Cop shows and medical dramas have always called upon the services of lawyers and physicians to ensure that TV represents their professions with at least a semblance of accuracy. And technical advisers also help actors provide credible portrayals of autism (Parenthood) and paraplegia (NBCs Ironside).
These days, though, motivated actors have another powerful tool at their disposal when they are preparing a role: YouTube.
When he was cast in the new Ironside, Pablo Schreiber used the service to find clips of the original series so he could get a sense of its tone.
That kind of basic research is just the beginning.
This week, Claire Danes told the Television Critics Association that when she is preparing to enter the chemically imbalanced mind of Carrie Mathison, she consults books about bipolar disorder, but she also fires up YouTube: People who have this condition, bipolar, are often up late at night and have a lot of energy and a desire to talk and no one to talk to, so they talk to the camera, and thats always very useful.
But YouTube is especially helpful to actors cast to play characters who really existed. When Gregory Itzkin landed the role of Mayor Fletcher Bowron in the upcoming Lost Angels, he did a Google search. He learned that Bowron, who served as mayor between 1938 and 1953, had made a guest appearance on The Burns and Allen Show in January 1953. Itzkin found the episode on YouTube.