Thursday, October 16, 2008

Series Review - Bones

From producer Hart Hanson comes a murder mystery series based on the life and work of Dr. Kathy Reichs, a forensic anthropologist. Or rather, based on the books she has written about a fictional character that has the same profession. Dr. Temperance Brennen (aka. "Bones") works for the Jeffersonian Institution identifying and analyzing the remains of people dead and decayed beyond recognition. She and her team of scientists, artists, and students use their extensive knowledge of bones, insects, human anatomy, disease, chemistry and physics to piece together the life and death of each unidentified individual. Their expertise has led the FBI to request their aid when corpses are unexpectedly found, and Special Agent Booth is the most recent borrower of Bones' unique abilities. The series follows the successes and failures of this unlikely team as they pursue justice for those the world has forgotten.

This is not your classic murder series. Unlike Poirot or Murder She Wrote, the clues presented are not things people have said or done that are just waiting to be uncovered by the careful sleuth. You will be looking at a corpse for a majority of the time, not for the short period most series typically do. Almost every clue is scientific (and true to actual life), and couched in scientific terms. Dialogue is fast-paced and often sudden, unlike the more conversational approach of most detective shows. Booth is like the representation of the old-school sleuth cop, responsible for motive and people-reading, while Bones is the logical scientist to whom none of that makes much sense. You get a lot of how the two sides clash, but also work together.

This show is also surprisingly character-driven. I suppose this is something that they could do because a team of stars drives the show. It offers a lot of continuity and counter-balances the stark presentation of violent death that is unfortunately the basic reason why forensic anthropologists exist. It also allows the characters to struggle with a lot of the questions that naturally arise when you deal with the rougher side of life. The end result is a show that is action-adventure in style, deep in people relationships, and thought provoking. You can also tell the influence on modern politics and history on the storyline. This is a much more relevant show than Agatha Christie.

But it is also a show I can only take so much of at one time. The constant display of violent death is not comfortable and I'm very used to the logical sleuth that can pieces together clues from the scene and people involved. The use of current issues is interesting but also slightly disturbing because the society is still struggling with answers. You will enjoy the mystery more when you get used to that discomfort somewhat. The AO rates this series a 4.5/5.

Seasons 1 & 2 are already released on DVD, with Season 3 due out on November 18. The show is now in its 4th season and airs as part of Fox's primetime lineup.

Sources:, Best,

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