Tuesday, September 13, 2005

TV: Bones

Ah, my first police procedural of the year! It's Bones, and while the police procedural genre is not generally my cup of TV (I don't watch any of the CSIs, Law & Orders, or, now that I think about it, any cop shows at all outside of The Shield), I liked this first episode purely on the strength of the two lead characters.

The lead actors, David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel, I couldn't help but notice, share a split-level title credit. You know, like Ted Danson and Shelley Long in Cheers, or Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams on Laverne & Shirley:



You don't see that a lot. It's one of those things I notice. Another symptom of too much TV.

Anyway, Boreanaz I liked just fine on Angel, and I like him just fine here, too. He's FBI agent Seeley (Seeley?) Booth, who finds that a case he's working requires the assistance of forensic anthropologist Temperance (Temperance??) Brennan, played by Deschanel. I don't recall ever seeing this Deschanel before, but I'm more than familiar with her sister, Zooey Deschanel, whom, as I may have hinted at previously, I love. Emily shares a similar beauty with Zooey, as well as her immediate easy charm. Her character is a bit of an oddball, focused on her work to the point of being completely inept at normal human interaction, but Deschanel's performance still allows you to connect with her, making her personality flaws adorable and winning rather than off-putting and irritating, as they so easily could have seemed. I especially enjoyed her cluelessness when confronted with pop culture references. "We'll be Mulder and Scully," Boreanaz tells her, inviting her to be his partner. "I don't know what that means," she replies. The two of them make for a very cute screen team.

Bones (the title, by the way, comes from Boreanaz's nickname for Deschanel) is, according to the Fox website, "inspired by real-life forensic anthropologist and best-selling novelist Kathy Reichs." Which makes Temperance seem like Reichs' personal Mary Sue: she's a crime-solver, an expert marksman with a pistol, a formidable martial artist, and a best-selling author -- plus, she can really rock a tank top, if you know what I mean. (I mean she's got big ol' boobs, frequently and lovingly framed by the camera.) It's a little much for one character. Deschanel's charms save it, though, even if at times they have to emerge in spite of the script.

Speaking of which: the writing is at times heavy-handed and clunky (how many times does Temperance need to be told she has to open up more to people? Fifty? Sixty?), and at other times a little too vague -- I never felt any reason to care about the episode's victim, her family, or her possible murderers. The show stays pretty well centered on Boreanaz and Deschanel, which isn't necessarily a bad thing; it's more concerned with the investigators and the mechanics of solving the crime than the crime itself.

And the crime-solving part is often laughable. First of all, Temperance's anthropology/crime lab has the most ludicrous piece of equipment I've ever seen on a non-sci-fi show: a giant hologram machine, which can not only project the skeletal remains of victims in full-size 3-D, it can not only recreate the exact image of the person before death -- it can even create a full motion cinematic interpretation of the person's murder. In hologram! Every anthropology department should have one! It's so unbelievably ridiculous, I still can't believe they actually used it. It felt like I was watching Admiral Ackbar plan an assault on the Death Star.

And the way the criminal is captured is equally silly. First of all, the clue leading to the bad guy is as subtle as an anvil. One of the suspects dismissively says of another, "The only thing he cares about are his tropical fish." Hmm, what an odd thing to say, completely out of nowhere. You think those fish might just turn out to be significant? Then, Temperance decides to go after the guy on her own. When she gets to his house, and finds him about to destroy the evidence, she smashes in his window, enters his home without a warrant, and then, when he threatens to burn the evidence, she whips out a gun and shoots him in the leg. She's a goddam anthropologist!! Number one, I find it pretty unlikely this case will hold up in court. And secondly... you know, I took a couple anthro classes in college. And I'll tell you what: the anthropology department is not full of a bunch of Indiana Joneses. I understand they want to present Temperance as a formidable character, but having her busting into places and shooting bad guys -- it's lame, it's just lame.

All that said, I still think I'll be catching at least another episode or two of this show. Again, it's all due to the strong leads. Deschanel and Boreanaz are very likeable, and together they have strong chemistry. They're a lot of fun (as is Michaela Conlin as Temperance's high-spirited assistant Angela), which is immediately enough to make Bones stand out from most other crime shows on TV. It's flawed, but I'm not ready to dismiss it just yet.

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