Solving the Unsolvable: The Most Popular Forensic Scientists on Television

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Are you a fan of “NCIS”? Perhaps you can’t get enough of “Bones.” No matter which show you’re addicted to, there’s little doubt thata crime dramas have taken over popular television. From “CSI” to “Dexter”, fictional forensic scientists have taken on a household name. Here are a handful of the most popular:

1. Abby Sciuto

Abby Sciuto, crack member of the NCIS team, is, without a doubt, one of the most fun-loving, generous forensic scientists you’ll ever meet. That aside, Abby is only very minimally based in reality. Very few, if any, agencies would allow a “goth” to dress as they wished while performing their duties, train puppies in their lab, or blast heavy metal music through the speakers; even if they were as sweet and pleasant as dear Abby.

2. Dexter

Who ever thought that the world would fall in love with a warped serial killer? That’s exactly what happened when “Dexter” launched. Part of the character’s appeal is his adeptness at blood splatter analysis. Unlike other shows, “Dexter”‘s main character focuses on a specialty. This focus is more in line with the reality of forensic science, assuming that you take away the serial killer angle.

3. Temperance Brennan

Launched in 2005 and still going strong, the “Bones” series is based on books by Kathy Reichs. A renowned forensic anthropologist in her own right, Reichs’ main character is Temperance Brennan, or Bones as she is so fondly nicknamed in the show. What many people don’t know is that the main character, Brennan, has Asperger’s Syndrome; at least that’s what has been reported. Watch the show one time and see if you can’t point out how Brennan’s quirks may be related to autism; much to both the celebration and chagrin of those dealing with the disorder.

4. Mac Taylor

Mac Taylor is the main character in “CSI: New York” for those of you who don’t already know that fact. “CSI” may be one of the most unrealistic, if not completely entertaining, forensic shows on television. In no crime lab in the country will you see clear, wall-sized computer screens, every single piece of the latest technology, or forensic scientists who respond to crimes. In reality, forensic scientists are not trained law enforcement officers with the ability to make arrests.

5. Sherlock Holmes

Though Sherlock Holmes has always been popular, the fictional character has been recently revived by the hit show “Elementary.” With his advisor-turned-partner, Watson, Holmes uses his superior intelligence and knowledge of forensics to solve cases that stump even the most experienced investigators. Though there are geniuses in this world, it’s unrealistic to think that any are working in forensic science in a way that is as remarkable as Sherlock Holmes.

More people than ever are enrolling in criminal justice programs due, in part, to the popularity of television crime dramas. It’s important to understand that although they are entertaining, these shows are not typically related to real life. While some shows base their plots loosely upon real-life events, the way that cases are solved is far from reality.


Writer John Acker is an avid blogger. Interested in working in forensics? Check out criminal justice phd programs and the average forensic pathologist salary.


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