TV Review: Bones, Season 4

America’s number 1 crime-solving team is back for its fourth go round in this latest DVD box set, featuring some of the wackiest cases yet, but lackluster plots may point to a sharp decline in the quality of this Emmy-nominated series.

Personally, I’ve been on the Bones bandwagon since it first hit the scene back in 2005. Emily Deschanel has consistently proven that comedy tends to run in the family, with her intelligent, charming, highly entertaining adaptation of Kathy Reichs’ crime-solving heroine, Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan. Joined by David Boreanaz as Special Agent Seeley Booth (Contrary to popular belief, he does hold a name OTHER than Angel), they have formed a delightful and witty comedy that constantly surprises with its engaging look at forensic science (if a bit improbable in some of its…eheh…methods) and the many twists that form its myriad of unique cases.

Sure, Bones has always had that unfortunate Fox-brand taint to it. Most shows on the network find it hard to break free of: the fluffy-bunny teasing romance that goes on years and years without fulfillment, a sometimes formulaic layout of episodes, and the general need to impress a moral lesson on us at the end of every night. Despite this, Bones has always managed its particular brand of entertainment through the power of its characters, strong scripts, and the success of mixing the grotesque and arabesque with the outrageously comical (and a touch of romance to boot).

But the problem, I think, is that the series is in need of some fresh blood. In the fourth season, the witty scripts of years past seems, by and large, to fall back on tired jokes and cases hopping straight into the realms of the outright illogical and improbable. The series has always had some out-there cases, of course, but this season seems to cross right into the realm of the fantastical.

Case and point: A stapler to the head causes a deadly aneurism. Not enough? A 15-year-old boy manages not only to kill a woman on a plane, in flight, with no one noticing, but manages to roast her alive in an on-flight oven as well—but thank God almighty the Bones team was there, and they manage to solve it just as the plane lands in China.

Two words: Oh. Dears.

Toss in ghosts and serial killer write-offs (Ala: the Gravedigger from Bones past—who returns only to devolve into a complete nitwit), and you have a serious downgrade from what we’ve come to expect. If nothing else, Bones has always been plausible, if unlikely—this season seems to soar right over that field and swing its way out of the ballpark of imagination.

The characters undergo little development, but for a sudden, stark surprise at the end of the season. Everything has that unfortunate feeling like it’s all been done before, and an unengaging dialogue just exacerbates the problem.

But we still get the occasional gem in the rough. Some episodes shine through with their return to powerful comedy, and their striking uniqueness as opposed to the bland unreality of others. The final episode, for example, I rather enjoyed, precisely FOR its departure from the normality of the series. They reach out to us, reminding us of what has been lost—but the majority has truly lost something.

It’s always sad to see a good show go down in smoke, simply because it wanders into some of the usual traps of television writing. It’s easy to stray—and that’s why one has to be careful. But I understand, FOX can get brutal with those that stray too far from those traps (I miss you so, oh Firefly). That’s why we need a happy middle ground. Bones walked that line once, and did it with gusto. What we have no isn’t bad, but I couldn’t call it good either. Like many shows, it’s just there, drifting from episode to episode—leaving us flailing in the breeze.

I only hope that Bones can find a way to stumble back onto that line, before this steady descent catches itself in an outright downward tailspin, from which there can be no recovery.

Breathe new life, oh Bones!

Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

~ by Chris G. on February 14, 2010.

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