How a CSI-lite procedural became the greatest love story on TV
After 12 years and 245 episodes, Bones is coming to an end. I know that will come as news to some of you. I mean, that’s the show with Zooey Deschanel’s older sister and the guy who played the brooding vampire on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, right? It’s really still on?
Ever since it debuted on 2005 as yet another CSI lite, the series has flown under the radar of TV critics and the cultural conversation alike. It’s a breezy procedural most likely to be stumbled across while channel surfing daytime cable TV (where it seems to be in endless rotation on TNT), which means it gets no respect. And that’s a shame. Behind the technology geek-out, the horror effects played for gross-out humor, and investigations through quirky social subcultures, Bones quietly and slyly spun one of the most interesting love stories on TV.
“The Man in the Fallout Shelter” (Season 1, episode 9) The show’s first Christmas episode quarantines the team in the lab over the holidays. Along with the inevitable seasonal bonding between characters who are, at this point, barely more than colleagues, we meet (through a glass barrier) Angela’s blues-guitarist father (ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons) and Booth’s young son, Parker (Ty Panitz). The first is the coolest addition to the Bonesiverse (seriously, this guy becomes an enigma bordering on mythological trickster). The second is our first peek into the personal life of Booth and an introduction to the most important person in his world. The team’s chemistry really starts to bubble here.
Bones: The Complete Seventh Season (Fox) came in at an abbreviated 13 episodes, due to the real-life pregnancy of star Emily Deschanel, which was worked into the series.
Season Six ended with Dr. Temperance Brennan (Deschanel ), aka Bones, announcing to her partner FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) that she was pregnant and that he was the father. The warm smile that Booth gave in acceptance of the news made for one the best season-enders ever.
The first half of this split season follows Bones still working in the field through her pregnancy while the happily unmarried couple searches for a house (and Booth’s own protective instincts are kicked into high gear). After a break for Deschanel’s real-life maternity leave, the second half picks up with Bones as a new mother trying to handle all the illogical biological impulses that motherhood has introduced into her logical way of life and learning to live with Booth in their new family home.
Meanwhile Dr. Saroyan (Tamara Taylor) still struggles as an instant mother to a teenager, Angela and Hodgins (Micheala Conlin and T.J. Thyne) learn to juggle the responsibilities of new parenthood (with a lesson learned from Angela’s bluesman father, once again played by ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons), and Dr. Sweets continues his romance with Daisy (Carla Gallo), still the most aggressively annoying “squintern” in the line-up. There’s also a new squintern in the rotation: Luke Kleintank as Finn Abernathy, a southern fried former delinquent who becomes the Andy Griffith of forensic anthropology, complete with colorful southern phrases involving critters.
The upcoming season of Bones, which gets a belated start in November this year, will be truncated due to the pregnancy of star Emily Deschanel (she gave birth to a boy in September), so the full-sized Bones: The Complete Sixth Season (Fox) will have to fill the void for some of us. Not to give any spoilers away, but yes, the pregnancy is worked into the show, but the season is more concerned with a new love for Agent Booth (David Boreanaz), the pregnancy of Bones’ best friend Angela (Michaela Conlin) and the hunt for a former Army sniper gone rogue (guest star Arnold Vosloo) which becomes a very personal mission for Booth.
Full disclosure: Bones is my favorite TV show. Not necessarily the best or the smartest or the most inventive, but to me a perfect alchemy of fun characters, snappy dialogue, murder mystery complications, gooey forensics and, most important, screen chemistry bonded to perfection, and not just the tremendous love and loyalty between Bones and Booth. As the first episode attests, this team will do anything for another. There isn’t a group of characters on TV I’d rather spend time with. Especially when it involves some of the most creatively decomposed fake human remains dripping across network screens.
Human Target: The Complete First Season (Warner) – Christopher Chance (Mark Valley) is the kind of hero for hire that you can only find in comic books, movies and TV shows, a professional bodyguard who signs on to high-risk clients and puts himself directly into the line of fire. Chance is not, of course, his real name, and you might say his identity is shrouded in mystery, except that such language doesn’t fit the playful, energetic personality that Valley brings to Chance: the benevolence of boy scout, the skills of a special forces veteran, the focus of a martial arts master and the fun-loving charm of a Stan Lee superhero.
The TV incarnation, based on a series of comic books and graphic novels created by Len Wein and Carmine Infantino, is highlighted by some impressive action scenes in inventive locales; the first episode sets the chase and showdown on a runaway bullet train, the second battles it out on a pilotless airliner that turns upside down in a storm, and so on. Chance treats every situation as a challenge to be conquered but he’s also fiercely protective of his clients, who are chosen by virtue of innocence and need by Chance’s manager and special ops point man Winston (Chi McBride), the straight man to Chance’s pulp banter. Jackie Earl Haley fills out the team as Guerrero, the eccentric computer genius and electronics expert who provides back-up and attitude. In the first episode he’s basically a freelance stringer called in as needed but soon enough he moves into the funky warehouse headquarters, which looks like the millionaire bachelor loft of an overgrown adolescent.