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Attention, screenwriters: Allow us to point out the simple mistakes you make

Does it seem like all the movies that Hollywood produces these days are sequels? Guess what: Me too! Welcome to “Things That Hollywood Gets Wrong: Part 4.”

Shouldn’t TV shows and movies be counted on to get it right when it comes to … TV shows and movies? Not always.

[Wrong! How come TV and the movies sometimes have trouble with the details?]

A reader named Matt from Sacramento pointed out that often when there’s a scene involving a TV news show, the floor director is depicted verbally counting down “three, two, one.”

“Floor directors I’ve worked with don’t say the one,” Matt wrote. “And sometimes they just say ‘in three’ and use their fingers to indicate two and one. That’s because the microphones have to be turned on before the anchors start speaking. You don’t want the microphones to pick up the floor director counting the anchors down.”

[Can you knit a quilt? Of course not. And Marco Polo didn’t ride a llama to China.]

Thank you, Matt of Sacramento. And thank you to all the other readers who have been sending me examples of things the media gets wrong.

That includes George Hamlin of Clarksville, Md. What bugs him? “Giving the audience a view through binoculars and what you see is two adjoining circles,” he wrote. “The actual view through binoculars is one circle.”

But how would we know the character is looking through binoculars and not a telescope? (It’s easy to tell when they’re looking through a kaleidoscope.)

[Let’s call them ‘Things That Hollywood Gets Wrong’]

David Ballard of Reston, Va., is impressed by how strong characters on TV and in movies must be. How else to explain how easily they pick up heavy suitcases and toss them around as if they were weightless. Could it be that these prop suitcases are, in fact, empty?

David admits to being somewhat intolerant.

“Due to my rather persistent harping about this, other viewers in my family, perhaps influenced by my petty scorn, have been known to denounce out loud the presence of a ‘movie suitcase’ when watching a movie or show,” he wrote.

Laura Key of Burke, Va., has a similar complaint. “A pet peeve of mine are the actors pretending to have full coffee cups and teetering around the cardboard trays with four ‘full’ coffee cups or moving their arms around with coffee cups,” she wrote. “They cannot even fake holding a full cup of coffee. It still counts as bad acting. Put some weights inside or fill the cups with water, please.

Laura has a kindred spirit in Sarah Corcoran of Takoma Park, Md., who confesses to being made crazy by empty-cup syndrome.

“In TV shows and movies, when they use an obviously empty cup to ‘drink’ coffee or another drink, it drives me to distraction every time,” Sarah wrote. “If it’s a paper or lightweight cup, you can always tell by how they hold the cup that there is nothing in it. Just put a rock in it! Or water!”

The District’s Janet Tersoff is irritated by another type of emptiness. “For me it’s figure skating,” she wrote. “In movies, they often show the big competition in a darkened arena with spotlights on the skater. This never happens in real life, but I believe they simply don’t want to pay extras to fill all of those seats.”

An online commenter to one of my earlier columns pointed out another error: A desperate character thwarts the bad guy or summons the police by holding a match or lighter under a sprinkler head, causing all the sprinkler heads on the floor or in the building to start gushing.

“That’s not the way sprinklers work,” this person wrote. “Each head has a glass bulb filled with a fluid that will expand and boil under heat until the bulb shatters, allowing water to spray from the head. Exposing a single sprinkler head to a flame will only set off that one head.”

I checked with the folks at the National Fire Sprinkler Association, who assured me the reader was correct. “Fire sprinklers are heat activated and only the head closest to the fire goes off,” wrote the association’s Vickie Pritchett.

Got that, screenwriters?

Barb Roach said her two sons, Dale and Erik, were fortunate enough to go dog sledding in Northern Minnesota with their Alexandria, Va., Boy Scout troop several years ago.

“They reported that Hollywood gets it wrong whenever you see a line of dogs pulling a sled and barking as they glide through a winter scene,” she wrote. “They said the dogs bark like crazy at all times (especially as you get out their harnesses) except when they are running. They are working so hard that they are silent as they run!”

Me? I gasp and wheeze when I run.

Twitter: @johnkelly

For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/john-kelly.

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