Let's face it: If the sort of crime scene investigation work that gets portrayed on TV actually existed in the real world, it would pretty much be the perfect job. All of your co-workers would be beautiful geniuses, you'd get to play with the tech gadgets that would have made Steve Jobs jealous, and you'd always, always catch the bad guy. But that, of course, is fiction. "Mistakes are made, but never on TV," says Love, who once ran the CSI department in Orange County, Calif. "Evidence is collected and if not done properly, spoilage can happen." That means sloppy work can lead to dangerous criminals escaping punishment. It happens, but rarely on TV.
What also doesn't happen on TV is the routine, everyday work that takes up so much of the time of anyone involved in law enforcement, including forensic specialists. "When was the last time you saw them writing reports? Police work is doing reports in triplicate," says Dr. Tod Burke, a former police officer who now teaches criminal justice and forensics at Radford University in Virginia. "A real-life crime show is someone filling out a crime form, and the sequel is someone filling out a supplemental form."