Thursday, September 15, 2005

Picking over the body: Bones

The Fall TV Season is upon us. Sort of.

Yesterday I watched the premier of Fox's new show "Bones", Fox's entry into the world of crime-scene investigation television drama.

Nanostalgia touches upon the plot of the show here, which we at The League found a bit gutsy for a pilot episode of an untested show. Notice we are not applauding the gutsiness of the plot choice, but we are taking note of the boldness of their call with so little else going for the program.

I don't watch the fictional crime scene investigation programs like CSI. There's something odd to me about police procedurals based around people standing around at 2:30 AM looking fresh as a daisy and making darkly wicked comments to one another over a dead hooker. I do confess to watching the occasional autopsy show on HBO, A&E or other cable channels as they use the magic of cable TV to solve and/ or reconstruct a crime. These scientists defy all expectations as being surprisingly unsexy, middle-aged dudes with thinnging hair and glasses. Usually they're not tortured souls looking for redemption.

The oddest bit about all of this, to The League, is how many people I meet who are so into the CSI sort of programming that becoming a forensics expert is their idea of the new James Bond.

My message: Dead people are disturbing to look at. If you're in a state that they need to call in a scientist before 8:00am to figure out what happened to make you that dead... buddy, you are not someone The League wants to be taking a peek at. Odds are, Barney Fife is not calling in a forensics expert to figure out the case of Mrs. Hunkel's missing wheel barrow. There's going to be somebody's mother, or brother, or child lying there on the ground with their blood all dried and sticky and some gaping holes in them where the life drained out.

Not every body is a stripper whose murder is going to implicate some big-wheel drug dealer and somehow help you clear some dirty little part of your tortured conscience. A lot of these are family arguments, or flashes of anger between people who've known each other for years that suddenly got out of control. But that's not compelling TV, I guess.

Fox's entry into the CSI-style programming has obviously been tweaked and notated to death by the network suits to fit their idea of what makes a good show. Any hint of originality was lost long ago, leaving only some goofy and unwelcome sci-fi elements behind. Our two heroes, Buffy's vampire boyfriend and Zooey Deschanel's fetching sister, each has a checkered and completely cliche-riddled past seemigly lifted from a 1950's era cop movie.

There's some awkward discussion of sex, seemingly jammed in to titillate, a team of scientist stereotypes pulled from 90's era big budget films like "Contact", and an X-Files Skinner clone, doomed to be demanding badges and then admitting our heroes were right and that he never should have given the case to that weasel, Johnson.

Knowing they're to spend a huge amount of time in Zooey Deschanel's fetching sister's lab, the lab is, apparently part of a shopping mall, hangar, or some other unexplained open air environment completely inappropriate for keeping corpses contaminant free. The team of crack scientists (none of which appear to be over the age of 28) have also created an amazing hologram projector (our sci-fi element) which can create a hologram based upon the bones our friend, Bones, has pieced together with Elmer's glue. What everyone else can do by looking at an image on a screen from a projector, these good folks have created in 3D, which, according to the show, everyone can see the face while they're standing behind the head of the hologram. And alter things like "flesh mass around the cheeks by 10%" at the touch of a button. That is some kick-ass processor on their hologram projector.

Even more amazing, the hologram projector can choreograph the movements EXACTLY as they occured during the murder. It's all sort of something you have to see to believe.

As for the just plain bad: We're repeatedly told Bones can't connect with people, just corpses, yet Bones goes on to spend 10 minutes telling anyone who will listen how she's cold and emotionless and can't connect. Note to writers and producers: Show, don't tell. By the end of the show, I couldn't wait for Ms. Chatterbox to quit connecting. Also, getting along with people doesn't mean telling them something you're not sure you should tell. Getting along with people at my work place means nodding and pretending like you care about what their kid said last night at the dinner table.

Look, this is Fox's idea of what CSI should be. Bones stars young, good looking people. There's some badly forced sexual tension between our two leads, and mostly nowhere to go with the show except to force it into the police procedural they promised in the ads. And while I've never watched CSI, from what I hear, this is pretty much William Petersen's character from CSI, only with big goo-goo eyes and boobies.

Fortunately for Fox, big goo-goo eyes and boobies are probably enough of a selling point for The League. We watchedThe X-Files on a similar principle for 7 years.

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