Couple watching TV
Have you succumbed to the power of the box set?

We live in troubled times – economically, politically, and socially. This blog being mostly focused on veterinary matters, I’m going to turn my attention to the most animal-relevant of society’s many questions, which is this:

How did the Americans get so good at telly?

Like many right-minded people, my wife and I have become addicted to the modern phenomenon of the box set, marvelling at the quality of writing and acting in The Wire, The Walking Dead, Game of Hormones and many others.

We watched in horror as Ned lost his head, as Jimmy McNulty battled with drink, and as Rick Grimes inexplicably failed to explain to his ragtag band of survivors that, if the only thing your enemy can do is bite you, maybe a t-shirt isn’t ideal zombie-tackling clothing.

Trouble in paradise

Breaking Bad poster
Season 3 poster for AMC’s Breaking Bad.

How these shows manage to pack more drama, character and tension into a single episode than the entirety of Richard Curtis’ cinematic output is a mystery to me. But even in televisual paradise, there is a problem.

In an episode of Breaking Bad we watched recently, protagonist Walter White, having escaped from his hospital bed to perform various nefarious acts of drug dealing, found himself having to sneak back in and lie in the bed as if nothing had happened.

Unfortunately for Walt, he had been on a drip. However, this was not a problem for everyone’s favourite meth maker. Gritting his teeth manfully, he raised the butterfly catheter over his hand and thrust it into his flesh as if he were spearing a buffalo.

While less medically-minded people covered their eyes and gasped, all my wife and I could think was: “He’s never going to hit the vein at that angle.”

Personally, I think it would have played better if the next scene had been Walter groggily opening his eyes the next morning as a nurse enters, looks at him and gasps in shock – whereupon we quickly pan back to see Walter’s left arm ballooned up like the Michelin Man, full to bursting with subcutaneous fluids. Sadly, that’s not what happened.

V-fib a big fib

defibrilation paddlesWalter’s casual vein-hitting, along with hundreds of other examples like this on our screens, not only devalues our hard-earned skill (how many times have you seen a blood sample taken with a quick stab to the arm on the gogglebox? They never faff about for ages and mutter that “this is a bit of a dodgy vein actually”, or blame their nurse for “not holding it right” – not that I would ever dream of using either of those excuses for my own terrible aim. Ahem), but every time one of these otherwise excellent TV series’ makes an egregious medical mistake, it reminds me I’m watching a show.

Every time someone who isn’t in v-fib is jolted back to life with defibrillator paddles, it breaks my immersion. When a character receives a blood transfusion courtesy of a bamboo shoot, or a bullet needs “to come out right now, goddamn it”, it breaks my suspension of disbelief.

And how I wish I had access to the magic sedative used so often by agents and assassins that causes instant unconsciousness after an intramuscular injection. Imagine how much easier feral cats would be.


Instead, when I see this happen time after time on my screen, I think “well, they got that totally wrong. What else is utter tosh in this thing then?”

It spoils my enjoyment, because it reminds me that these people are just saying words written on a script with a camera pointing at them.

Maybe it’s just me. I’m a pedantic sort, but I’m also a problem-solver. You see, all it would take – what with all the money lavished onto these dramas – would be to run the script by a medical professional for a few quid so they could point out that cauterising an amputation wound with a blowtorch is unlikely to stop a femoral artery from spraying in your face, nor will it lead to a perfectly healed stump a few scenes later.

Heck, it wouldn’t even have to be a medical doctor. Anyone qualified in the medical field – even, say, a veterinary surgeon with an interest in zombies would do the trick. For instance.

My rates are very reasonable. And I’m a doctor now, technically. Just saying…

View your activity >

Leave a Reply

3 Comments on "Doc Hollywood"

Notify of

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
1 year 1 month ago
Still laughing at ‘Game of Hormones’. The Osprey book about zombies foregoes armour in favour of athleticism because in places like Georgia you would dehydrate quicker carrying armour and put your ife more at risk than being bitten by a hybrid of tesco employee and DWP worker who are only a threat to the deaf and blind. My immersion breakers are one hit knockouts that dont result in subcranial heomatomas, unrealistic gun sounds, people flying from ballistic impact rather than flopping down like they’d been switched off, and my bugbear, the cardinal crime, location editing. Living in Chester I watched… Read more »
Sarah Newton
1 year 1 month ago
LOL awesome. My bugbears are extraordinarily long periods of unconsciousness followed by waking up like nothing had happened (that’s on telly, of course, not me…) and LANGUAGES. Aaargh! People pick up languages in 10 minutes and sound like a native, or brush a liana from a jungle wall and say, “Hey, this is ancient Sumerian, it says we have to utter these words…”, or some time traveller or other planet just *happens* to speak 21st century English, or (the worst crime of all) is that some actor turns up and speaks a foreign language in an execrable accent and we’re… Read more »
Vet Changes World
1 year 1 month ago

This was hilarious. I bet police officers feel the same about crime shows and lawyers about law shows though. They’re entertainers, they just can’t get it all right. There was a brief lived show about veterinarians on NBC where almost all of the doctors were men and they let a monkey run around the hospital. I stopped saying they should have a hilarious show about veterinarians after that. I realized it would be constant torture.

Still… I think we could do right by a single Scrubs style musical episode…

Again you continue to be full of insight and wit.


related content

Most effective are the chlorhexidine based rinses. Chlorhexidine gluconate is an antiseptic which reduces inflammation … more

1 mins

Nurses are usually great at radiographic technique, with the flip side that vets are often … more

3 mins

We’re all now getting ready for BVNA Congress, taking place in Telford from October 9 … more

5 mins

Reading up on the legislation regarding working hours and the national minimum wage (NMW) I discovered … more

Having finally settled in one place in Jaipur, India, my friend and I were able … more

Meshed skin grafts have several advantages over non-meshed grafts. Meshing is the creation of several … more

2 mins