The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Television Collision: The Patronizing Ineptitude of Bones

Written by: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer

ImageAs long as there has been TV, there have always been the shows that critics love but the wide audience doesn’t really care for (or get) and there have been the audience favorites, which are often reprimanded for their flaws by TV critics. There is nothing wrong with this dynamic. The trick is to recognize the disconnect, whether you are a “regular” audience member or a TV critic. When someone talks about a show being “good”, you have to know what they mean by that. Do they mean good as in “it entertains me and I enjoy watching it” or do they mean good as in “it has artistic merit”. Both have validity and both should be considered.

Spoken like an obnoxious TV critic, it is fair to say that Bones has never truly been a “good” show in the sense of having a lot of artistic merit. It has always been existentially flawed, as I have noted time and time again. Yet it has almost always been a “good” show in the sense of being entertaining. The characters are well-crafted, from Bones herself to Booth to Angela to Hodgins to Cam. (The only exception I can name here is Sweets. He is still as useless as ever.) Bones always had a way to mix in humor with truly gruesome crimes and cool technology. Not always very believable, but who watches TV to see something ordinary anyway?

The problem that Bones has always had though is that it reaps itself of its own rewards. The 100th episode, which aired two weeks ago, is just another example of it (examples before were the excellent Gravedigger episode that got a lukewarm follow-up at best but was mostly ignored in continuity and the completely botched storyline of the serial killer “Gorgonzola”, at the end of which our beloved Zach turned out to be a psychopath). I don’t know why the writers of Bones keep sabotaging themselves and I refuse to chalk up their continuous fuck-ups to being on a bully of a network like Fox. There’s only so much blame to be spread, the writers cannot be faultless.


This is how we want to see them.

In the 100th episode the writers managed to slam a door shut they have spent five years to pry open: they denied Bones and Booth an attempt at being together. And not even for any good reason, just because Bones thinks she is too scientific for love. WTF, anyone? From the beginning of the show people have bemoaned the “X Files effect” of Bones. How Bones and Booth were just like Mulder and Scully, who danced around each other for what felt like twenty years only to finally share a kiss.And just when you thought that the TV writers of today have taken some notes from the history of the medium they work in, just when all the little sizzling scenes between Bones and Booth started to become even more regular and intense during Season 4 and 5, the writers go ahead and say “Sorry, not so fast”. It is annoying. Because the fact of the matter is that they will now spend the next five years (assuming Bones gets renewed that many times) prying the door back open they slammed in our faces when Bones turned Booth down.

Even Bones creator Hart Hanson acknowledged on his Twitter account that he may have to live with the scorn he got from critics for the 100th episode. Yet he was hopeful, because “the audience seemed to like it”. See, even Hart makes the distinction between “audience” and “critics”. What baffles me though is that to this day TV writers seem not to understand that a dynamic between two characters doesn’t END when you put them in a relationship with one another. Hello, have they ever BEEN in a relationship themselves? Oh, I forget, they are nerdy TV writers, probably not. Well, let me tell you, the troubles only start when a relationship begins. Sure, at first it is all butterflies and red roses, but then there is the fact that he likes morning sex and she likes bedtime sex, he hates family parties and she lives for them, he wants to live in the moment and she likes to dream about the future… How can TV writers ever think that two characters in a relationship could be boring? You can write it boring, but the principle in itself is not boring. See Tamy and Eric Taylor on Friday Night Lights.

ImageSo once again the writers of Bones made a huge blunder when they denied themselves and the audience the reward for five years of writing and watching the “will they, won’t they” dance of Bones and Booth and I believe they should be punished! All the more so because they followed up the 100th episode, which nullified almost every conversation Booth and Bones ever had with its stupid flashbacks, with an even more craptastic episode 101.

Let me put it this way: I understand why executive producer David Boreanaz is a fan of what Joss Whedon did on Buffy and Angel, namely having “theme episodes” like a musical, or a silent episode or a typical “the Belle at the ball” episode or an episode only with diegetic sound. I am a fan of this conceptual Whedon television as well, but putting such a “conceptual mask” onto an episode doesn’t work for every show. It worked for the fantasy-themed, supernatural and unreal universes of Buffy and Angel, because there were already monsters and undead things creeping around, so what’s one more demon who makes everyone sing, right? But a concept like this doesn’t work for a show like Bones, which is supposedly set in the same reality as ours.
So it is bad enough the writers came up with the concept of “Hey, let’s send Bones to her high school reunion”, but whoever came up with the idea of “Yeah, and let’s film it like a teen slasher movie” (David, I am looking at you here!) deserves to be ridiculed and shunned.

If you are going to go for something as obviously trashy as “let’s film an episode like a slasher movie” (I mean, have you rewatched Scream lately and noticed its badness?), then at least go all out and do it right. Have a better crime story than Bones’ episode 101, have funnier/crazier guest characters as the potential murderers than Bones’ episode 101 and let Booth have a better cover story for hanging around the reunion than “Hi, I am Bob Kent, her husband”. Joss Whedon is screaming out loud at this very, VERY bad pun in the attempted direction this classic Buffy line went: “We must Clark Kent our way through the dating scene.”
Everything that could be done wrong was done wrong on Bones’ episode 101 (Season 5, Ep 17). It is the single worst episode of the show to date.

Oh, and I am not done. There is one more offense I want to list here. One of the biggest mistakes the makers of Bones have made of late is coming around to defining the show as a “crimedy”, meaning they intentionally want the show to be a mixture between crime and comedy. In my opinion, this is the wrongest approach TV makers have had to a show in a long while. It simply cannot work. The humor always used to be a “background factor” in Bones and it largely resulted from the – aforementioned – well-crafted characters and their intellectual and moral confrontation. To make the humor a focal point of the show is to rob it of its moralistic center, the Good vs. Evil fight that permeated every episode prior to the Zach/Gormagon botch-up. If humor is the most important thing on a crime show, then we might soon expect the cast of How I Met Your Mother to start investigating robberies in their NYC neighborhood. See, even the characters on CSI get humorous lines every episode (I loves me some Don Flack on CSI:NY), but I bet you would be hard-pressed to have the makers of this huge phenomenon define their shows as “crimedy”.

As you can see, Bones has veered vastly off course in the past year and a half. I miss the times when Bones would call Jesus a zombie and Hodgins would do crazy experiments with Zach (the pig in the woodchopper was a classic!). Instead I keep feeling patronized by the writers, who seem to assume that I have never watched any TV before their show came along. There is no need to repeat the mistakes other shows have made and I think it is obvious that even “regular audience members” learned over the years and want to see fresh approaches to the never-changing subject matters of TV shows. So how’s about you give us some?



Recommended Collisions with your Television

(combine at will, all times EST, only new programming listed)


Tuesday, April 20th
 9 p.m.  Lost (ABC)
   NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS)
   Glee (Fox)
 10 p.m.  V (ABC)
   Parenthood (NBC)
Wednesday, April 21st  
 8 p.m.  Mercy (NBC)
   The New Adventures of Old Christine (CBS)
 8:30 p.m.  Accidentally On Purpose (CBS)
 9 p.m.  
 10 p.m.
 Law & Order: SVU (NBC)
Thursday, April 22nd  
 8 p.m.
 FlashForward (ABC)
   Bones (Fox)
   Community (NBC)
 8:30 p.m.  30 Rock (NBC)
 9 p.m.  CSI (CBS)
   Fringe (Fox)
   Private Practice (ABC)
   The Office (NBC)
 10 p.m.  Project Runway (Lifetime)
   The Mentalist (CBS)
   30 Rock (NBC)
Friday, April 23rd
 10 p.m.
 Miami Medical (CBS)
Saturday, April 24th
Sunday, April 25th
 8 p.m.  The Simpsons (Fox)
 9 p.m.
 Desperate Housewives (ABC)
 10 p.m.
 Brothers & Sisters (ABC)
Monday, April 26th
 8 p.m.
 House (Fox)
   Chuck (NBC)
 9 p.m.
 Trauma (NBC)
   24 (Fox)