Have a look at Bill Brioux’s piece on the 100th episode of Bones — sort of a more dramatic take on those “before the series started” flashback episodes we used to see on Dick Van Dyke and Everybody Loves Raymond — which includes an interview with the very nice (and Canadian, if that’s relevant) creator of the series, Hart Hanson.
I was originally planning to say something this week about why Bones has managed to survive and thrive when most lighthearted crime dramas don’t do well on major networks. However, Castle, which is sort of a gender-reversed version of Bones, did well enough after Dancing With the Stars that it, too, might become successful. So bang goes that theory. I do think, though, that Bones has proved very shrewd in its decision to combine the gory procedural drama with the banter-filled, romantic light mystery format.
It’s a strange paradox of network TV that even though producers (and journalists) often assume that mass audiences want escapism, in practice, light escapist shows are usually niche shows or struggling cult favourites (like the featherweight Chuck) while the big hits are heavier, darker and gloomier (like the CSIs). What explains the paradox, in my opinion, is that the broad audience doesn’t tune in to a television show — and particularly an hour-long drama — to forget its problems. The point is to watch people confront our real-life problems and make them better. The blood and guts on these forensic shows helps to convey the impression that these shows are not afraid to engage with the dark realities of life, even as the whole point of the show is to make those realities seem managable. In other words, to survive on a network, a dramatic show needs to have a mix of light and dark; if it’s mostly light, or mostly dark, it probably has a better chance on cable.
The 100th episode was directed, as he notes, by David Boreanaz (who has directed at least one previous episode); along with Bryan Cranston directing the season premiere of Breaking Bad, this gives me an excuse to re-link my post from earlier this year on self-directed episodes. Suffice it to say that none of these guys are likely to direct themselves as often as Scott Baio did, but let’s face it: not everyone can be Scott Baio.