On the Bubble: Bones

Posted on April 10, 2013

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Bones

I think several of my reviews prior to this indicate that I am a big fan of science and rational thinking. I am not knocking faith, I just want to live where we respect the physical laws of the world in which we live day-to-day. So, eight years ago, a show about scientists assisting the FBI caught our attention.

Plus, you know, it starred David Boreanaz, and we are fans of his, so…

We Watched It

Doctor Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel) is a forensic anthropologist. She has assisted various NGOs with the examination of mass graves in Third World countries, and is a published author.

She once worked with FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth, a former US Army Ranger, who has a tough case. He has “Bones” Brennan held at the airport when she returns to the US, and then shows up to release her.

He hopes that she will be grateful enough to help with his tough case. She sees right through the manipulation, but likes the challenge that the case presents.

A partnership is born that leads to romance, marriage, and a baby girl.

On theBubble

Bones presents three challenges for me as a viewer.

First, there is an issue of cast creep. As much as I love Michaela Conlin, T.J. Thyne, Tamara Taylor, and John Francis Daley, the show doesn’t get any longer just because the supporting cast gets more screen time. As the supporting cast – who are all talented people who deserve recognition – grows in importance, the main characters get less screen time and the mysteries take a back seat to relationship drama.

Then there is the issue of character caricature. As time has gone on, Bones (the character) has gotten more shrill, more rigid in her insistence on absolute rationality, and frankly less likeable. Every other character has moments of caricature. Angela keeps longing for her carefree artist days. Jack is a conspiracy nut (and King of the Lab, of course). Lance is a man-child. Seeley puts gut feelings over physical evidence.

All shows risk character caricature over time. I have talked about it before. The goal of all media is to sell. Once you have something that attracts eyeballs, you don’t want to change it. Change is risky. It might drive away the eyeballs, reducing your ability to sell.

Studios and show runners often want to focus on what works, pare away what doesn’t, and keep the cash machine rolling. That sounds awfully mercenary, but it’s really just acknowledging that television is business, and I mean nothing derogatory by it.

Frankly, the cast and crew of Bones should be applauded for keeping things so fresh for eight years!

Finally, the show is less and less about valuing rational thought. As Bones becomes more shrill and the relationships move to the forefront, rational thought becomes the target of jokes rather than what it was originally – a valuable contribution to the lives of the characters.

WTF

Kathy Reichs writes the books that inspired the series. In the books, Bones is more human. She is more emotional and more capable of human failure.

I understand that when you change mediums, you sometimes have to change characters or story arcs. In this case, I think that making Temperance Brennan ultra-rational, and creating a back story of abandonment through her mother’s death and her father’s criminal activities to justify her behavior, makes her more iconic. She becomes more easily identifiable for TV audiences.

I still think that the show is slipping out of my (admittedly narrow) desire to watch.

Thoughts?

Sometimes, it’s like an avalanche. You make a couple of minor character changes. You boost the screen time of secondary characters. Next thing you know, your main characters are undercover in a dance contest, or interrupting The People’s Court to question the “judge.”

Or doing episodes with G. Gordon Liddy and UFOs. I’m looking at you, Miami Vice.

What shows do you remember dissolving into crazy antics, and did they recover?

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Posted in: television