Tuesday, 11 June 2013


The why and the wherefore. 
I've sometimes wondered how I would spend my time since I retired if I wasn't so involved in cat rescue/re-homing. Admittedly it doesn't take up all of my time, usually a few hours most mornings, an hour or so late afternoon, plus phone calls. Now, with our van being off the road for the last five weeks or so and me not having a car, I've found out.

I'd watch box sets of American TV detective series. In a recent post, I extolled the virtues of Castle and Rizzoli & Isles as being my two favourites. I picked up the first season of Bones because it was cheap and kept getting good reviews and I wondered if I was missing something. I had watched (or part-watched) an episode some time ago and wasn't bothered. I'm now completed watching Seasons 1 through 7 (Season 8 will be released in late September about the same time as Season 9 airs) so it's not unreasonable to suspect my opinion might have changed. Which it has. Bones is at least as good as the two series I just cited and I'm going to tell you why, just in case you've never seen it and don't know what you're missing.

There are plenty of cheesy publicity shots like this one available.

Group shot!
Season 1 group shot.

Another slightly different group shot because there are slightly different lineups.

I actually read the first few novels by Kathy Reichs on which the series is based when they first came out but that was a while ago and my memory of them is vague to say the least. I can state that the tv series is somewhat different in tone. For a start I don't remember laughing out loud at any of her books.

The setup.
Dr. Temperance Brennan (the Bones of the title) is a forensic anthropologist who is enlisted by the FBI to work with Special Agent Seeley Booth to solve murders involving corpses which are little more than skeletons. The pair are completely mismatched but the dynamics of their relationship is at the heart of the show. Brennan has a support team of highly intelligent scientists, most of whom are either 'characters' or outright eccentrics, who play major roles and whose internal relationships is another major and attractive part of the show's dynamic.

The Cast and the Characters.

The Leads.
Emily Deschanel plays Brennan, an attractive 30-something, who is almost autistic in her interactions with other people. An atheist, she is not afraid of contradicting those with religious beliefs in terms that even atheist me would baulk at. Scientific truth is everything to her and her bluntness can be excruciatingly painful to those on the receiving end. Often the viewer doesn't know whether to laugh or wince. Brennan's parents disappeared when she was 15 leaving her to go into the traumatising experience of the care system. An accomplished martial artist, when feeling threatened she has no compunction about taking down a perceived enemy. This attribute is used sparingly thus adding the frisson of never quite knowing when she is going to erupt. Deschanel is an excellent actor who manages to portray a character who could be, and is, intensely irritating while also making her sympathetic.
David Boreanaz is, to my surprise, a perfect match and counterpoint as the multi-faceted agent Booth. An alumnus of the Joss Whedon talent spotting school (the good vampire Angel in Buffy and then his own eponymous spin-off series), I could never imagine him joining in with other fellow alumni (like Alexis Denisoff, Nathan Fillion, and Amy Acker) relaxing at the Whedon farmhouse doing readings from Shakespeare (watch out for the soon to be released Whedon-directed Much Ado About Nothing) but given the right role he can be really very good and Seeley Booth plays to all his strengths. Booth is many things: an ex-army sniper, a devout Roman Catholic, father to a young son from a previous relationship, blue-collar child of an abusive father, good at empathising with and understanding other people (something almost alien to Brennan), a tough guy, more intelligent than he lets on, strongly moral, and much more making for an interesting fully-rounded character. It's interesting to compare the complexity of Boreanaz's Booth to Nathan Fillion's Castle with the latter being superficial in comparison, getting by primarily on Fillion's charm and humour.

The Supporting Cast.
One of the major strengths of the show is its excellent supporting cast who are all strongly featured. In the main it comprises Brennan's highly qualified and highly intelligent team of squints. Squints being the mocking term applied by the FBI to the experts who are always squinting closely at things.
Dr Jack Hodgins (T.J. Thynne) is the microbiologist -bugs, soil, minerals- a conspiracy nut and general lefty who happens to be the last surviving member of a mega-rich family and works because he loves his job. Acerbic, sarcastic and always trying to top his colleagues, he's great fun. He also has the hots for-
-the vivacious, sexually active, part-Chinese Angela Montenegro (Michaela Conlin) the team's artist and creative computer expert and best friend of Brennan. Her father is Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top fame and is played by occasional guest star Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top fame.
Zack Addy (Eric Millegan) is Brennan's understudy and frequent butt of his BF Hodgins' jokes as they vie for the title King of the Lab, something which no-one else plays any attention to. The youthful Addy (played astonishingly convincingly by an actor 14 older than his character) is even more socially incompetent than Brennan which makes him great fun.
Ex-police forensic pathologist Dr Camille Saroyan (Tamara Taylor) is, from Season 2, the new team leader who examines the fleshy remains before Brennan gets her hands on the bones. An attractive 30-something black woman, she has a history with with Booth and finds, at first, she needs to put Brennan in her place.
A later addition is FBI psychologist Dr. Lance Sweets (John Francis Daley) a youthful prodigy who gets frequent digs from the other characters about his youth and from Brennan in particular who regards psychology as a pseudo-science little better than religion. He's well-eaming, actually very clever, and, like his name, rather sweet.

Occasional Cast.
There are a number of characters who add a lot to the show but aren't regulars.
When one of the supporting cast leaves the show as the result of an absolutely shocking and unexpected event (and I won't say who, why, or in which Season), they are replaced by a bunch of rotating interns.
Daisy, an annoying young woman who constantly seeks attention and approval and can't shut up.
Wendell, a good looking young guy from the streets who's worked hard to get where he is and has to run to stand still.
Dr Clark Edison, a smart uptight black guy who is horrified by all the interpersonal relationships going on and just wants to get on with the work.
Arastoo Vaziri, a devout Muslim from Iraq (he says) who has to interrupt his work to pray.
Vincent Nigel-Murray, a highly nervous young Englishman who can't stop gabbling out factoids relevant or, mostly, not.
Colin Fisher is a complete depressive with the bleakest outlook it is possible to imagine. He's an ectomorph with a droning deep voice and is absolutely hilarious. Deserves a spin-off show.
Then there are a variety of irregular special guests like Ryan O'Neal who plays a key figure in Brennan's life, Stephen Fry who plays a psychologists who predates Sweets, and more but I'm running out of steam and into spoiler territory.

Important Reasons Why I Like This Show.
It features intelligent people doing intelligent things and talking in intelligent language, albeit they have to explain things to Booth (aka the audience).
While there isn't much violence or even action, the corpses in various stages of decay are completely convincing and absolutely revolting.
One character is an outspoken atheist (more probably but less vocal) and another is a lefty.
There are good psychological reasons why Brennan and Booth aren't a couple until Season Watch it And Find Out Yourself. 
Characters grow and change and they are all multi-faceted.They all have secrets in their past which play a part in the ongoing storylines.
Its science is generally realistic, albeit a touch exaggerated, and not bibble-bibble.

So, if you haven't seen it yet, now you know why you should. If you buy a box set and don't like it I will refund your money. (Actually, no I won't; that was a joke.)

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