Bones: Season 1
December 8, 2006
CSI and its various offspring continue to garner strong ratings on television as people are fascinated with how the authorities use state-of-the-art technology to solve crimes. The latest incarnation is Bones, a T.V. show that takes the CSI template and attempts to inject some humanity and characters that we actually care about. While the actual cases obviously take up most of an episode’s running time, the personal details about the characters’ lives are gradually revealed. The show took a few episodes to find its rhythm and fortunately its ratings were strong enough to allow it to get better.
Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan (Deschanel) is an expert forensic anthropologist who is used to lab work and writing books. However, she yearns to work in the field and gets her chance when FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth (Boreanaz) enlists her help on a murder of a senate intern. There’s instant friction between Bones and Booth. He resents her cold, detached nature and she finds him cocky and uncouth. So, of course, there is plenty of unspoken sexual tension between them that is gradually nurtured over the course of this season.
Bones heads up a small team of scientists (that Booth nicknames “Squints” because of their bookish demeanour) at the Jeffersonian Institute in Washington, D.C. They each have their own specialty: forensic facial reconstruction, debriding, and entomology. Each episodes sees them helping Booth identify dead bodies and/or figure out how they were killed. The show works best when it plays up the clash of cultures – Bones’ analytical lab work vs. dealing with people in the real world. In turn, Booth has to learn how to deal with the Squints if he wants his cases solved. In short, they have to work together as a team.
After the untimely demise of Angel, it is nice to see David Boreanaz in another successful show. While the writing isn’t as strong, his natural charm is a large part of the appeal of his character. Also, his backstory – an army ranger sniper – hints at a slightly dark past. It also helps that he has excellent chemistry with co-star Emily Deschanel whose character also has an intriguing past – her parents disappeared when she was 15 years old. Deschanel is an excellent foil as she plays someone who is more comfortable in her lab surrounded by the remains of dead people than in a noisy nightclub filled with people. She clearly lacks the necessary people skills. However, Bones is hardly a helpless bookworm as she has plenty of strong opinions and is not afraid to voice them. She is also capable of defending herself physically as well.
The supporting cast is also good. The Squints each have their own distinctive personalities that come out over the course of the season. For example, Angela (Conlin) is an outgoing extrovert (and Bones is complete opposite in this respect), Zack (Millegan) is the stereotypical geek and Hodgins provides a lot of the humour with his wild conspiracy theories. They all play well off each other, creating a believable familiarity of a tight-knit group.
An easy comparison for Bones would be a combination of the partner dynamics of The X-Files with the formula of CSI. Where The X-Files dealt with supernatural crime, Bones deals with more natural crimes but the Mulder/Scully dynamic is certainly present in the relationship between Bones and Booth. What makes Bones work is not really the various cases but the characters and how we grow to care about what happens to them.
The first disc features a commentary on the “Pilot” episode by executive producer Barry Josephson and creator/writer Hart Hanson. They mention that they auditioned many actresses for Bones before finding Emily Deschanel through a friend. Boreanaz was the first person cast. They recount filming anecdotes in this fairly chatty track. Josephson and Hanson touch upon the test screening process and how this resulted in a few changes to this episode.
Disc three includes a commentary on “Two Bodies in the Lab” by actors David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel. They joke with each other in this relaxed track. They mention some filming anecdotes, like the caged dogs that were supposed to be mean but were actually quite friendly to them. The two actors make fun of the sexual tension between their characters. But what is evident from this track is the genuine chemistry between them and one can see how this translates to what we see on screen.
The fourth disc features several featurettes including “Bones – Inspired by the Life of Forensic Anthropologist and Author Kathy Reichs” a profile of the woman whom the character of Bones is based on. She wanted to keep the science realistic while the show’s creators wanted to emphasize the characters. Emily Deschanel had all the qualities they were looking for and Reichs liked her passion and intelligence.
“Character Profiles” are text biographies on each of the main characters.
“Squints” takes a look Bones’ team of scientists. It’s an actual term that is used and the cast members talk about the dynamics between their respective characters. They talk about how fascinating the technology aspect is.
Finally, there is “The Real Definition,” that examines some of the overtly technical terms from the show and defines them in plain English.