PRIMETIME TERROR: How TV Dramas Depict the War on Terror, post-9/11

[Video Link]

Director and über-remixer Joe Sabia says,

Norman Lear Center at USC Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism teamed up with ACLU and Princeton research associates international to conduct the "Prime Time Terror" study.

24 episodes of your favorite primetime shows that depict terror—highlighting a shitload of variables.

This first video, in the wake of 10 years of the war on terror, highlights how primetime shows depict the war on terror on TV. The results are - obviously - interesting.

They came to me to try and explain the research in a fun and interesting way. And yes, Steve Zirnkilton - the voice of the TV show "Law and Order" is narrating.


  1. That is one great narrator right there. The whole time I imagined him reading off the results with a smirk on his face. 

  2. Guns, bombs, flaming anything belong to Hollywood. The sort of gumshoe work that makes up 99% of all investigations takes good scripts, actors, and directors. Where’s Columbo when we need him? The studios cater to the dumbest of the dumb. These depictions are not engaging because the world doesn’t work that way. Brains are what’s missing.

  3. Without statistics in the real
    world to compare the stats on the fictional world to, it’s not at all
    clear how useful this is. The narrator says at the end that in the
    fictional world the government has a hard time combating terror, but in
    the real world, government is really effective ore really lucky, leaving
    out the third possibility, that there really isn’t very much terror to
    fight. The government has either been really effective or very lucky in
    fighting the rampages of rouge elephants in the US, too…

    1. The racial aspect would be the most interesting, imo. (my guess is: the shows depict more white people as suspects in order to not appear racist, while in reality [due to racial profiling and bias] there would be far more arab suspects, to a point where, if depicted realistically, it would be counted as hatespeech. But I may be mis-remembering the stats…)

  4. 2:18 “and this includes Justin Bieber.”

    LOL…   wait, I think this might be a serious piece…   

    1. Don’t forget that Justin Bieber is a foreign (Canadian) national intent on influencing the minds of young Americans. He may also be practicing a deviant and (depending on the state) illegal lifestyle involving underage sex (he being the underage one).

  5. Anyone looking for truth or realism in Hollywood depictions of the real world is on a fool’s errand most of the time. Even where a fictional TV show may be “based on a actual events,” the waters are so muddied you have to wonder what they were thinking when they wrote it.

  6. So, what happens if terrorists disrupt consistent narrative structure in prime time drama, again? Do whitehat nationals win the emotional baggage from a rescue pony; or does pacing benefit from tropes like unreliable translation lag of the evildoer monologue and authority orders to ignore clear threats? Shumpterian gains from being first to market in Elephant Rouges is good TV. Remixing…eliding 800 variables, chili, turkey bac-Os and seiten…hey, not bad.

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