Science is detailed, so it’s not surprising that many TV shows get it totally wrong. After all, screenwriters only have storytelling skills, not all the information about chemistry, physics, and biology. A show’s budget is also a major factor, and it would cost a lot more if it was a requirement to hire a scientist as a consultant.
Ordinarily, it’s easy to ignore science errors or simply not spot them at all if the story is good enough. That’s the category that many entries on this list fall on. However, there are times when the inaccuracies are too glaring, causing viewers to slightly lose interest.
10 Breaking Bad (2008 – 2014)
“4 Days Out”
Breaking Bad‘s blending of actual Chemistry procedures with criminal activities is one of the key reasons it’s regarded as one of the best-written TV shows ever. But as impressive as Walter White’s chemistry knowledge is, some of the things he does are more of miracles since they aren’t scientifically plausible.
Take his desert adventure for example, where the battery of the RV dies, and he decides to make a makeshift one using mercury. According to the BBC, such an improvisation would only produce around 12 volts and 30 amps, which wouldn’t be enough to jumpstart a Fleetwood RV’s battery. Nonetheless, that’s a detail only real chemists would know.
9 Bones (2005 – 2017)
“The Secret In The Siege”
Bones strictly relies on science to solve crimes so the creators and writers deserve to be lauded for the amount of research they put in. It’s also remarkable how they excavate 12 seasons’ worth of content from forensic archeology and forensic anthropology alone. Still, they mess up a couple of times.
On one occasion, one of the protagonists decides to use Harris lines to establish when the trauma happened to a middle-aged woman’s body. The problem is that these growth lines only form during one’s childhood years hence they cannot be reliable when handling a case concerning an adult. Thankfully, that’s an error that can only be noticed by forensic experts.
8 The X-Files (1993 – 2016)
“The Erlenmeyer Flask”
Given how well it reinvented the X-Cop genre, The X-Files is widely regarded as one of the shows that changed TV forever. Fans cherish it for the thorough investigations and likable leads but, it isn’t correct about everything, especially when it comes to the scientific procedures.
A glaring inaccuracy can be spotted when Scully suspects she has contracted an alien virus, so she goes on to do a special kind of DNA test known as the Southern Blotting Technique. She gets the results in under three hours. In reality, such a test takes a minimum of 72 hours. This is excusable since The X-Files isn’t a medical drama.
7 The Simpsons (1989 – Present)
“Creeps Of Wrath”
Bart has been at the center of some of the craziest moments of The Simpsons and one of those happens when he makes every toilet at Springfield Elementary explode by dropping a cherry bomb in one of them. As chaotic and fun as the scene is, it’s not scientifically possible.
Whether the explosions could happen in real life remained in doubt for a while until Mythbusters made an attempt to replicate the same prank. As expected, it didn’t work, but this doesn’t take away from the awesomeness of the scene. After all, this is The Simpsons, a show which has even featured weird genetic mutations.
6 Limitless (2015 – 2016)
It’s common for TV shows to feature geniuses without caring to explain how they have unbelievably high IQs but Limitless goes the extra mile. On the show, it’s stated there is a new drug named NZT-48 which allows a person to unlock 100% of their brain instead of 10% like other humans.
However, the assumption that humans only use 10% of the brain is only a myth. Britannica clarifies that people use all parts of the brain at different times. If only 10% was important, then most brain injuries would actually be insignificant, but that’s never the case. So as smart as the creators of Limitless try to be, they get the entire premise wrong.
5 Baywatch (1989 – 2001)
Baywatch is more adored for its attractive characters than for the actual work that they do. In almost every episode, the attractive lifeguards save lives by simply performing CPR. Only on rare occasions do the victims require complex medical procedures.
For the show, this works as it allows the focus to be on interpersonal storylines and relationships. In real life, CPR alone isn’t the only cure during instances of drowning. Research done by Science Direct proves that human lungs are all built differently hence they won’t all respond to the standard chest pressing.
4 Star Trek: The Original Series (1979 – 1991)
No sci-fi show can look cool without special weapons and for Star Trek, phasers are what the characters mostly rely on. The colorful weaponized light helps make the show’s visuals even better while adding condiment to the action sequences, but its use wouldn’t work that way in the real world.
According to The Guardian, laser beams from a phaser would so powerful that an object would immediately explode upon being hit by them. Why that doesn’t happen in Star Trek is a mystery, but explosions are expensive to create and in a show with dozens of episodes, there have to be budget limitations.
3 Battlestar Galactica (2003 – 2009)
Battlestar Galactica is actually airtight when it comes to science as there is only one moment worth pointing out. In the three-part finale, it’s revealed that Hera is the universe’s “Mitochondrial Eve” and also the MRCA. This is factually incorrect since the two terms mean different things.
The MRCA is the most recent common ancestor of humans whereas the “Mitchondrial Eve” is the ancestor along maternal lines only. The use of both terms thus brings about confusion, leaving keen audiences wondering which of the two Hera actually is. Even so, it’s something that has less of an effect since it happens at the tail end of the show.
2 Maniac (2018)
Once in a while Hollywood stars go the small-screen route and deliver unforgettable performances. Maniac is such a blessing, and it stars Jonah Hill and Emma Stone as participants in an experimental drug trial that results in some deadly outcomes.
The show is robust except for the fact that the drug is reported to be in its 73rd iteration. As per New Scientist, it’s impossible to alter a specific drug that many times without completely ruining its chemical structure. More importantly, the FDA would never even approve a drug that has failed more than 10 times, hence 73 is baffling.
In any discussions about the best sci-fi action TV shows, it would be a crime for Timeless to be excluded. But as cool as it is to watch the characters moving to different periods using a pod, the series gets the basics of time travel very wrong.
In Timeless, it normally happens at a very low speed, but scientifically, time travel wouldn’t happen that way. According to Einstein’s special theory of relativity, time can only slow down if an object is moving too fast (via Space). Time travel would also work in the same photon-replacement manner that’s seen in photocopy machines and this would have to happen immediately.
NEXT: 10 Worst TV Shows Ever Made, According To Rotten Tomatoes