There are many television personalities who have defined a profession and most startlingly, started a career trend. It just so happens that crime scene investigation is one of the subjects that most adeptly captures the public imagination. Forensic scientists are clever, investigate intriguing mysteries and above all, are normal people, not superheroes. Many of us can identify with the characters and see ourselves working alongside the TV lead and his or her team.
Here, we continue comparing these personalities to the real individuals who carry out this fascinating work in real-life. Just don’t miss the profiles on the other brilliant scientists we’ve discussed in the first article.
4. Gil Grissom vs Daniel Holstein: criminologists
This iconic television personality came onto our screens in 2000 as Gil Grissom, the eccentric and lovable night shift supervisor of the Las Vegas Crime Lab. His office is filled with samples nicely lit and arranged on shelves. Specimen bottles contain beetles, blowflies, and maggots, whilst a refrigerator is filled with blood samples and organic evidence being tested. He is often seen at his government-issue gray steel desk, deep in thought, with a microscope at his elbow and a block of resin with a captured bullet fragment holding down papers. He is highly-esteemed among his staff and colleagues in the LV Police Department, including the police chief and senior detective Jim Brass. He has a fierce devotion to logic, little regard for social norms and a fascination with the unknown.
The Gil Grissom character is directly based on Daniel Holstein, a real-life criminologist for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Anthony Zuiker (the show’s creator) was fascinated with Daniel, hired him as a consultant and loosely based the series on his work. The jars of maggots and pig’s blood in the refrigerator in Grissom’s office are inspired by Neil’s office decor. Many of Daniel’s most interesting investigations inspired scripts. William Petersen, who plays Gil, became fast friends with Daniel and they spent a lot of time on set together. After season 9, Gil moved on to other adventures, but Daniel is still consulting on the program and still catching real villains.
5. Gil Grissom vs Neal Haskell: forensic entomologists
But Gil also has another motivating mentor — Dr Neal Haskell is one of the most respected forensic biologists in the world, with a specialty in entomology. In fact, if you visited only the offices of Gil, Daniel and Neal, you would think that jars of bugs are normal decor. Neal is a Professor of Forensic Science at St. Joseph’s College in Indiana and has worked on cases internationally. He is also a popular TV personality, but appears on the Discovery Channel, Forensic Files on Court TV, and other reality shows discussing real cases and solutions.
6. Max Bergman vs Michael Baden: medical examiners
Dr Max Bergman, MD, is a colorful doctor who supports the Governor of Hawaii’s special task force called Hawaii Five-O. Originally brought in as an occasional character in season 1, he gained audience approval and was quickly added to the full time cast. He is a so-called genius who, in addition to his medical knowledge, plays the piano, collects comic books and is knowledgeable about Hawaiian history, world events and World War II. Sometimes, like the NCIS medical examiners Dr. ‘Ducky’ Mallard and Jimmy Palmer, he can be annoying when he starts reciting trivial knowledge. On cue, the main characters roll their eyes and go about their crime solving business. In season 3, he was shot, but recovered and was seen later walking with a cane (once more, mimicking the CSI: Las Vegas medical examiner, Al Robbins — so there must be a character formula somewhere for forensic characters).
In the early episodes, Dr Bergman had a peculiar way of talking — haltingly with a tonal lift at the end of each sentence, this peculiar accent was not identifiable to any particular mother tongue. Over time, it was lost, as his lines are now delivered in a regular voice. Masi Oka, the actor who plays Max explains that he was quite unfamiliar with medical terms at the beginning, and singing the lines was one way to learn and keep the pronunciation accurate.
Dr Michael Baden, MD, is the real life counterpart to Max. A board-certified pathologist, he received his medical degree from New York University in 1960. Since then, he has worked on hundreds of famous cases, including testifying at the O.J. Simpson trial, investigating the remains of Czar Nicholas II and family, analyzing the 5,000 year old corpse found encased in ice in the Swiss Alps, investigating the deaths of celebrities including John Belushi and Sid Vicious, and many, many more. He is the host of HBO’s Autopsy, a show about famous and fascinating cases — some of which are in Dr. Baden’s personal case files.
Dr. Baden also is attached to a special law enforcement unit: he is the co-director of the New York State Police Medical Investigation Unit. He continues to practice today.
Every character on TV is inspired by real people. Real people are perhaps even more interesting than a character. Our televised friends only truly live one hour a week (not including commercials) during a given season. The more you peer into the real-world forensic field, the more you will happen across inspiring personalities. And for the most part, even actors are enthralled by the heroes who are the real deal.
Your Turn: So, which personalities inspire you the most? The real-life individuals or the television characters? We’d love to hear your viewpoint and your suggestions for other people we should feature. Leave a comment!