[03/29/12 - 03:01 PM]
Interview: "Bones" Creator Hart Hanson
By Jim Halterman (TFC)

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It's a good day to be Hart Hanson. Not only did FOX announce earlier today that his series "Bones" was picked up for an eighth season but after a hiatus of being off the air (due to shooting around star Emily Deschanel's real-life pregnancy late last year), the series returns to the air with new episodes next week in its new Monday, 8:00/7:00c time slot. In the midst of a busy day of congratulations and chatting with the press, our Jim Halterman grabbed some time to talk about the details of getting the renewal, the prognosis on Hanson's "Bones" spin-off, "The Finder," and how "Baby Bones" will alter - or not alter - the popular murder series.

Jim Halterman: Congratulations on the pick up!

Hart Hanson: Thank you. It's not completely unexpected but it's always nice when it happens.

JH: From the business side of things, are there negotiations and storylines that you have to present when you get a pick-up or at this point does FOX know what they're getting?

HH: They know. Informally, throughout the year, when you pitch the season ender, for example, they say 'What do you see? How do we get out of this when we start the next season?' They want to make sure you don't back yourself into a corner. So you talk about that and you're always talking with them about how characters are working and how the balance between personal and procedural is going. It's part of the conversation that we have at least weekly or anytime they give notes or you have coffee with them.

In the old days...for season two and, I think, three I had to make a formal presentation to the network saying 'Here's next season with, say, eight cases and the idea where the personal stories were going.' I don't have to do that anymore. They know what the cases are going to be and they've gathered the information as we've gone along. It's really just, at this point, just business and more between the studio and the network than me.

JH: I know the press release earlier today didn't say how many episodes for season eight. Have they said how many there will be?

HH: The assumption is 22 and then somewhere around Halloween or Thanksgiving, we'll start saying 'Well, do they want 24? Do we want to do 24?' but the season order is for 22 but it could go up to 24. But I doubt it because we have these four hanging episodes, which we already have. Then we'd have 26 next year if that's when they want them unless they burn them off in the summer and no one knows.

JH: What would you prefer?

HH: In terms of when do they burn these off?

JH: Yes, would you like to see them in the summer? Or fall?

HH: My preference would be to have all of them go in and us never have a rerun next season. That's just makes for a stronger season so my preference is to definitely to play them then. Tow of them I'm really hoping because they're just really good and as good as any episode that we've done so I want them to be seen by the maximum number of "Bones" fans but I have so little say on this.

JH: Before we dive into specifics about 'Bones,' how has the last year been for you? You juggled a lot with work, you had a personal injury in there...?

HH: It's been an amusingly chaotic year. I had this motorcycle accident [in January] and I was lying there in the emergency room waiting to find out how bad it was, kind of fogged up on painkillers, telling my wife to call in and say 'Okay, here's where we are on 'Bones,' here's where we are on 'The Finder,' if this happens then this has to happen and if I can't come back, they should assume I might be out for a minimum of a week or if I die, this is what should happen..." I thought, really? Is this that important to the culture? [Laughs.] But it's been that kind of year. It's just been incredibly busy and chaotic and I'm really glad that my two boys are out of the house because I never would've seen them and I would've been a terrible, terrible Dad. Luckily, I have a very understanding wife who knows, 'Well, this is what we do and how often does it happen?' But it was a ludicrously busy year and one of my dreads is what if both 'Finder' and 'Bones' get picked up for 22 episodes each? Holy crap, something will have to give. I'm an elderly gentleman. It's high-class problems!

JH: Speaking of, any news on 'The Finder?'

HH: No, no. I don't think we'll hear anything about 'The Finder'...our last Thursday night did very, very well and then we were off the air and we come back next week on Fridays. I think they'll look at how we do on Fridays. I think...your guess is as good as mine...it's not always about the numbers. We'll find out what the good will at the network is towards 'The Finder.' I think Kevin Reilly (President of Entertainment, FOX Broadcasting Company), in general, likes a darker show than 'The Finder' is but it's that combination of personal like and business. Certainly, I think, as other shows have come and as we see what the numbers look like this spring, 'Finder' looks better and better but it's all going to come down to how we do on that Friday night. They're giving us six in a row. It's a terrible time slot, Friday night, but it's awesome to be on six weeks in a row without pre-emption. We've never had that on 'The Finder.' We were constantly getting pre-empted.

And God bless [the new Kiefer Sutherland drama] 'Touch.' That's a tough time slot after 'Idol' The expectations are so high and the competition is so stiff and I say this without bitterness. I know the network has to prioritize but they never promo'd 'The Finder' to any degree because they figured that being after 'Idol' was good enough so we very seldom had promos so I'm hoping they'll keep their promise and promo 'Finder' a little bit more during the week so that we can try to get an audience on Friday.

JH: We've talked before about comedy and drama balanced in an episode of 'Bones' but do you guys think about that over the course of episodes? Like 'Let's do some lighter episodes because darker ones are coming?' Do you think about that?

HH: Yes. And you know this as well as I do, we have a quite a wide total range on 'Bones' and I'd be hard pressed to argue with anyone who said that maybe from time to time we went a little too broad. At times I'm done looking at a show and I say 'Okay, there's the other edge of broadness of humor.' But, in order to buy the comedy, we are sometimes very sad and sentimental and in order to buy the sadness and sentiment, sometimes we go broad either in the week before or the couple of scenes before. So part of our ordering of the episodes is figuring out 'Okay, this one's very funny, this one's very sad, this one is ruminative, this one is action and it's time to have David run and shoot something again...' We sit and stare at the season and figure out where things should go matching crimes to personal stories as best we can. What you really wouldn't want to do, for instance, is have a child murder when the B plot is hysterically funny. That would not work for us and, in fact, we generally avoid child murders because they're just not funny but we have one coming up. But, yeah, we put a lot of effort into juggling our season and we get cranky and upset if the network wants to move things around too much, which they generally don't do but it's a pickle.

JH: When word gets out that you're going to have a serial killer story coming do your actors start bringing you in cupcakes to stay on your good side?

HH: [Laughs.] Actors know if they're in danger of being killed or not. This is something they know. They have a second sense so David [Boreanaz] is not coming in going 'Please don't kill me' and neither is Emily. I am pretty good at reassuring people who are safe that they are safe. The squinterns are more properly nervous all the time and I'm kind of a pussy because when we were deciding who to kill to get Brennan and Booth to go to bed together I left that decision until somebody got a series. Vincent Nigel-Murray - [actor] Ryan Cartwright - got a series regular on SyFy's 'Alphas.' I said 'Great! That's perfect because everyone loves him' and he did one of the great death scenes ever and I don't have to feel like I'm making him starve because the actor life is not an easy life. But this guy [Chris Pelant, played by Andrew Leeds] is scary and he makes everyone nervous.

JH: Having Brennan have her baby now, how much is that going to be a part of the show? Will we see the baby in a harness going on cases with she and Booth?

HH: The rule that we have set for ourselves is the balance and proportion of case-to-personal will remain about the same. It's just the content that will change. So, the unrealized sexual tension stuff is replaced by how do we live together? How do we raise a child together? I'm not saying that the baby won't ever show up in a snuggy at a murder scene but that's not the way Brennan is going to mother or Booth father. Everything is up for discussion, mind you. With these two philosophically, radically opposed characters nothing is just assumed. It's still a murder show and they still solve crimes and they bring their personal lives into work and sometimes we go home with them and that's always going to be the way it is.

JH: I think it's smart the way that you haven't made their lives nice and tidy when the baby arrived. I'm guessing that's the way you decided to do it since it gives you so much more story, right?

HH: Absolutely. One of them would like to get married, the other has no interest in getting married. They are together but, as you say, it's not tidy. There's nothing tidy about it. They're just two radically different for everything to be always tidy...at least before season 12.

JH: I normally don't cringe too much at gross stuff in the show but the eyeball in Monday's episode really got me.

HH: You've met [Executive Producer] Stephen Nathan and he's a lovely man. He's a family man, a loving, loving man. He takes a degree of joy in the most hideous things that are very good for our show and I think there's something deeply, deeply wrong with this man. He's almost always behind the most grossest things. It's in a script and then we'll enhance things with computer graphics afterwards and I believe that eyeball was. Or things crawling out of eye sockets or snakes popping out of intestines. All the grossest things...Stephen just goes that extra step and makes you want to vomit. We always say that when we're on at 8 o'clock, if you're eating at 8 o'clock, wait until 8:10 and then start eating your Chinese food. If you're eating between 8 and 8:10 you may lose your appetite a little bit.

JH: What do you have against cappuccino machines or is that a Jonathan Collier [writer of Monday's 'Prisoner In The Pipe' episode] thing? I mean, it makes sense for Booth and his character...

HH: [Laughs.] That's Jonathan. Something that Stephen and I argue about constantly, daily, in fact, is...Stephen is an LA guy. He likes restaurants and he'll talk your ear off about terribly boring, awful things like where I come from you don't talk about coffee. You might say 'Hey, that's a good cup of coffee' but that's it but Stephen will talk to you about coffee. So all of our arguments about living in LA versus being from Vancouver Island generally make their way into Booth.

And let me tell you about John Collier. He's the most observant man in the world and he has a very, very stoic and he just watches you and more than once I've seen him introduce conversations or attitudes or stances that I or other people around me have in the world to the show.

JH: Are you getting a break soon or do you have to dive right into season 8 of 'Bones?'

HH: We will start breaking story for season 8, which is a great gift of an early pick up because all the writers are still here. If you get a late pick up then everybody goes off for their summer holiday and you have to start earlier. This way we can convene later in June and start breaking season 8 now and we'll do that until post is done. Whether or not I get a break is totally going to be dependent on what's going to happen with 'The Finder.' It's just harder to get a second year show up and running than an eighth year.

"Bones" returns in its new time slot this Monday, April 2 at 8:00/7:00c on FOX while "The Finder" moves to its new Friday, 8:00/7:00c home on April 6.

  [march 2012]  


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