I have never pretended that Bones is anything more than a guilty pleasure. It’s a pizza show – no nutritional value, no effort involved at any point in the process, but still decent even when it’s crappy. In fact, to be perfectly fair, at it’s best moments, Bones even approaches something quite close to greatness; I have no shame in admitting that the ending to season 2’s “Judas on a Pole,” set to Placebo’s “Running Up That Hill,” still gives me shivers every time I watch it.
All right, those moments are rare (like, UFO sighting by someone who isn’t in the midwest rare), but the point remains that Bones has been, for most of its run, a light, fun show, with likable leads and enough nods towards serialization and intelligence to justify getting hooked. I mean, I tend not to bandy about the term “delightful,” but David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel are, in fact, delightful, and they are quite adept at playing the obligatory will they/won’t they aspect of the show. There’s a nice mix of humor and emotion (and gore. do not watch the first ten minutes of an episode while eating.) and enough characterization to reward watching the series in order, but not so much that you have to. Last summer, I marathoned the first five seasons on Netflix, and I found it reasonably enjoyable.
I realize that was, granted, some of the most hedging, lukewarm, halfhearted praise anyone has ever tried to pass off as a recommendation, but the fact is that this show is not trying to do anything revolutionary. It’s not trying to be Community, or The Wire, or Breaking Bad, or even Glee (because, yes, like it or not, Glee was doing something innovative and original before it devolved into a mess that I promise to stop talking about). All it’s trying to do is be a half-decent hour-long procedural, and it does a pretty good job of that. It’s the kind of show to have on in the background while eating dinner or while cleaning your room, and that is a perfectly legitimate goal for a television show.
So I have never expected Bones to be anything that it’s not, but I do expect it to at least do a good job at being what it is. Which is why I’ve been pretty disappointed with the seventh season. Sure, the sixth season had its flaws (I like to imagine that, after her last scene, Hannah walked offscreen right into the gaping maw of that monster Jabba the Hutt tried to feed Han Solo to in Star Wars), but there were also some deeply affecting moments, like the conversation between Booth and Brennan at the end of “The Daredevil in the Mold.” The seventh season, though, has been killing it, and by it, I mean any goodwill I may have at some point had for this show.
I hate to reference the Moonlighting curse, but, damn, the Moonlighting curse hit Bones hard. (For those of you who don’t spend all of your time on TV Tropes or the AV Club, the Moonlighting curse refers to when a show finally consummates a will they/won’t they plot, and the show becomes crap after that.) I mean, yes, I hate will they/won’t they, and, yes, I hate shippers, but that tension – and, more specifically, that chemistry – was the foundation of the show. Without that driving element, the leads have no momentum in their relationship (because apparently television writers are incapable of writing decent relationships, but that is another post), and the show itself is just sort of floundering.
They’ve been resorting to more and more ridiculous plots, which I think hit the nadir a few weeks ago when (SPOILERS, but honestly, do you really care?) Brennan gave birth in the manger at an inn. I’d like to repeat that, just in case you didn’t get the full effect the first time: BRENNAN. GAVE BIRTH. IN A MANGER. Accompanied, of course, by episode-long discussions of religion, and Christ, and Christianity, just in case you didn’t get the symbolism (though, to be sure, I’m not actually certain what the symbolism was meant to be other than, “Look! This thing happened once! And we’re doing that same thing now!”). And then, naturally, because that’s how childbirth works, she walked into her house a few hours later, totally capable of enjoying a surprise party from her friends.
Now, okay, I have a remarkably high tolerance for suspension of disbelief. As long as it’s executed well, I really don’t care what sort of contrivances the plot had to contort itself into to get us there. If there’s an intellectual, or emotional, or comedic, or characterizational payoff, I’m willing to go along for the ride. But seriously. When the development is this absurd, and when it’s accompanied by this level of callousness towards the characters, even my suspension of disbelief snaps. You need to fully commit to pull a plotline like that off (maybe Community could have managed it, but even they would have probably revised that script), and Bones just kind of said, eh, might as well.
I think we’ve reached the point where everyone involved with Bones is pretty much totally phoning it in at this point, making them incapable of clearing even the very, very low bar I reserve specially for this show. I’ve never been too greatly invested in it, but I’m about ready to give up; when I need my Boreanaz fix, there’s always the better seasons (or, even better, all of Angel) on Netflix. Seriously, though, someone put this poor show out of its misery already; it’s a skeleton of its former self (oh, come on, you knew that was coming).