Friday, July 12, 2019

Why No TV Drama on Engineers?

One time, one student asked me this:

"Sir, how come there is no TV drama about engineers?"

Interesting question. 

Well we have seen many TV drama series involving several prominent professions. We have medical drama series such as House MD, Grey's Anatomy and Scrubs. We have political drama series such as The West Wing, Scandal and Veep. Suits and Law & Order depict the profession of lawyers. Heck, they even have drama series on criminals (Breaking Bad, Sherlock), ghosts (A Haunting, Sleepy Hollow) and supernatural stuffs (Supernatural, The X-Files). Even superheroes get their own series. 

So why not on engineers?

Well for one thing, the working life of engineers usually come with very less drama, if not none at all. Nobody ever came storming into the office and screamed in real horror, "come quick, the diesel engine is drying!" and then a couple of engineers swarming around the dying engine exhaustively trying to bring it back to life, saying "hang on, buddy, we're gonna save you! Stay away from the light damn it!" Can you imagine that happening?

Will you ever see your boss comforting a family of smaller petrol, Stirling and steam engines over the death of the previous diesel engine? Not gonna happen man. 

Despite the fact that every day we do different things, there seems to be no drama in what we do. Most of our operations are I/O, Yes/No, Go/No Go kind of thing. 

The power struggles in engineering societies are sometimes predictable. Whoever is better at the job (or performs the best ass licking) gets promoted. Nobody ain't killing anybody for the position of lead or resident engineer. So no drama there. 

Secondly, the range of work that engineers do is so wide that it will take a lot of TV episodes to cover them all. Sometimes we do so many things at once that we no longer know what exactly we're doing. One time we could be reviewing technical specs, then we'll be at the desktop designing something up, and then we could be running down a topside looking for a certain pipeline. There are too many specialisations. For a start, we have the common four fields: mechanical, civil, electrical & electronics, and chemical engineering. And then we have the hybrids and branches: mechatronics, aeronautics, aerospace, environment, petroleum, biomedical, architectural, automotive, structural, computer, robotics, material, industrial, manufacturing, nuclear, marine, agricultural and many others. 

And then there are the engineer ranks and positions (junior, senior, lead, resident, project,  consultant, professional etc.) and the positions & job specialisations (sales, design, static, rotating, piping, electrical & instrument, process, research, drilling, production, steel, testing, commissioning, maintenance, erection (?!) and others). 

Even our jobs confuse us, imagine what they do to drama producers. 

I think the closest we get to engineers in TV drama is The Big Bang Theory. 

And for that we thank you, Howard Wolowitz!

Engineer cum astronaut Howie

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