We are a procedural junkie nation. We are awash in CSIs, Law & Orders, Without a Traces, Cold Cases, and Criminal Minds. Like reality shows, every time you think there is not another permutation to explore, out pops another one from those fertile Hollywood minds (who turn “monkey succeed, monkey see, monkey do” into their work credo). We are in love with watching people at work, either because we’re fascinated with jobs other than our own or we simply enjoy watching people passionate about their work.

The show is inspired by real-life forensic anthropologist and best-selling novelist Kathy Reichs, one of only 50 certified forensic anthropologists in the U.S. – and who also wrote a series of books about her alter-ego, Temperance Brennan. In a nod to something passing as whimsical wit, Bones features a character, Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel), a certified forensic anthropologist, who is also a part-time author who writes books about a forensic anthropologist called… wait for it… Kathy Reichs.

Brennan heads a squad of “squints” – lab folks more comfortable with remains and test tubes than other people. For no one is this more true than Brennan herself. Effectively orphaned at a young age, she grew up in the foster system where she became emotionally closed off. So unable to pick up on the slightest of social cues, from flirting to being aware of her own beauty to other people’s emotions – she, in effect, keeps the audience from relating to her.

Thus we have Seely Booth (David Boreanaz), the former Army sniper turned FBI agent who is her partner. Some may remember Boreanaz from his stints on Buffy: the Vampire Slayer and in the spinoff, Angel. Some may then recall that while he is fully capable of playing the taciturn, dark, and broody role (with the occasional bit of self-deprecating humor), any roles requiring much more emoting puts him somewhere just shy of, say, William Shatner-esque hamming. Thus the central flaw of Bones.

The show revolves about the chemistry between David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel, their banter firmly couched in some latent attraction for one another. Unfortunately, neither lead can act. Bones herself is a fairly one-note character. Unemotional, well, restrained emotions to allow her professional distance, though supposedly “even an empiricist has a heart”; and Boreanaz’s thin acting style becomes readily transparent. The two get by on their charm more than anything else, which right now seems to be working for them.

“… for dust you are and to dust you will return.’” –Genesis 2:19

In the end, we aren’t much more than bones. The fact that we are aware of this is what leads us to explore the meaning, or futility, of this life. It is this self-examination, this pursuit of truth that so often has science at odds with religion, when they are actually more often after the same thing. Finding the patterns of creation, putting together the jigsaw puzzles of life, we are on this journey of questions trying to connect the randomness of life (or seeing the fingerprints of a Creator).

“I thought you found answers in what you believe.” –Temperance

What we are often left with is a sense of story faith. Clinicians like Brennan would take such a collection of stories and label them as myths while others might consider them the story they’ve chosen to form their lives. She, like all of us, have faith, she just places her faith in science. However, even the armor of science can be pierced by the power of story. As she wrestles with the Bible, she concludes that “the lesson I would learn from this myth … that when it comes to your children, your love has to be absolute. The messenger represents goodness, what you know to be right. Ergo you have to be open to what you know is true.”

Bones: “Faith and hope, right?”
Booth: “Love is good.”

Likeable and fun, formulaic and far-fetched Bones manages to work. Barely. For how long it can walk this precarious edge in anyone’s guess. Whereas Crossing Jordan is like Quincy in a skirt, Bones is like Quincy with a gun. Hmm, a Quincy reference certainly dates me. Um, Bones is like a modern day Nick and Nora. Okay, a Thin Man reference isn’t much better. Anyway, Bones is procedural-lite. It has the trappings of a procedural. The actual crime-solving is practically secondary to the banter of the characters and the gizmos and experiments they get to conduct. All we ask from a procedural is some sense of verisimilitude or at least writers competent enough to be able to spell verisimilitude.

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