The Invisible Show

If it’s January, it must be time for the TCA’s Winter Press Tour, where television critics get together in L.A. and listen to studios try to convince them that they should try to convince us to watch their shows. On the bright side, the information that dribbles out about upcoming shows often provides a welcome distraction to the reality that is Post-Holiday-Winter. Like, say…Bones being renewed for a ninth season. Whoo-hoo!

This really wasn’t much of a surprise to me, as Hart Hanson indicated last fall that they expected it, and Fox has been struggling of late in their efforts to launch new shows.  But it’s still a big deal. It’s always a big deal when a show pulls off that many seasons.

The responses were about what I expected, too. I saw people who love the show celebrating; I saw people who watch the show but don’t like it complaining (no, that never makes sense to me, either); I saw people who stopped watching the show years ago expressing surprise (if they’re not watching, no one should be), and I saw the honest confusion of people who have never watched the show and had no idea it was even still airing.

I’ve heard some variation of that last one so many times over the years that I’ve come to think of Bones as the invisible show. It’s there, it’s got a very loyal audience that follows it all over the schedule…while a great many other people remain clueless about it. I’m not talking about people who generally pay little attention to what’s on TV, or people who know about it but are simply uninterested in it, but rather, those who consider themselves relatively TV-savvy and yet are unaware the show is still on the air.

Note that I’m not saying everyone should watch the show – I’d rather have a root canal than watch Two and a Half Men, so it seems only fair to acknowledge that a show I love won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.  But the idea that such a well-established show can be apparently so invisible baffles me, so I started asking questions, trying to figure it out.

In the early years, I think it may have been due to Bones’ schedule-hopping. (New episodes have aired on every weeknight except Friday.) But I think some of it also may be due to wrong assumptions about what it’s about, which allows some people to not really process any publicity they see for it.

So here, for your reading pleasure (hah!) is a not entirely tongue-in-cheek overview of what one of TV’s current longest-running shows is – and is not – about.

First, what it’s not (based on comments from people I’ve discussed it with):

  • It’s not a PBS science documentary series on the human body (though I do know an impressive number of bones now)
  • …nor even a documentary about archaeology
  • It’s not a show about author Kathy Reichs, nor is it a direct adaptation of her novels, though she does serve as a producer on the show, and has written for it
  • It’s not a show about two people who fight all the time

What it is (granted, this will reveal my biases…)

  • It’s a genre-blending procedural (crime show), that mixes in comedy and romance with the drama of a murder solved every week
  • It’s about a team of people led by a forensic anthropologist and a FBI agent
  • It’s character-driven in that the talents and personalities of the team members are integral to the murder being solved – unlike some procedurals, the focus of the show is not the forensic science, but rather the people
  • It’s character-driven in that stories about the team’s personal life accompany – and are often entwined with – the murder story
  • If the show has a theme, and I believe it does, it would be ‘there’s more than one type of family’ – demonstrated by the relationships among the team

That last one is what I really love about Bones: it’s a show about a group of likable but flawed people working together to solve murders. They don’t always get along – the empirical scientists clash on a regular basis with the by-the-gut cop and his FBI psychologist sidekick – but they repeatedly put those differences aside to find justice for victims, and they always come through for one another.

For me, that’s the heart of it. Every show I’ve ever loved has been about interesting, likable, flawed people and their relationships, and this is one is no exception.

And Bones excels in the area of interesting characters and relationships. I can think of several shows where after watching for several weeks, I still couldn’t tell the supporting characters apart or remember their names, but Cam and Angela are distinctly different in mannerisms and personality, and I think even a first time viewer would see differences in Wendell and Fischer.

In respect to the relationships, the show tends toward idealism, positing that two people who were once lovers can later be colleagues and friends, rooting for one another’s happiness in new relationships. But in a world too often scarred by bitterness and cruelty, I like the idea that love and friendship can win the day.

But if the show leans toward idealism in its big picture portrayal of relationships, it shows their intimacy much more realistically than is the norm.  Television quite often uses a type of shorthand to depict romantic relationships: we see two people flirt with one another while dealing with whatever the main plot of the episode is, and occasionally, when a crisis hits, we see How Much They Love Each Other.  What we don’t generally see are the two simply having fun together, or discussing life philosophies, or the moments of genuine emotional intimacy so essential to real relationships. It’s as if the shows give us moments that represent a relationship, rather than showing us the real thing.

Bones gives us those moments. We see Booth and Brennan talk about religion and movies, Smurfs and purple elephants; we see them ice skating, dancing, playing video games and fixing a sink together; we see them at hockey games, funerals, and even a wedding. (Well, okay, the wedding didn’t happen right then, but still…)

We see separate lives merging into ‘a single life, shared.’

And that is what the show is about to me, and why I love it. Roll on, season eight – and nine!

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16 thoughts on “The Invisible Show

  1. Pingback: Bones. Exactly why I love it. « Why God? Why this face?

  2. Exactly that. SO well said. I don’t understand how a show that rates highly in so many ways…portrayal of women, willfully respectful and non gratuitous handling of violence, and everything else you point out about the characters can be so underestimated, under known, as you say…invisible. Very strange, but I feel celebrated and validated by your post. You wrote it for me, right? 🙂
    Michele (@threesquares)

  3. Wonderful description of what makes Bones wonderful. The intelligent writing and acting makes the relationships, especially Booth and Brennan, very real – they are able to seriously disagree with humor and love – good life lessons in there.

  4. You just got retweeted by Hart Hanson AND David Boreanaz. Savor it. Honestly, this is an amazing read for any loyal fan of the show. It pains me that not enough people can scratch the surface and see what’s beyond the usual procedural and sexual tension on Bones.

  5. Hi, from Portugal 🙂
    I couldn’t agree more with you! Very well said! 🙂
    I’m a loyal fan of Bones, too. And I am very excited for the next episodes from season 8, and season 9 😀

  6. The invisible show is quite visible to the diehard fan who loves the show for exactly the reasons stated above. It is about people who just coincidentally solve crimes. And they are not just solving crimes, they are also savoring the relationships among the people. Each person is distinctly different and distinctly flawed. Yet, we can love them because there is a nobility about each one of them.

    It’s a great show and you’ve done a fine job of explaining what all the fuss is (should be) about.

  7. This is beautiful, girl, and right on the money. The long-time viewers are the ones who have understood for this and fought for the show when the less-intuitive were complaining because what they expected/thought they really wanted was a lower quality of programming. Bones forever, I say. Brennan and Booth FOREVER!

  8. I started watching Bones after seeing a short scene where Booth and Brennan are jogging together. (Don´t remember which season it was.) Booth´s smile to Brennan caught my eye – there was something unusually genuine there. That led me to YouTube and episodes that have not been broadcasted in Finland. I also watched some interviews Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz had given. That little smile of Booth´s really was a sign of true chemistry, also between those two talented actors. They – and the whole team – really seem to enjoy being togehter in a way that is rare in tv-series that have been broadcasted for so long. So effortless, easygoing and fun. I really wait MTV3 and Sub channels to start showing Bones again.

  9. Had not found a better description of what I feel, until I read this.
    One could say that BONES is observed from the shadows. Just loved.
    Greetings from Colombia.

  10. Bones es de lejos la mejor serie desde el 2005. Todo el equipo de actores y técnicos responsables del programa hacen un trabajo excelente, cada episodio se convierte en una experiencia única, emotiva, divertida, adorable.

  11. Pingback: Fan Review: The Cold in the Case | Lunatic Worlds

  12. Pingback: On Saying Goodbye to Bones, with a side of Caroline | Lunatic Worlds

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