Monday, October 11, 2010

What Drew's Watching: Bones

I’m thrilled to introduce a new guest reviewer here at TV with Abe. Drew is a skilled writer who has offered to cover “Bones,” a show which I do not detest nearly as much as he indicates below. I simply have no real interest in the show, but what I have seen of it (pretty much just the pilot) was decently entertaining. And though he takes the blame for not starting to cover the show until now, our initial conversation about him writing for the site only first occurred last week. With that, I present guest blogger Drew, who will be offering his very detailed and specifically-graded take on “Bones” each week.

If there's one thing I know about Abe, it's that he hates "Bones." So it makes sense that he'd want to outsource the hellish task of reviewing the show. Fortunately, he's got me to pick up the slack in the "shows Abe can't stand to watch himself" category. And I'm uniquely qualified in this case: my coexisting love and hatred for "Bones" cancel each other out, making me all kinds of objective. I'm also all kinds of punctuality-challenged, so here are the first three episodes of "Bones," a full three weeks behind schedule.

Bones: Season 6, Episode 1 “The Mastodon in the Room”

Long-time viewers will fast recall the show's heavy-handed sentimentality, which the producers pushed beyond even this most jaded viewer's expectations in last season's finale. That said, the separation of Booth and Bones was pretty effective, but their reunion falls flat. After all, you can't orchestrate a "we're never going to see each other again" tear-jerker and then throw us right back into the mix with a blithe "seven months later" caption. Character-wise, the usual suspects suffer from their old crutches (but after five seasons, who can be surprised?): Cam continues to have a hard time expressing any emotion, and Bones wavers dangerously between an unfeeling robot hilariously oblivious to cultural references and the emotionally aware woman Booth toiled at least three seasons to develop in her. (Her delight at Angela's pregnancy announcement, for example, is frankly jarring.) David Boreanaz seems to have a hard time getting back into his Booth character: his share of the banter lacks its usual liveliness and spontaneity, leaving him to sound scripted. Hodgins and Angela, however, have no problem falling back into character from the first time we see them: Hodgins is as cuttingly funny as ever (and reliably nauseating but endearing when he learns of his imminent fatherhood), and Angela is in top form as the only arguably normal person in a room full of weird scientists. Those who watch the show for the mystery will be disappointed: the plot is lazily constructed and bogged down by leaden moralizing. The mystery's conclusion is flat-out idiotic, with enough holes to make a square mile of Swiss cheese blush. And there's no action to speak of, unless you count Sweets and Daisy. But hey, there's got to be enough room for info-dumps and opportunities for everyone to badger Bones about Booth's new girlfriend. Indeed, “Bones” continues to trip on its inability to properly balance its plot-action half against its characters-comedy half. By trying so hard to highlight both aspects, the show sometimes winds up making neither very compelling.

Plot: 2/10
Characters: 4/10
Comedy: 4/10
Action: 0/10
Bones's Makeup (where 0 is a normal human woman and 10 means they parked a cement truck over her face prior to shooting): 8/10
Overall Grade: D+

Bones: Season 6, Episode 2 “The Couple in the Cave”

Are you still reading this after that withering review? Then you must know already how Bones operates (or you're just enamored of my writing): the series clatters and rattles along in first gear for a while, but it inevitably rewards those viewers who bite the bullet and keep watching. We're already getting hints of that: Episode 2 hits the ground running with the prologue, where a couple make for good comedy exchanging verbal blows in the woods. Booth's back in the zone this time around: he's reattained the nuance of character that's always helped to distract from Bones's eyebrow-raising inconsistency. The oh-so-sudden appearance of Hannah, Booth's new flame, is...well...predictable, but Katheryn Winnick hams up the (albeit undemanding) make-out material role admirably. (Content warning: keep the vomit bag close when these two are on screen.) On the other hand, the most disappointing performance by an auxiliary comes from Dr. Edison, whose departure from his usual stolid professionalism comes off as a contrived cut-and-paste job in the script. You can almost imagine his stage directions and lines in a different font. (Fortunately, his allergies redeem him later.) Hodgins is on fire, from his Hindenberg crack to his first look at Hannah to his first conversation with her. As for the mystery, it's an improvement from last week's but still lackluster. And action? Well, there's a guy with an axe. But "Bones" makes its improvements in one realm at a time, and character development always traditionally comes first. I have to say, though, that I would love it if the script dropped just a few of the hundred Bones/Booth "significant glances" per episode. I mean, when a bit-part witness says, "That's life, right? Things change," with Bones and Booth right there...well, come on. We get the point. Take those five seconds of significant glancing and replace them with five more seconds of Axe-Man.

Plot: 4/10
Action: 1/10
Characters: 8/10
Comedy: 7/10
Bones's Makeup: 5/10
Overall Grade: C+

Bones: Season 6, Episode 3 “The Maggots in the Meathead”

GUIDOS! I'm sorry, but this Jersey boy cannot hope for any objectivity tonight, at least not in the comedy section -- because guidos equal entertainment in every sense of the word. Even the bit parts in this one sparkle; for example, the guido victim's guido mother, who seems to have stepped out of "The Sopranos," strikes an excellent balance between eliciting sympathy and being straight-up guidolarious. (Her only misstep is when she says "down at the shore"...we in the Jerz know it's "down the shore.") The guido beach party is magnificent, the guido club party even better (because there's guido-fighting!). Surprisingly, Bones is in her element in this one; her fascination with guido culture and her ham-fisted (but drolly successful!) attempts to mingle with the boys call to mind the single-minded anthropology enthusiast we know, love, and often long for. Considering the chaff we dealt with in the last two episodes, the mystery is pretty good: it kept me interested even after I thought I had it figured out. (Full disclosure: I guessed wrong.) The team's myriad crime-solving efforts are fresh and compelling, with Hodgins's jumping maggots and Sweets's text message chart deserving special acknowledgment for coolness. And the murderer's closing line, a deft and witty cultural jab, is a real eyebrow-raiser, coming as it does from a show with a history of embarrassing itself whenever it tries to be polemical. As I wrote before, "Bones" is following its old trajectory: utter garbage for one or two episodes followed by a sudden revivification of everything that drew its fans in the first place. You could easily start your sixth season here without regretting the decision.

Plot: 8/10
Action: 5/10
Characters: 9/10
Comedy: 10/10
Bones's Makeup: 4/10
Overall Grade: A-

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