Happy 100th to Bones


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.

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Happy 100th to Bones

  1. I adore Bones, without a doubt, but I would recommend another series that knows how to combine gore and humor with strong characterization. NCIS.

    NCIS and Bones are my "must see" list and both are worth watching over and over again.

  2. I'm happy that Bones has lasted for 100 episodes and that Hart Hanson is doing well in Hollywood. And I very much agree that people tune in to watch real-life problems being confronted buy the TV characters. That's why Bones has been failing for me in the last couple of seasons, because it's become trapped in what is now a ridiculous Booth/Brennan flirtation while they both have relationships with other people, and the soap operaishness of Angela/Hodgins. What works in the first few seasons becomes silly by season 5; you either have to have the characters develop or keep it a pure procedural.

    At this point, Castle has about twice the audience that an episode of Bones has and is doing better in the 18 – 49 demographic too. (One reason may be that unlike Booth and Brennan, Castle and Beckett actually do have character development.) To say that "it might become sucessful" is rather an understatement.

    As the poster above said, NCIS combines murder and humour very well too and has lasted for 7 seasons now. There's also a long list of murder/fun shows that have lasted on TV, Murder She Wrote and MacMillan and Wife among them. As happy as I am that a Canadian has a sucessful US show, let's put Bones in perspective.

  3. "The point is to watch people confront our real-life problems and make them better."

    Have you considered the possibility that we like to see people with way worse problems than our own? I don't know about you, but I don't have any CSI or SVU level problems in my life and I'm pretty happy about that.

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