Oh lord, that was a cheap attempt at a pun but… I am still seized by the impulse to describe just why I'm a devoted (or rabid) fan of the TV series “Bones.”
Viewed from one perspective, I should be about the last person on earth to opine about anything on television, given that I’m nearly always too busy working, writing and unpacking boxes from my recent move to watch it. I got satellite TV a few years ago so that I could stay in the conversation with my youngest son, who is a football fan. I am now down to perusing three channels once in a great while, looking for any partial episode of “Law & Order" to get me through my dinner and give me an excuse to sit down for ten minutes.
And yet, the series has seriously set its hooks into me, and I’ve turned from being a casual fancier to being occasionally spellbound by its emotional depth and resonance. Go figure. It’s a series that revolves around a gorgeous forensic anthropologist with the people skills of a lump of granite, and her evolving relationship with a brash FBI agent who likes to go with his gut in his investigations. There are gorgeous teeth and high cheekbones and cleavage and sexy, form-fitting outfits in overabundance. And I try not to hold that against the series, and instead just vow to upgrade my own work wardrobe some day when pencil skirts and form-fitting spandex and I can coexist without embarrassment.
As most habits do, this one started by accident. I was flipping channels for several evenings at the dinner hour, and could not find a Law & Order episode running. As a prosecuting attorney, my comfort zone with that program is total, like a pair of familiar bedroom slippers with fleecy linings. Drop me in any place in the plot line—police investigation, charging decisions, suppression motions, appellate courts—and I don’t need to play “catch up.”
However, at the same time, there were multiple episodes of Bones lined up back to back on another channel, and so I gave it a shot. What I saw, I instinctively liked. I found myself appreciating the fact that here was a female lead character who was unquestionably, simply RIGHT about her scientific deductions. While much sport was made of her lack of social awareness, if she said the dead guy’s tibia told you something, by golly, that’s exactly what it told you. Her team of researchers relied upon that precision and anaylsis to arrive at a broader picture of a cause of death. She didn’t have to flirt her way into cooperation with anyone. She didn’t have to fight with her superiors do have her viewpoint recognized. She didn’t have to weigh multiple possibilities as to what a particular fracture meant. In short, the bones didn’t lie, and she didn’t have to coyly conceal or reveal just what they told her.
It was a nice, nightly shot of “girl power.”
The series spanned several seasons by then, however, and I was not catching them in sequence. I eventually got absolutely dizzy trying to keep up with the lusty romantic attachments of the various cast members, as well as Temperance Brennan’s—that’s the main character modeled on real-life forensic anthropologist and author Kathy Reichs—evolving relationship with her FBI partner and her once-absent father.
And so I bit the bullet, and used my Netflix subscription to watch the series from the very beginning, not even skipping the episodes I had already seen.
And that’s where I got drawn into the people and the writing rather than the crime solving. If I had to sum up the essence of the series for myself, it would be that love is complicated and damage is permanent. And that while love may not conquer all, it is still our saving grace.
The crime solving is always brilliant, of course, and multi-layered with many red herrings preceding the “eureka” discovery of whodunnit, and why. There are gruesome methods of dispatch, and equally gruesome discoveries of murder victims in various stages of decomposition and slipperiness and, for want of a better word, "goo." There are interesting locations, and rapid pacing, and comic banter, and a shared sense of noble purpose.
But that’s taken a back seat for me lately to the finely limned portraits of affection and connection and frustration between the characters. A bit like the way I look at the combination of sweet corn and butter. Each has their strengths and values. But when you get right down to it at a picnic on a hot summer day, the ear of corn pretty much exists as a vehicle for consuming melted butter. I’ve started to regard the plot lines in Bones as merely the pretext for enjoying the interplay between Brennan and her hit-man father, and her parolee brother, and Booth, and her best friend Angela.
What’s past is prologue for all, and Temperance’s history of abandonment and time spent in foster care is baggage she will never escape no matter the emerging closeness and faith she has in Booth, by now her husband, with his own issues to carry. And I am continually surprised at how well the series avoids large denouements and happy endings in favor of leaving those loose ends hanging just as they do in real life.
Okay, real life plus money and spandex and great cheekbones and fabulous teeth.