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6 Completely Pointless Details In TV Shows (That Will Blow Your Mind)

 

 

 

In many ways, TV shows are more complicated than films. Rather than dealing with a mere two hours with which to spin a yarn, TV shows have dozens of hours, larger casts, wider-reaching stories, and considerably lower budgets to deliver entertainment beamed out in the form of easily digestible and highly addictive content.

As we spend comparatively so much more time in the fictional worlds of television than films, the lengths TV shows go to in their depictions of real life sometimes beggars belief. It’s impressive and rewarding to see a show that takes itself seriously, with incredible attention paid to historical accuracy or fully fleshed out world building that all contribute to viewer investment in the medium.

It is these details that make a show feel real.

Some details however, for a whole host of reasons, end up being pretty much pointless. Details that were either so obscure, or so fleeting, that their absence would hardly have changed a thing. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve their moment in the spotlight for making their way onto a show anyway. This an ode to those delightfully, obsessively complex, entirely pointless, easily missable details.

 

6. The Historically Accurate Ice Cubes In Mad Men

AMC

Widely regarded as among the greatest television series’ of all time, Mad Men’s obsessive levels of commitment and zealous dedication to historical accuracy reflect its lofty status. Perhaps in no other form is this better exemplified, however, than the historically accurate ice cubes used in the show.

Ice machines didn’t exist back in the 1960s, and in the pursuit of accurate representation the show-runners emulate the production of ice cubes to fit the setting in which they are used. When a scene is taking place in a hotel, the cubes used are exactly one-inch-square, which was sourced from a specialist in Los Angeles as to what hotels would be serving at the time. In someone’s home, on the other hand, the cubes are made from vintage metal trays sourced specifically for production. In these instances, the ice cubes are more rectangular.

Impressive as the levels of accuracy may well be, it does leave us wondering whether or not it would have made too much of a difference if they’d have just grabbed a 2kg bag of ice from the local Walmart and called it a day.

 

5. Silicon Valley’s Hidden Message

HBO

Silicon Valley is a show about nerds, by nerds, for nerds. As a result, the producers readily jump aboard any opportunity they have to slip in a nerdy joke or two, be it mathematically calculating the time it takes to jerk off a room of 800 dudes, or sneaking a hidden message into a binary code.

In the instance of the latter, it was a beautifully hidden message snuck into the season five trailer. At one point we see antagonist and all-round dick Gavin Belson standing in front of an enormous screen displaying a series of 0’s and 1’s.

More than just a cool shot, if you were to translate the binary sequence into English, you’d be left with an interesting hidden message:

“Find a hobby for god’s sake.”

 

4. Hidden Biblical Nods In The Walking Dead

AMC

The Walking Dead is full of brilliant little details that help the show come to life. The title card in the opening credits decays season on season, and the corpses shown on screen rot in real time as time passes in the show.

One of the most obscure and 100% pointless-yet-cool details snuck in is the hidden bible references displayed throughout the show, most notably in Father Gabriel’s church.

Matthew 27:52, Luke 24:5 and others, all the displayed verses relate to resurrection or the rise of the dead, and are hidden in the corners of the frames or crop up briefly in rapid sequences.

MA: 27:52: And the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.

 

3. The Alien Languages Of Futurama

Fox

The writing staff of Futurama famously held three PhDs, seven master’s degrees, and cumulatively had more than 50 years at Harvard University. It’s perhaps unsurprising, then, that there are a few fantastically complicated, nerdy details snuck in across the show.

In this instance a special shoutout goes to the alien languages we regularly see in the background of many episodes. Rather than just throwaway, world-building nonsense, these languages are actually coded messages and jokes hidden by the creators.

The first alien language to appear in the show was relatively straightforward, a simple substitution cipher where each Latin letter is replaced with a symbol. When fans worked this out, however, the creators went one step further to ensure nobody had a clue what the ‘Alienese’ said and created a far more complicated cipher for the show’s language.

It is a variation of the classic autokey cipher. Each symbol has a numerical value. To decode a message, the first symbol’s value is translated directly into a character, with 0 being ‘A’ and so on. For the remaining letters, you subtract the previous symbol’s numerical value. If the result is less than zero, you add 26. That number is then converted into a character as before.

Awesome, but also complicated to the point that basically nobody got the joke. To double down on the pointlessness, the creators even went so far to create a third entire alien language with an even more complex cipher, which was never actually implemented in the show due to its ridiculous complexity.

 

2. The Stardate Logs In Star Trek: The Next Generation

CBS

Riding on the back of Futurama, we’ve got another awesome and also completely pointless, science fiction detail hidden away in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

At the beginning of every captain’s log, Picard begins with the star date, a seemingly arbitrary run of numbers that in universe presumably relate to the date of the recording. However, hidden in these numbers is information relating to the episode itself.

Every stardate begins with the number 4, which has no value in the trick. And we also need to ignore the digit after the decimal. Once that is done, we can determine the season the current episode of TNG is from using the following method.

The first digit of the remaining four (The second digit of the stardate) indicates which season that particular episode came from. If it’s 1, it came from the first season, 2 indicates second season, 3 third season, and so on.

You can even further narrow it down to which part of that season the show came from. The last three digits of the remaining four (the third through fifth digits of the stardate) indicate approximately which part of the season that particular episode came from. The closer to 999 it is, the further along in the season the episode is. Proof of this are the season finales and the season premieres. During a finale the last three digits are always in the upper 900s (Like around 980), and during a premier the last three digits are always less than 100 (Like around 025).

Using the example given above, 46312.7, this means the episode which that stardate came from originated from about 1/3 of the way through the sixth season.

Alternatively, just check to see what episode you’re on by googling it. But, you know, cool trick nonetheless.

 

1. Hidden Mathematics In The Simpsons

Fox

Alongside sister show Futurama, The Simpsons is bursting to the brim with hidden, nerdish, mathematical details that have definitely slipped by literally everyone aside from the show writers themselves. The sheer number of maths references throughout the show is staggering, ranging from pi and the paradox of infinity to the origins of numbers and the most profound outstanding problems that haunt today’s generation of mathematicians.

An example of this pointless genius occurs in the episode the 2006 episode ‘Homer and Marge Turn a Couple Play’. At the baseball game, Springfield Isotope Buck has to guess the number of people in the stadium. Then, three rather interesting numbers come up on the jumbo screen. The numbers are on screen for about 4 seconds. 8, 128 is a ‘perfect number’, meaning the numbers that it divides into also add up to it. The next, 8,208 is a narcissistic number: it has four digits and if you multiply each one by itself four times, the results add up to the original. The remaining number is a Mersenne prime; a prime number that is formed by doubling an existing prime number and then adding one.

Even the creators admit that this level detail is pointless, noting that you’d never get these ‘jokes’ by just looking at the sign in the midst of the episode. Major kudos to you if you managed to spot that one.

What other pointless details have you spotted in TV shows? Let us know down in the comments.

 

 

 

 

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