‘Bones’ goes British for premier

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September 2, 2008

8:52 PM

“Bones”: It’s back, it’s bitchin’ and it’s British.

In the season-four opener, a two-part episode airing at 8 p.m. tomorrow on Fox, forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel, “Glory Road”) and FBI agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz, “Angel”) have traveled across the pond to the London.

For those who haven’t fallen in love with the “Bones” theme music, the show focuses on Booth and Brennan, whom the FBI agent has nicknamed Bones because of her trade, as well as Bones’ team of scientists. Working with the FBI, they solve cases in which bodies have degraded too far and all that is left is bones.

Although Brennan and Booth are in the good old U.K. to present lectures to Oxford University and Scotland Yard, respectively, they quickly become involved in a murder investigation when the daughter of an American businessman is found dead in the Thames.

And guess what? There are British version of Bones and Booth.
Guest stars Andrew Buchan, who plays bizarro “Bones” Dr. Ian Wexler, and Indira Varma, the bizarro “Booth” Inspector Cate Pritchard (any guesses what Booth nicknames her?), work well together. Unfortunately, the episode doesn’t play much to that strength; rarely are the two seen together because, as is proper, he works in a lab and she does the police work.

There are a few plot holes, but nothing too disastrous. First the FBI is allowed to be part of a British murder investigation. Then Bones sends almost every piece of evidence back to her lab in Washington for the secondary characters to analyze. It just seems a bit, you know, wasteful.

But don’t worry; there’s plenty of drama back at the lab. Everyone has inexplicably moved past the fact that Bones’ assistant, Zach Addy (Eric Millegan, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”), was just arrested for assisting last season’s recurring enemy, a creepy cannibal named Gormogon. It’s actually kind of British — proper, polite — how they ignore it.

Of course, death travels right behind the crime-solving duo. Shortly after solving the first murder, one of the Brits is found burned to a crisp. This murder plays off the last one, but provides a glimpse into the British team and their partnership.
Back in the lab, drama continues as Angela Montenegro’s (Michaela Conlin, “Enchanted”) husband arrives to sign divorce papers so she can marry Jack Hodgins (T.J. Thyne, “24”). Of course, he doesn’t want to divorce her; he’s been in love with her for five years.

Okay, let’s pause right there and recap.

First: “Bones” writers, really? Was there a British stereotype you didn’t touch on? There were jokes about bad teeth, weak tea, snobby royals, butlers, driving on the left side of the road and lawyers wearing wigs in court. There were scenes of Booth faking British accents, Booth trying to make one of the Queen’s Guard react, Booth almost getting in various car accidents, Booth yelling at Bones that “it’s not a lorry, it’s a truck.”

We get it: Booth is a big ole gun-totin’ Yank, while Bones is academic and sophisticated and fits right in with the more aloof Brits.

Also, can’t Angela’s husband just sign the damn divorce papers? He has to show up, years later when Angela wants to marry another man, and profess his love for her before throwing Hodgins in a dump truck? I feel like that lab technician who spent the whole episode complaining about the drama.

One plus: Dr. Sweets appears to be a major character now. The psychologist, played by John Francis Daley of “Freaks and Geeks,” continues to serve as a good comic relief to the rather intense drama of the other characters. The addition of Daley is rather reflective of the overall cast: intellectually brilliant, but not necessarily emotionally mature.

It must be a challenge for Deschanel to constantly act cold and clinical. After three seasons, she is still able to play the scientist to the end, approaching life armed with knowledge but not much wisdom or sociality.

“Yanks in the U.K.” was a dangerous start for this season. “Bones” has always been a show that skillfully combines cutting-edge science and intricate plots with strong characters and raw emotion. It’s that unique combination that makes it stand out over the CSI franchise. But these first episodes’ character development is poor; only by the grace of the plot is the premiere saved.

As long as this season of “Bones” does better with character development and continues to produce interesting murders, I think it can pull through. Fortunately, this year’s cast is the strongest yet, and in all likelihood can pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

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