10 Infamous TV Show Anachronisms
Look, no one’s perfect all the time. Whether it’s a stray coffee cup or a time-traveling Colonel Sanders, sometimes TV shows have things popping up where—and when—they shouldn’t. Mistakes were made.
1. Game of Thrones
The final season of Game of Thrones was always going to generate a lot of chatter. Going in, though, HBO probably didn’t think a good chunk of the social media conversation would revolve around a coffee cup that found its way onto a table in front of Daenerys during a feast scene in the season 8 episode “The Last of the Starks.” Following some heavy mocking, HBO digitally erased the cup. Guess they’re more juice people.
2. and 3. Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess
No one watching Hercules: The Legendary Journeys or its spinoff Xena: Warrior Princess was expecting strict adherence to their Greek mythology-based settings. We’re looking at 1990s action goofiness, after all. But both shows played fast and loose with the basics of history, throwing characters together who would have existed hundreds, if not thousands, of years apart. Hercules’s jaunts through world history took him from meeting baby Jesus in season 3's “A Star to Guide Them” to, just a few years later, palling around with Vlad the Impaler, who lived in the 15th century.
An episode of Xena had the warrior princess being told the story of Spartacus by the the famed poet Homer. Now, scholars don’t know whether Homer was an amalgamation of several different writers. Regardless, his/their Iliad and Odyssey are some of the oldest existing works of Western literature, placing their author(s) way before Spartacus’s slave revolt against Rome on a historical timeline.
Another show replete with historical inaccuracies is M*A*S*H, which followed an army medical unit serving during the Korean War. That war took place between 1950 and 1953, while the show lasted 11 years; as you might guess, some inaccuracies popped up. Among them: Various characters mention the movie Godzilla, which didn’t come out until 1954. During season 4, Radar reads an issue of The Avengers that didn’t come out until the 1970s. In the season 5 episode “Movie Tonight,” Radar’s John Wayne impersonation pulls from a movie (McLintock!) that wasn't released until 1963.
5. Hogan’s Heroes
In the World War II comedy Hogan’s Heroes, about the exploits of POWs in a German prison camp, Colonel Robert Hogan claimed to have been assigned to the Pentagon. However, the events of Hogan’s Heroes begin in February 1942, at a time when the Pentagon was still being built. It wouldn’t be open for business until January 1943. Not exactly a Hercules: The Legendary Journeys-style discrepancy, but nonetheless incorrect.
6. Downton Abbey
Eagle-eyed fans had great fun pointing out various historical mistakes in the Masterpiece drama Downton Abbey, which spanned the years of 1912 to 1925. In one episode, for example, a television antenna snuck into a shot. Fair enough: It was an outdoor scene, and people miss things. A more blatant example, however, was the plastic water bottle that was caught hiding in the background of a 2014 promotional photo. The gaffe reportedly caused Downton Abbey bosses to ban all things modern—including water bottles, modern watches and jewelry, and even the wearing of modern underwear—from the set.
7. Mad Men
The team behind Mad Men was always very careful about sticking to its 1960s setting, but that doesn’t mean the odd error didn't slip through the cracks here and there. The show was off by several decades in the season 3 episode "The Color Blue," when the set dressing featured the first three volumes of W.E.B. Griffin’s The Corps series; the books came out in 1986, 1987, and 1990.
8. Little House on the Prairie
Michael Landon’s fluffy ‘70s hairdo wasn't the only anachronism in Little House on the Prairie. In the season 7 episode “Dearest Albert, I'll Miss You,” Laura Ingalls’s adoptive brother Albert strikes up a pen pal relationship with a girl who mentions being captain of her school basketball team; basketball, at that time, had not yet been invented.
Season 8 went the more more tongue-in-cheek route when it featured a cameo from a character who was clearly meant to be Colonel Sanders. Sanders wouldn’t open his first restaurant for another several decades, in part because he wasn’t born yet.
Cult favorite historical drama Carnivàle ran for two seasons on HBO, and racked up five Emmy Awards during that time. Set between 1934 to 1935, during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, the show followed a farm boy with strange powers who joins a traveling carnival. That farm boy, Ben Hawkins (Nick Stahl), carries around a Zippo lighter. While it's technically possible that Ben could have owned one, as the first models were sold in 1933, the lighter didn’t become truly popular until World War II later in the decade.
10. Better Call Saul
Breaking Bad prequel spinoff Better Call Saul starts out in 2002. So how did a green Kia Soul—which was first introduced at a 2008 car show—drive by in the background at the beginning of the season 2 episode “Inflatable”? Time travel seems to be the only logical explanation.