I cannot turn off my brain as I watch TV these days. Not only did I notice some big gaping errors in Homeland as I power-watched its first season last week, but I kept noticing Noah Wyle's AK-47 in the pilot of Fallen Skies last night. Yes, I am catching up on yet another series I could not access easily up here. What is the problem with the AK-47? Not much, of course, as it is the better weapon for insurgents--easy to maintain and so on. But for an insurgent fighting aliens in New England? I am not so sure. Why? How much ammo is available for AK-47s in the US? Seems to me from the spree killers these days that that the M-16 equivalent (and probably its ammo) is more popular in the US. Of course, a ragtag group of insurgents will pick up whatever they can find.
This over-thinking about TV programs where I should suspend my disbelief I blame on both the era of great, thoughtful TV programs (from The Wire to Mad Men and beyond) and on my wife. Many of the programs of the past ten years require the viewer to make connections and see patterns and think about things, rather than just presenting/telling the viewer everything. Which is what makes those programs so very good and engaging. We have had to learn to be selectively thoughtful--Homeland is heaps of implausible, but I accepted much of it. I just got frustrated about some details that were stupid.
I also blame my wife--she is an editor, so she is good at spotting things along the way. Not only did I learn about Chekov's gun (when a gun in the first act is inevitably relevant in the third act) from her before I noticed it being by TV reviewers, but she has now trained me to watch for the guest stars at the beginning of TV shows--the biggest names are almost always the guilty ones.
Of course, who am I to complain? I have gotten heaps and heaps of mileage blogging about Harry Potter, Lost, Avengers (here too), Star Wars, and so on. And the past week's analyses of the Battle of Hoth at Wired, Duck and Tarkin has been just wonderful.
And it goes the other way as well. In grad school, I started applying prisoner's dilemma to everything I saw. And now, thanks to the book to be, I see principal-agency theory as much as the kid in Sixth Sense saw dead people--everywhere.
So, over-thinking is not bad at all, but, as with all things, we must be aware of the second and third order consequences. For instance, fan fiction, that is of the dark side.