episode, she goes into great detail how Eleventh Hour actually goes out of it's way to make the scientists seem sleazy and evil. That episode apparently involves a rogue gang of human-cloning scientists that impregnate down-on-their-luck women and throw away malformed fetuses by chucking them out of a moving car. Dr. Hood then potificates and solves the crime. Now this just sounds bad:
5. The main thing scientists bring to the table are poignant aphorisms.
We never see Hood actually geek out about anything, or go into a lab. Instead, he just says sciencey things like "In science a negative result is just as valuable as a positive one," or "DNA is like a personal barcode."
He also explains cloning - badly - with a bunch of grapes. Maybe episode 2 was better, but I suspect that "all scientists except our tame one are evil" is one of the major themes of the show.

For completely different view of episode 1, see Stephen Cass's review at Science not Fiction. He thought the show "stuck close to today's science". And he thought the grape-cloning bit was a "lucid and accurate explanation of the cloning process". I'm not sure he and Annalee were actually watching the same program.

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) clearly believes the science was bad - or at least poorly explained - and has decided to fight the misinformation with its own web site, Eleventh Hour Facts. Actually, to be fair, they don't say that they are trying to correct the record. Instead they frame the site as simply providing additional information.
Like the intriguing characters on Eleventh Hour, biotechnology works to solve crises. Our researchers work to unlock the power of nature to produce breakthrough solutions to some of the world’s most persistent challenges. However, because this show is a dramatic interpretation of the power of biotechnology, we encourage you to return here to see how the actual science works. Eleventh Hour can take creative license with these intriguing processes to ensure that the dilemma is solved in 60 minutes, but our scientists are working every day to improve quality of life for all of us.
It looks like it's going to be used to explain the positive side of biotechnology as it relates to each episode. For the first episode they have posts about reproductive cloning, and this video interview with Michael Werner of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research.


The Eleventh Hour web site has it's own meager science section with links to news articles and YouTube videos (scroll down for the links).

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3 comments:

Bill said...

I had heard the name of this show before, but had no idea what it was about. Maybe I'll give it a try, since it's available online. I could use something a little more serious than Fringe, which is fun in that it's the tv equivalent of a B-movie, and has some first-rate humor. But I certainly don't watch it for the science.

tramp394 said...

I enjoyed the combination of shows wrapped up into this one. This show is a blend of odd mysteries like House without the harsh character that I find hard to watch too often. So guys watch this show from here also. download Eleventh Hour tv show...

jetty said...

Eleventh Hour is a fantastic TV Show. Totally science fictional show. I m huge fan of this show.I think you also like this show.