“You fail Geography forever”

Last night I saw on television a rerun of Monk, which is set in San Francisco. Imagine my surprise to find Toronto locales popping up again and again. Obviously the street scenes, aside from a few establishing shots, were taped here. And that reminded me of TV Tropes: You Fail Geography Forever.

Mr. Monk is an obsessive-compulsive investigator who consults with police to solve mysteries. I knew it was an old show because Monk’s original nurse/keeper/assistant, Sharona, was with him. As a down-to-earth normal person, she had enough edge in her interactions with  him to keep the show interesting.

As the story opened, they are at the finish of a marathon road-race, watching for Monk’s old childhood hero to  come in. Then they walk away and come across a tragic scene: a woman has fallen from her apartment–or was she pushed? The plot turns on whether someone running in the marathon could have slipped away to commit murder. The investigators look at places where the marathon was run.

The street scenes showed familiar Toronto buildings from the heart of downtown. The show stitched together a park in the Don Valley, near the Don Mills exit and a few km north of the lake, a park on the lake with the Leslie Street Spit in the background, what might have been a glimpse of High Park and Grenadier Pond on the other side of town, an office building with a fenced-in parking lot, oh yeah—fences topped with barbed wire—and finally, a mere footrace away, Cherry Beach.

It was fun but distracting as I tried to keep track of all the locations and how they are really oriented. I should be used to it since finding, in an episode of K9, that a public school between north-south streets near Danforth Avenue and a distinctive fountain downtown on Front Street West outside the Flatiron Building were in fact across the street from each other.

There were a few plot holes:

  • Road races do not take long detours though isolated parks, although they might be set entirely in parks. (See the Longboat Roadrunners 10K or the Harry Rosen Spring Runoff).
  • Chip timers belong to the company doing the timing and must be returned to them. The number of each is recorded against the runner’s bib number. Chip timers contain a solid-state circuit that echoes an ID number when they go over a weak radio detector. They are generally on fabric straps that fasten around an ankle with VelcroTM. They ensure that your finish time is accurate.
  • Chip timers are detected only at the finish line: everyone’s race officially starts at the same time and there are no checkpoints in any marathons I’m familiar with. Instead, there are race marshals and in some places temporary fences to make sure that runners don’t miss course turns and to keep spectators and drivers off the road.

To do them credit, the directors avoid taping Toronto’s distinctive red, white, & black streetcars. Nor did I notice TO’s unique circular lock-stands for bicycles.


2 Responses to ““You fail Geography forever””

  1. Don Says:

    I remember one old police show that was shot entirely in Toronto (in the days of the 69-cent C$) but pretended to be somewhere else. This was back when there was a parking lot full of US utility vehicles (police, fire, mail, ambulance) under the Gardiner.

    It did an excellent job of disguising Toronto when it was somewhere else but then there was this bizarre episode where they traced a serial killer (of cocktail waitresses) to Toronto! They figured out that his next victim was a waitress at the Royal York Hotel and raced there to get her into protective custody. However when they got there he had already left with her on a date to go to the CN tower!

    So they jumped back in their car and raced off to the Tower. There was then about 15 minutes of them racing down a highway to get the Tower interspersed with scenes of the evil dude trying to push her off the observation deck of the tower. Problems include the fact that the Tower is across the street from the Royal York and that there are no open observation decks on the Tower.

  2. monado Says:

    Don, that’s pretty funny. I think it was the equating of north-south and east-west streets that I found most disorienting.

    I’ve been informed that races do take long detours through parks and do have interim chip times–though probably not the dozen or so shown on the police map in this story.

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