The Beef with Bones

Last post, I said I would write about my issue with some tv shows(mainly Bones). Please note this whole post will contain SPOILERS.

I used to watch this show with some enjoyment. As a fan of the grotesque, it fell into a genre I appreciated as decayed skeletons paraded across the screen like some kind of abjection conga line. It’s a weakness, I know. When the show was in it’s infancy of the first two season, the stereotypical characters were almost excusable. This is the beginning. The actors are figuring it out and there hasn’t been enough going on to provide a lot of depth. While other shows can provide plenty of depth within the first season, I certainly never expect it from network television. And, outside of the random Joss Whedon shows (NOT Dollhouse), I never expect any first season depth from a Fox show. Sometimes, never. But, this show had some potential, right?


I should have seen it coming when character Zack Addy deteriorated from an awkward, snarky grad student to an insultingly socially inept academic trope. While they are both tropes, I think that awkward and snarky can lead to more development than just awkward. I know this to be true because shortly after that transition is when the cannibalistic serial killer story arc began and Zack was sacrificed the the gods of ridiculous drama. The logistical threads of WHY Zack decided that murdering people for his “master” were tenuous at best, but vaguely acceptable because the show wanted to get rid of the character/actor for the upcoming rotating cast of grad students. Why have one or two insufferable geniuses (Zack and Brennan), when you can have a clown car amount of insufferable geniuses? It’s really a bargain.

After Zack leaves, the titular character Temperance “Bones” Brennan becomes even MORE insufferable. She fills so many different tropes that you would think it could make a well-rounded character. It doesn’t. In the end, she’s still just the oblivious, robotic, Agent Scully-ish, and socially incapable academic who requires the help of her friends for nearly every cultural reference and interpersonal interaction she encounters. And even after all the long talks with her token gal pal Angela and faith based partner Booth, she STILL hasn’t evolved. The only leeway her character gets is when she hurts Booth’s feelings and has to apologize.

This is the best-worst example of her lack of evolution. If the link stop working, just google Bones, The Bones That Weren’t:

So… she knows the anthropological significance of busking but she is mystified as to how this performer moves the way he does? Later on in the show, she is still in awe/mystified of his strange ability to move like he has no bones. OOOO… MAGIC. Seriously, she works with bones and bodies for a living and she doesn’t have an understand of how bodies can work? I refuse to believe it. I REFUSE. This makes no sense. At this stage in the show’s progression, she should have some understanding of modern culture. Instead, she walks around like a two-year old try to understand how the world work.

This continues. The characters become walking tropes. The rotating grad students have little development until recently and those developments are so ham-fisted that they’re more of a joke than legitimate evolution. Truthfully, if these characters didn’t have their out-of-nowhere progressions, there wouldn’t be any C storylines. The show would just be Booth and Brennan A storylines and Angela and Hodgins B storylines. God forbid that Camille have any personal, individual evolution outside of her adopted daughter’s teenage shenanigans. Actually, now that I think about it, pretty much every main character’s learning moments come from their existing children or forthcoming children. Now that’s just lazy writing. The only props I might be willing to give the show is the representation of non-traditional families. Angela and Hodgins are the “typical” heterocentric family with marriage and house buying and baby rearing. Camille is a single mother with a daughter she adopted when the child was a teenager. Booth and Brennan are the unmarried couple with a child on the way. Although, I’d put good money down on them getting married a year or so after the child is born or even a delivery room marriage. It depends on ratings and sweeps weeks.

Okay, so, this nonsense has been happening for a long time now. The “science” is just an excuse to have an interesting workplace. Last season was painful but typical. I tuned in for this season and recently was subjected to this scene in a recent episode titled “The Twist in the Twister”:

You have to be kidding me. A “Ooops, did we do that” doggy-style sex joke? Who does this, really? Who grabs a person, no less a pregnant woman, from behind to try and hoist her up? Who continues to fight about it while grinding against each other in the workplace? This would not happen. It’s so unlikely that it’s not even funny. This pregnant woman has become a walking joke. Oh this wacky academic, strong-willed woman who refuses to let the father-man help her up. Look what happened? And men, am I right? They just don’t take no for an answer. WOMP WOMP. And scene. It is so lazy and so boring that it actually insults me as the viewer.

After such well written, directed, and produced television shows like The Sopranos, 30 Rock, Downton Abbey, Six Feet Under, Mad Men, Firefly, The Cosby Show, Roseanne, Cheers, Dexter, Arrested Development, M*A*S*H, Twin Peaks, My So-Called Life, The West Wing, Queer as Folk, Carnivale, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer*, how can anyone excuse ineffectual television? This show has been on for seven seasons. There are shows that have only had one or two seasons and they’ve had more character development or depth than this show has had for its entire run. Yes, a lot of those shows rely on tropes and many of them had lackluster endings. In terms of the tropes, it all depends on how they are used. Bones takes tropes and runs them into the ground.

In fairness, I’m probably not the target demographic for Bones which is strange since I’m a big fan of the cop/forensic drama. I will watch some nonsense. I was a die-hard Law and Order watcher until the very end. I’ll check in with CSI with very large grains of salt. In the end, though, as e.e. cummings wrote, “there is some shit I will not eat”.

* I know this list is super heterocentric and white. That is another huge problem with television in general. And no, Bones doesn’t count as a progressive show because of all their shows focused on subcultures. Those kinds of episodes are all about othering, stereotyping, and pigeon-holing.


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