The Things TV and Movie Cars Can Do are Amazing

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I have a bad habit of spending too much time vegging on the couch in front of the TV. Even though almost half of the programming was unbearably dumb infomercials, I was burning up too much time with my favorite shows like American Pickers, Deadliest Catch,and any of the car-flipping shows like Gas Monkeyand Car Chasers.

So last summer I took the bold step of dropping my DirecTV. With it went two other bundled items, my quaint telephone landline and my longtime email address, which was part of my Verizon internet access.

Instead, I bought a TV antenna (remember those?) and have been pulling in the free digital channels and their associated subchannels. Besides saving around $150 per month, I've discovered a couple of networks that specialize in reruns of old 1960s TV shows. Welcome to veg city, part II.

It's been fun getting reacquainted with the old police dramas like Dragnet and Adam 12. My family lived out of the country from 1970 to 1972, so I wasn't around to see Tony Nelson marry Jeannie or officers Reed and Malloy trade in their Satellite for an AMC Matador. The reruns have helped me catch up. The cop shows have lots of street scenes. As they patrol, I'm scanning the backgrounds, looking for old car dealerships and gas stations. The hardboiled Joe Friday and his likeable partner Bill Gannon did a lot of Los Angeles cruising in their 1967 Fairlane, though the optional deluxe steering wheel seems like a waste of taxpayer money.

It's been fun getting reacquainted with the old police dramas

But that's being too picky. Sweating the details wasn't that big of a thing back then. I just watched an episode of Mod Squad in which our highly hip trio—Pete, Link, and Julie—begin the episode driving a knockout 1971 Challenger convertible and finish in a nearly identical '72. Huh?

And there are plenty of other details that trade realism for greater on-camera razzmatazz. Here are some things I've learned watching old cars do their thing Hollywood style.

Tires squeal a lot, even on dirt roads, even going in a straight line or in normal braking.

Any car going over a cliff will become a huge fireball, even before any impact.

It's possible, even likely, for a car to morph years in the seconds before a huge collision/fireball scene. Example: Leslie Nielson drives what looks like a 1964 Thunderbird in the above-referenced Mod Squad episode, but when bad guys pushed him over a cliff, the car (yes, it became an instant fireball) suddenly became a '62. Ditto the ending to Vanishing Point, where Kowalski's Challenger becomes a Camaro.

When the good guys are in a hurry, especially when pursuing a bad guy, neutral safety switches cease to exist. The car begins moving the instant the engine starts. The Streets of San Francisco was big on this.

When pursuing a bad guy, the good guy's car will have enough power to quickly catch up to the bad guy, but once the gap is closed, the good guy's car will only have enough power to maintain the same speed.

Wheel covers that flew off in an earlier scene can reappear, especially during a chase. Ditto body damage. Bad guys love to pull alongside the good guy's car, shoot them a menacing glance, then jerk the steering wheel hard and try to run them off the road. Body damage occurring in such an exchange is likely to disappear in later scenes only to reappear in still later ones.

When a car involved in a chase encounters a parked car, it will not result in a mere collision. Instead, the car in motion will vault over the parked car amid a spectacular shower of sparks, fly 15 feet into the air, and perform a giant barrel roll.

During a chase, all cars being pursued must, during the course of that pursuit, run into: a chicken coop, sending chickens flying all directions; the well-stocked cart of a sidewalk fruit vendor, sending fruit flying all directions; or a big stack of cardboard boxes, sending cardboard boxes flying in all directions.

And of course, fruit vendors will always be rotund guys wearing an apron and a newsboy cap, all cardboard boxes will be empty, and the car will suffer no damage.

Also during the chase, the car being pursued must, during the course of that pursuit, swerve onto a sidewalk, where: a mother pushing a baby carriage will run for dear life; a cop writing parking tickets will dive for cover; or painters will have their scaffolding knocked over and their paint will spill. Or all of the above.

As demonstrated by the flying Chargers in The Dukes Of Hazzard, any car doing a motocross-style jump, soaring two stories high and traveling most of the length of a football field, will, upon landing, bottom out its suspension but incur no other damage, not even a flat tire, then continue on its way. Likewise, occupants will suffer no spinal injuries nor damage to their hairstyle.

This, friends, was well before "reality" shows.

This article originally appeared on MSN.

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