Fox // 2005 // 946 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Cynthia Boris (Retired) // December 4th, 2006
"I don't know what that means."
-- Brennan in nearly every episode, in response to any one of a hundred pop culture references.
Fifteen years ago, TV viewers didn't have a clue, nor did they want one, when it came to the science of forensics. They preferred to see their cops solve crimes the old-fashioned way, with clever questions, fanciful disguises, and car chases. C.S.I. changed all of that and Bones changed it again. This isn't your mother's forensic detective show; this is one with humor and heart.
Based on the books of Kathy Reichs, Bones is actually the lovely but socially lacking Dr. Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel, Glory Road). A forensic anthropologist, she lends her skills to wildly creative FBI agent Seely Booth (David Boreanaz, Angel) and helps solve crimes that begin with particularly mangled or decomposed corpses. Brennan has a team of brilliant but quirky "squints" (Booth's nickname for the science geeks), which includes young, socially inept Zack Addy (Eric Millegan), paranoid bug and slime expert Jack Hodgins (T.J. Thyne), and the one bright bulb in the box, forensic artist Angela Montenegro (Michaela Conlin).
In the first season, Brennan's boss is played by Jonathan Adams (American Dreams) and Booth's boss is John M. Jackson (JAG).
Though the show is named for Deschanel's character, it's truly a dual star show, with she and Boreanaz sharing the screen time and that -- right there is the joy of the series. Come, let me tempt you to Fox side.
To get the feel for Bones, you need to simply listen to the music they play. Like the show, the music has a dual signature. There's the techno, which is used for the theme as well as in the episodic soundtrack, and there is the emo rock, which is often used under "discovery" montages. Techno-Emo. That describes the show quite well. It's an interesting mix of detective work and pure human emotion.
Each week Booth delivers a new set of bones for Bones to examine. You gotta give creativity points to the writers for coming up with odd ways to present skeletal remains as well as situations that require the assistance of the FBI. Some of the crime scenes are gruesome and some viewers may have trouble with the shots of bugs, rotting flesh, and detailed murder descriptions. To keep the show from going to a dark place, these scenes are usually softened with comedic banter. For example, while Bones examines the remains of a young woman who was tied up, sliced open, then left to be mauled by vicious dogs, Booth carries on about her new interest in online dating. The incongruity of it makes the scene so much more real and that, I believe is the key to this show. These people are real, quirky, true, but I like them as people.
While Booth and Bones are passionately invested in what they do, they both hide their emotions under the guise of, "I'm just doing my job." The character of Angela (the forensic artist and Brennan's best friend) is the emotional center for the group. She laughs, cries, flirts, she draws a smile on the sketch of the victim because the woman was pregnant and starting a new life in a new country so she should have been happy. She's the balance point between Booth and Bones and she's the only person who truly understands both sides of every story.
Emotions. That's what I keep coming back to as I write about this show. There's a heck of a lot of 'em here, and I cry like an idiot at the end of one out of every four episodes. Bones isn't just about solving the mystery. It's about people. Why people kill. How survivors survive. How the family of the victims cope with the loss. It's about people trying to make a difference in the world and people paying penance for what they did wrong. The weekly mysteries are only half of the story. Booth and Bones are both puzzles in themselves, and over the course of the season so many secrets are revealed (and so many are left uncovered).
I was a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so I was very familiar with David Boreanez's work. When I heard he was playing an FBI agent in an emotional crime drama, I didn't think he had it in him. I was wrong. He rocks the role of Seely Booth, giving him depths of character that constantly surprise me. He's funny. He's charming. He's goofy and then...wham...he's got a dark side that you don't want to mess with. Yeah, the show is called Bones, but Booth and Bones would have been more accurate.
Take at look at what you get in this box set.
It may not be unusual to find a body in Arlington Cemetery, but this one was weighted down at the bottom of a pond. Quick introductions to all of the leads set the tone of this pilot episode, which has overtones of the Chandra Levy case.
* "The Man in the SUV"
What looks like terrorism might actually be a lover's revenge...or maybe it is terrorism...or maybe not. A bit too complicated, but the last few minutes are tense and exciting.
* "A Boy in a Tree"
Lots of twists and turns in this story of a student found hanged in a tree at a prestigious private school. Suicide or murder?
* "The Man in the Bear"
Booth and Bones travel to the other Washington to investigate skeletal remains that turned up inside of a bear. The town's cast of quirky characters makes this one fun to watch, but the quick wrap-up left me with some unanswered questions.
* "A Boy in a Bush"
This one was hard for me to watch for all the right reasons. As the team investigates the murder of a young boy, they all have to come to terms with the emotional impact of dealing with their youngest victim to date. Booth has some difficult decisions to make in this one, and Boreanaz plays all the levels just right. Sad and moody, it gets an A.
* "The Man in the Wall"
Trouble follows Bones wherever she goes, even to a nightclub where she finds a mummified body and a stash of drugs behind a wall. The highlight here is seeing the usually cold and factual Bones high from accidentally inhaling cocaine. Beyond that, the plot is a bit too convoluted.
* "The Man on Death Row"
This hard-hitting episode has Booth second-guessing himself when a man he sent to death row is about to be executed. The man claims he's innocent, and Bones and her crew give up their weekend to give Booth some peace of mind. The ticking clock at the bottom of the screen adds an extra dimension of tension to this episode, and the last fifteen minutes is full of surprises.
* "The Girl in the Fridge"
The forensic plot is to discover the whodunit and why when they find the remains of a teenage girl in an old refrigerator. The larger plot deals with Brennan's ex-teacher/lover who wants to prove her wrong in front of a courtroom full of people. Lots of nice touches in this one.
* "The Man in the Fallout Shelter"
Merry Christmas? The entire group is quarantined in the lab over the holidays when Booth brings in an old corpse (nice gift) for Bones. Sappy and sentimental, the mystery takes a back seat to the characters as Angela tries to make merry and Brennan slips into a deep holiday depression. I cried like an idiot.
* "The Woman at the Airport"
Boring tale that is one big Hollywood joke when Booth and Bones fly to Los Angeles to discover the identity of a woman who was addicted to plastic surgery. Penny Marshall cameos in an annoying subplot about Bones' book being made into a movie. The only saving grace here is some incredibly artistic camera shots with inventive use of lights, colors, and shapes. The visuals are much more interesting than the story being told.
* "The Woman in the Car"
A woman is killed and her son kidnapped presumably to stop the boy's father from testifying in a federal case. The crew has plenty of hurtles to jump in order to find the boy, not the least of which is an agent doing security screening interviews with Bones' people. The last twenty minutes takes hold and wow -- David Boreanaz just steals the show.
* "The Superhero in the Alley"
Bones and Booth investigate the suicide or murder of a comic book writing teen who dies wearing his superhero costume. Some interesting twists on the whodunit end and another touching ending. (They slay me with these, over and over and over.)
* "The Woman in the Garden"
Why did the Salvadorian gang member dig up a dead body or two? There are a couple of thrilling moments here, but overall this is a slow-moving tale.
* "The Man on the Fairway"
Unusual story that begins with a small plane crash involving foreign dignitaries, but turns into a mystery about a man long missing and his son who has made a living out of finding out the truth. Connections to Bones' past and the squints' clumsy attempts to smokescreen the boss are interesting, but it's the pig in the woodchipper that really takes the cake.
* "Two Bodies in the Lab"
Adam Baldwin (Firefly) guests in this story that has a gunman after Brennan. But is the Mafia victim on the slab, the grisly remains of a serial killer's victim, or her new boyfriend that has a target on her back? Boreanaz and Deschanel do the commentary on this one and it's a hoot, but be sure to watch the episode first before switching on their talk track.
* "The Woman in the Tunnel"
This unusual story deals with the shadow society that lives in the tunnels beneath Washington DC. A documentary filmmaker turns up dead but is it her film or something much more valuable that caused her to take the ultimate fall?
* "The Skull in the Desert"
Angela takes the lead in the story of her boyfriend gone missing in the desert. Some nice bonding moments between Angela, Brennan, and Booth, and the ending with its emo music overlay is both lovely and sad.
* "The Man with the Bone"
Argh! It's pirates, matie! Hodgins and Booth bond over this tale about possible pirate treasure and the murder of the treasure hunter. Some nice twists, but one large one is just too much of a coincidence for me.
* "The Man in the Morgue"
Brennan is in New Orleans helping identify Katrina victims when she wakes up covered in blood. She can't remember the last two days, but it looks like she may have murdered a man thanks to a voodoo curse. Quite gruesome in spots, the highlight of this one is Brennan's comparisons of Booth's Catholic beliefs with the beliefs of the voodoo followers. "Jesus was not a zombie."
* "The Graft in the Girl"
An excellent episode that I just can't watch. The daughter of Booth's boss is dying of cancer and Brennan discovers that the cancer may be the result of a contaminated bone graft. There are no happy endings in this one, as Angela helps the dying girl see the world through her art, while Booth tries to put the negligent tissue lab out of business.
* "The Soldier on the Grave"
Get out the tissues again. This one is about a soldier found burned to death in Arlington Cemetery. What looks like a war protest turns out to be a cover-up. What really happened in Iraq hits a bit too close to home for Booth in another very poignant episode.
* "Woman in Limbo"
The season finale begins with an unlikely coincidence. The skull the team is working to identify belongs to Brennan's mother, who disappeared when Brennan was a young teen. Once you get past that unlikely scenario, there are plenty of interesting twists as Booth begins to solve the mystery of the missing parents. There is a slight cliff-hanger at the end, but nothing that made me want to throw a shoe at the TV, so no reason to hold off watching it.
The special features on this disc aren't really all that special. There are two commentaries, Hart Hanson and Barry Josephson on the pilot and David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel on "Two Bodies in the Lab." Both are interesting for different reasons. The actors have more fun (are they drinking?) and it's nice to hear a more natural Deschanel. And she and I were both amazed by Boreanaz's powers of recall as he recalled detail after detail about that particular shoot.
The featurette "Bones -- Inspired by the Life of Forensic Anthropologist & Author Kathy Reichs" is a fast-paced look at how Kathy Reichs influenced the show and the character of Brennan. Though there are episode clips, it's pretty much spoiler free.
"Character Profiles" are nothing but static screens with bullet point lists of the facts we know about each of the characters. Boring.
The "Squints" featurette is another fast-paced montage that takes a closer look at the people on Bones' team. Well edited and fun, but there are a few spoilers if you haven't watched all the episodes.
"The Real Definition" featurette seems like a good idea, but in reality it doesn't work all that well. The feature takes several complicated terms from the series, defines them, shows their usage in the real world, then how they relate to the crimes on the show. Lots of spoilers here and not very interesting to watch.
There is really nothing to dislike here, except maybe double-sided discs that had a tendency to freeze and pixelate. If you're a first time viewer, don't be put off by Brennan's early coldness and overly inflated self-defense skills. Her character evens out after a bit and it's worth the wait.
Bones makes me cry on a regular basis and when was the last time you heard that about a forensic crime drama? What this series does exceptionally well is change gears. If the scene is too grisly, we switch to funny. If the scene is light, throw 'em a killer curve. Cold and clinical, time for a emotional and poignant moment. It's not just the weekly mystery that will keep you guessing. The show is full of surprises, and the biggest surprise is the chemistry between Boreanez and Deschanel -- they're Tracy and Hepburn as modern crime fighters and the subtleties, the layers -- they slay me every time.
Booth is ready to declare this series not guilty, but Bones says that's pure speculation on his part. She's waiting for Angela's sketch, Hodgins' bug report, and Zack thinks he found an anomaly on the third disc that could be significant.
Review content copyright © 2006 Cynthia Boris; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 946 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Commentary by: David Boreanaz, Emily Deschanel, Hart Hanson, Barry Josephson
* "Bones -- Inspired by the Life of Forensic Anthropologist & Author Kathy Reichs" Featurette
* "Squints" Featurette
* "The Real Definition" Featurette
* Character Profiles
* Official Site
* Kathy Reichs' Official Site