Is It Time to Bury Bones?

October 17, 2009 | By More

I know, I’m going to stir some people up with this one. But after this weeks episode of “Bones” (A Night at the Bones Museum), I think it’s time to ask the question. Last week I wrote about how I though CSI had evolved and was able to change to stay fresh and interesting. But I really don’t think Temperance and her crew have managed to do the same.

When “Bones” started, the writers made an effort to keep Temperance Brennan true to her profession of Forensic Anthropologist. She spent time doing museum-y kind of things and filled in as a consultant to the FBI. Now, apparently, the crew at the prestigious Jeffersonian museum seem to devote most of their efforts to crime fighting.

There were a couple of things that pushed it over the top for me last night.

First, the autopsy on their murdered colleague. It  is one thing to have an anthropologist look at bones or a body decayed beyond recognition. It’s quite another thing for the FBI to allow the museum to perform a full blown postmortem on somebody that worked for the same museum. I would imagine that their has to be a number of chain of evidence and conflict of interest issues there.

If you can get past the FBI jurisdiction issues, don’t they have qualified coroners? If we believe the FBI is the leading investigative body in the US would they really need the help? On one of Fox’s other hit shows, they had Dana Scully shipping bodies back from all over the country because the facilities at Quantico were suppose to the best in the country.

Also, would the FBI let a “consultant” in an interview room with a suspect? I’ve had a problem with this one for awhile. I would again think there are liability and chain of evidence issues. (Yes, I have the same issue with “Castle”.) But in this episode they actually interviewed somebody from the Jeffersonian in the anti-echoic interrogation room they have. As soon as the case led to the Jeffersonian or people the team knew, they should have been excluded from the case. Lawyers and cops on TV are faced with that all the time.

While Booth and Brennan are out gallivanting her team is busy trying to identify an object that had been hidden in the mummy’s chest cavity. While I’m not going to say the science was implausible, I will say it wouldn’t be that good. To get down to basically a pixel level resolution from a trace residue analysis would be incredibly difficult. I doubt that you ever get to the level where you could read hieroglyphs. Maybe if it had been one or two that covered the entire face of the object. My second issue with this analysis is the speed with which they did it. If we would believe the TV time frame, all of that took place in the course of day. This would have meant accurately taking hundreds of samples, analyzing them, and then sequence them into a pixelated map of the object. To do this analysis in a scientific and accurate way would have take, I figure, a month to or two. (I won’t even get into the fact they probably would have had to destroy the mummy to do this. )

Speaking of the mummy, it’s the subject of my next point. Are we really to believe that Bones, a forensic anthropologist, would not have been aware of this mummy being at the Jeffersonian? Or even consulted on the murder portion of the exhibit. She was able to identify the mummy at the first crime scene by its’ smell. I find it hard to believe that a scientist in her field with mummy fever would have not done everything she could to have got a peek at that mummy before it went on display, especially if it was in her own building.

On a similar note, I don’t really think the curator could have been locked in an office for that long. An exhibit of the complexity of the one shown at the end of the episode takes a considerable effort to coordinate. It would also be a huge deal to the museum. Didn’t the writers ever see “The Relic”? (Which has NCIS:LA’s diminutive Linda Hunt in it.) I just can’t buy into the fact she could go AWOL for any significant amount of time.

Speaking of people not watching previous media, did anybody in the casting department ever watch “The Drew Carey Show”? I love Drew’s show. I can relate to his, ahem, overweight everyman and humor. The fact that it is based in Cleveland always makes me smile and think of Mrs. Nerd. I made her take me bowling in Solon for one of our first dates. Needless to say, because of that sitcom, there is no way I can buy Diedrich Bader, Oswald on Drew’s show, as either a love interest for Brennan or a superior for Booth. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that he’s not a good actor, but his past type casting as the slightly dim witted side kick has limited my view of him. He was Jethro in the “Beverly Hillbillies” movie for crying out loud. He’s an actor known for comedies, he should stick with that genre.

But, that makes me ask myself, has this show became a comedy? When it started it was slick show pairing two of the best people in their field to solve unusual crimes. Now the show is more about the intertwining love triangles on the show. As with many shows that have run a number of season, the show seems to be more about the characters and less about the stories they are telling.

Sadly, I think the character most affected by this is Bones herself. Early in the series, she was portrayed as a confidant world traveling woman at the peak of her profession. In recent episodes, instead of demonstrating her intelligence, she seems to have to tell everybody how smart she is. I would even go as far to say, Brennan is losing about 10 IQ points per season. On top of that, she spends more time riding in cars with Booth and talking to the Jeffersonian on the phone than she actually does doing real work.

Her personality hasn’t fared much better. Early shows had Brennan involved with people outside of work. She seemed to have at least a rudimentary knowledge of interpersonal relationships. But apparently, this knowledge is reset at the beginning of each season. In most of the recent shows, Brennan reminds me more of the emotionally stunted android Data from Star Trek, than a living breathing woman. Of course, Data evolved over the run of the series. While the social awkwardness she displayed in early episodes seemed natural, it seems more and more forced as the show goes on. The lab techs now seem more socially adept than the supposed older and wiser Brennan.

I guess this is why the writers felt the need to add a psychologist as a full time addition to the cast. While an interesting occasional character, Sweets just doesn’t need to be there. I can see if one of the main cast saw him on a one on one basis maybe him being there. But this Bones & Booth “couples” counseling is inane.

Overall, I think it is sad to see a show that had a different twist on the standard police drama slowly fade away into a caricature of itself. I’m normally one of the first people to joke about “ripped from the headlines” stories, but the fact is they are relevant to the audience. I’m sure that the case files of real forensic anthropologists are filled with stories much more gripping than trying to solve the mystery of what was in the mummy’s body. That really seems more like it’s ripped from Scooby Doo.

And that what upsets me the most I think. I hadn’t read any of the “Bones” books until earlier this year. And I have to say, if the characters on TV were as compelling as ones on the pages, the show would have a long run ahead of it. Brennan in the books is a competent woman at the peak of her career who has challenges at work an in her life. She has a daughter and police officer boyfriend (who is not named Booth). In short, she is a complete character, warts and all.

As for the TV version of Brennan and company, I’m ready for the syndication hearse to come for them. I’d rather see them go out now, than continue to decay into mediocrity.

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  1. Well, now you’ve done it. Here I was, just watching Bones every week out of habit because I like Brennan and Booth and the idea of analyzing bones to find out who a person was and how he or she died. I love all that 3-D stuff they do, too. But now you’re making me think back to how good the show was in the beginning and how it has drifted away from the original idea. Frankly, I was really annoyed when the writers had to bring in the lesbian angle and then begin to focus on the love lives of the show’s characters. (Mrs. Nerd and I were both put off by this.) And the real kicker was having that sweet lab assistant (forget his name) turn out to be a killer. A rotten way to kill off a good character! So, you may be right. All the show’s failings may soon be the kiss of death, and we shouldn’t be surprised if it isn’t renewed.

    Thanks for your additional comments about Kathy Reichs, the author who’s writing the Bones books. I recently made a note to check her books the next time I go to the library. Now your comments about them have convinced me this is another author I should add to my fiction list.

  2. Engineernerd says:

    You would have to scour the net to find them in order. I will tell you tell the best of them that I have read is “Bones to Ashes”. It started slow and turned into a page turner. I found that one for $5 (Hardcover) on clearance at Barnes and Noble.

    A word of warning. “Cross Bones” had some religious overtones like “The Da Vinci Code”. It was okay, but I thought the weakest of the 4 or 5 that I have read.