We all have a few shows we watch that could be deemed ‘guilty pleasures,’ because they suck. Maybe we know they suck, but we still watch because of an actor we like. Or maybe the show used to be good, has run its course, and we can’t let go. Or maybe you don’t know it sucks cause I haven’t told you yet. That’s why we’re here now.
Before we move forward there is a pop-culture term called “Jumping the Shark” which refers to an episode of Happy Days where The Fonz literally jumped a shark on water skis. The idea is that when an event so monumentally stupid occurs on a show, said show can never recover. The show may continue on for years after, but it will never be able to regain the quality of product it produced prior. It is forever tarnished. I want you to know this because it will come up…
So, let’s talk about Bones. Let me open by saying I no longer watch Bones, but I waited far too long to quit watching it.
This is a show I started watching because of David Boreanaz, who starred in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. He is no surprise, the best character on the show. That’s not saying much however since his character Booth is simply the classic, square-jawed hero type. An ex-military sniper turned FBI Agent with a heart of gold – you know, the everyman. I do give credit though, Booth is a likable enough character. On the show, he is teamed up with a crime novelist/world’s foremost expert on Forensic Anthropology. They catch criminals by looking at the bones of the victims. It’s really zany.
The Anthropologist – Dr. Temperance Brennan, who Booth refers to simply as “Bones” – is the titular character. This gives the show title two meanings, it’s both her names AND what they study. Super-clever Fox. Now, Dr. Bones, unlike Booth, is more annoying than likable, sorta like Johnny Depp’s take on Willy Wonka. But it is her relationship with Agent Booth that made the show work – when it worked.
The problem, however, is like all the other characters on the show, they try too hard to show how different Bones is. As if Booth is her one and only connection with the outside world. Bones is cold and unrelatable, and though she’s a genius, her lack of common sense became old shtick early on.
The secondary characters are as unrealistic and forgettable as I’ve seen on television. For instance, Angela is supposed to be some sort of exotic sexpot but comes off a nothing more than a hyper-PC hippie. Her character’s “skill” on the show is almost as ridiculous as the show’s premise itself. Just look at the official character bio:
Bohemian and expressive Angela ‘Pearly Gates’ Montenegro is the Jeffersonian’s resident forensic artist. She considers herself first and foremost an artist, and works in Brennan’s team creating facial reconstructions. She also invented the Angelator – a holographic device used to create 3D images of the people being reconstructed, as well as allowing replays of various scenarios of how the bones ended up in the lab. Although her actual qualifications are uncertain, it appears she had a minor in Psychology. She is adept at computer programming and uses intuition in equal measure to her artistic computer skills.
Then you have Dr. Camille Saroyan, a woman from Booth’s past who shows up in season 2 as the new boss, with no explanation of what happened to the old boss. Her character quickly loses anything that made her unique as she is absorbed into the group. We are now forced to deal with her mundane side stories as the show has now been bogged down by another useless character. And speaking of useless characters, John Francis Daley (Freaks and Geeks) shows up JUST before we jump the shark. Why is it that Bones and Booth were so successful for so long before psychiatrist Dr. Lance Sweets (Daley) and on-site coroner Dr. Saroyan showed up, but now need their help on every case? Every case that is, which isn’t solved by Angela’s artistic ability to jab her hands like a baby into a keyboard and watch as her supercomputer spits out 3D images of anything you could possibly want.
But wait Doc, surely these 20 and 30 something doctors and artists are the best in their respective fields, right?
Well yes my curious friend, the pretty, 30-something coroner is clearly more qualified than the unseen coroners used in season 1 who are probably just saddled down with all their years of experience to draw on…
Now, clearly, I’ve left out two of the main characters here: Zack and Hodgins. Hodgins as the “bug and slime guy”, holds three advanced degrees in entomology, botany and mineralogy. Zack was working towards a second doctorate in Applied Engineering and specializes in removing flesh from the bone. These two, probably the most realistic skill sets of the group, also had maybe the most genuine relationship of any of the characters on the show.
Their constant running game of ‘King of the Lab’ was almost endearing, and they provided some much-needed levity to a show who’s normal comedy is painfully forced. Then the shortened 15-episode third season happened. The storyline was actually pretty decent up until the end, Bones and Booth are trying to catch a serial killer, they learn he has an apprentice, and SURPRISE, Zack is that apprentice. WTF.
And just like that the best dynamic on the show was destroyed, and that is when I should have stopped watching, but after 57 episodes I was hooked. It was like crack, and it was killing me. Season 4 clumsily stumbled forward, filling Zack’s absence with more of Dr. Sweets and a line of lab assistants who are all overblown stereotypical characters that wouldn’t work on a week to week basis, so they rotated them.
The season closed with Booth in a coma, and the whole cast as players in his dream. In said dream Booth and Bones were married, which was just a taste for the audience that wants so badly for them to hook up. And the writers thought they did it, thought they had given the audience what it wanted, but still avoided killing the sexual tension between their two main characters. Even though it was just a dream, the show started to plummet in quality (just like Moonlighting and The Office) which wasn’t very high to begin with. Remember, they already jumped the shark.
As season 5 began there was something about the premiere that just hit me – this show sucked! I had known it for a long time, but the severity of my addiction was not clear to me until that moment. The next week I watched again, and again – terrible. The bad episodes were now piling up. No longer was there a good one scattered in, they were all bad. An Amish piano player, midget wrestlers, suburbanites, it just kept getting worse. Finally, I said I’ll give it one more. If the next episode isn’t really good, I’m done. Because don’t get me wrong, there were good episodes.
The episode “Aliens in a Spaceship” where Hodgins and Bones are buried alive is probably the best of the bunch. Problem is, that was in the first half of Season 2. So, I fire up the DVR to watch what I’m hoping is the best episode of BONES since season 2, and instead, it is maybe the worst episode ever. I can’t even tell you what happened, because I don’t remember. I do remember being disgusted that the show had failed me and turning it off halfway through.
Sometime later, for nostalgia’s sake, I checked back in on it. It was the trial of the Gravedigger, the same villain who buried Bones and Hodgins in season 2, and later came back to try to kill Booth. The writers were desperate for substance so they drew back upon early success and rehashed it. I didn’t stick around to see how it ended, but I also didn’t feel, despite skipping 15-20 episodes, that I had missed anything. I knew then the habit was kicked.
UPDATE: This was written after season 5, back in 2011. The show wasn’t put out of its misery until March 2017, following the conclusion of season 12.