Bones: Season One review by Mike Long

In the realm of entertainment, there are apparently two distinct camps. Some want original ideas that bring the audience something new. Others don't want to challenge the status quo and want to keep feeding viewers the same thing over and over. This distinction is very apparent in the world of television, where every season we get a few bold and daring new shows, and a crop of shows which mimic popular trends. Police shows have been around for years and a few seasons ago, a new twist was ushered in by the likes of C.S.I, and the age of the forensic procedural show was created. The Fox series Bones was one such show to jump on this bandwagon and the first season has just come to DVD.

Dr. Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel) is a forensic anthropologist who works for the Jeffersonian Institute in the "Medico-Legal Lab". Her job is to identify cadavers and attempt to determine how they died. She is also a best-selling author, writing fictional books based on her career. As the show opens, we see Brennan interacting with FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) -- who refers to Brennan as "Bones". Apparently, Brennan has assisted Booth in the past in identifying corpses, but she now wants to be more involved in the cases. Booth agrees and takes Brennan on as his partner. They visit crime scenes together where Brennan gathers essential evidence. She then takes the remains to the Jeffersonian where they are poured over by her team -- Zack Addy (Eric Millegan), Brennan's assistant; Dr. Jack Hodgins (T.J. Thyne), insect and soil expert; and Angela Montenegro (Michaela Conlin), who specializes in facial reconstruction and computer simulations.

As the show progresses, we begin to learn more about the characters. Brennan's parents disappeared when she was 15, and this has shaped her personality. She pours herself into her work and has little knowledge of popular-culture, and very poor social skills. On the contrary, Booth is very good at reading people, but he's also dedicated to his work, as he will do whatever takes to bring a criminal to justice. Like Brennan, Zack is a prodigy and knows far more about science than he does about the real world. Hodgins is a conspiracy theorist. Angela attempts to be the most normal person in the lab and she constantly urges Brennan to get out and enjoy life.

Bones is a multi-faceted show which works on some levels and fails on others. To be perfectly honest, I've never really watched any of the other forensic procedural police shows which have graced the airwaves as of late (I have seen a few eps of C.S.I.), so I really can't compare Bones to the other shows. I can say that the shows storylines are very interesting and it does a good job of balancing in-depth scientific procedural work (complete with tongue-twisting dialogue) with a standard "whodunit?". Some of the episodes are extremely intriguing, such as "A Boy in a Tree" or "The Graft in the Girl", where Brennan and her team face a particularly challenging mystery, and Brennan and Booth must pool their resources in order to solve it. The interactions between Brennan and Booth are often funny, as their world-views are so different.

Unfortunately, Bones also presents us with some unlikable characters. From the outset, the show seems to be challenging us to like Brennan, as she's arrogant, cold, and distant. She constantly tells other characters how smart she is, and while those smarts do help to solve crimes, this doesn't make her appealing. As the show progresses Brennan's character softens somewhat, and between the episodes "The Woman in the Garden" and "The Man on the Fairway" (where there was a three-week gap) there is an obvious change in her demeanor (and I got the feeling that someone told the producers of Bones to make this change happen). By season's end, the interactions between the characters has evolved and they are somewhat more likable, but none of them are supremely winning, save for Booth. Boreanaz brings the same humor to this role which he showed in Angel, and his character serves as the connection between the show and the viewer.

Unlike many hour-long dramas, Bones doesn't benefit from DVD viewing. This is due to the episodic nature of the show. Each show contains an encapsulated story which is resolved within the episodes. While there are some ideas which carry over from one show to the next, there are no over-riding story arcs. Thus, when you finish an episode, there's a feeling of closure instead of the "I've got to watch the next one" feeling that I've gotten with shows like Prison Break or Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as this makes Bones perfect for viewing an episode here and there, but I prefer the shows which make me want to plow through the entire boxed set in one weekend. Oddly, the season finale packs a ton of plot into one episode and does present a main storyline. If every episode had been like that one, I would have finished the season in one day.

Bones isn't perfect, and is actually challenging to watch at times, but overall, it won me over in the end, mainly due to David Boreanaz's performance and the fact that characters became more likable as the season progressed. My main complaint is that Fox released this DVD set after Season Two of the show began. I will now have to wait for reruns (or the next DVD set) to catch up.

Bones: Season One is cleaned and examined on DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The four disc boxed set contains all 22 episodes from the show's first season. All four discs are two-sided, which won't please some aficionados. The shows are presented in their original 1.78:1 aspect ratio and the transfer is 16 x 9. The episodes look good, as the image is sharp and clear. The image does show a slight amount of grain at times, but these moments are rare. The colors look fine and the framing appears to be accurate. There was some mild video noise at times, but otherwise things look fine. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track offers some very nice stereo effects. However, the surround and bass effects are vague and random. When they are present, they sound fine, but they are prevalent.

The Bones: Season One DVD set contains a few extras. “Pilot” (Disc 1) features an AUDIO COMMENTARY from series creators Barry Josephson and Hart Hanson. This is a good commentary, as the two talk about the creation of the show, some about the casting, and they give a lot of detail about the shooting of the pilot, including an interesting tale about how it rained indoors. “Two Bodies in the Lab” (Disc 3) has an AUDIO COMMENTARY from stars Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz. This is a fun commentary, but as they promise at the outset, you aren’t going to learn much from it. Actually, they do a good job of describing the making of the show and the relationship of their characters. The other extras can be found on Disc 4. In “Squints” (8 minutes) the cast talk about their characters and discuss the challenge of working on a show which deals with science and death. “The Real Definition” (7 minutes) examines scientific jargon from four episodes. “Bones -- Inspired by the Life of Forensic Anthropologist and Author Kathy Reichs” (7 minutes) features an interview with Reichs where she discusses the similarities and differences between her life, her books and the show.

7 out of 10 Jackasses

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