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With the official start of the 2005-06 season less than two months away, the drumbeats have begun by the networks to tout their new comedies and dramas. What should you keep your eye out for? What should you avoid at all costs? While it's still a little early for full reviews (some recasting and reshooting will be done on a good chunk of them), we thought we'd spend the next month previewing what's in store for the upcoming season. Each day we'll look at two of the 47 new series set to premiere this season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot.
There's no particular order here, just whatever's next on the stack of tapes. So without further ado, here's today's entries:
(Tuesdays at 8:00/7:00c this fall)
The network's description: "From executive producers Barry Josephson ("Hide and Seek," "Like Mike") and Hart Hanson ("Joan of Arcadia," "Judging Amy") comes the darkly amusing drama BONES, inspired by real-life forensic anthropologist and novelist Kathy Reichs. Forensic anthropologist DR. TEMPERANCE BRENNAN (Emily Deschanel, "Boogeyman"), who works at the Jeffersonian Institution and writes novels as a sideline, has an uncanny ability to read clues left behind in a victim's bones. Consequently, law enforcement calls her in to assist with murder investigations when the remains are so badly decomposed, burned or destroyed that the standard identification methods are useless. Brennan's equally brilliant colleagues at the Jeffersonian's Medico-Legal Lab include earthy and bawdy ANGELA MONTENEGRO (Michaela Conlin, "The D.A."), who's created a unique way to render an original crime scene in a three-dimensional computer image; Brennan's assistant, ZACK ADDY (Eric Millegan), a young prodigy whose genius IQ actually gets in the way of his finishing the several doctorates he has begun; "the bug guy," DR. JACK HODGINS (TJ Thyne, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas"), who's an expert on insects, spores and minerals, but conspiracy is his hobby; and Brennan's boss, imposing lab director DR. DANIEL GOODMAN (Jonathan Adams, "American Dreams"). Brennan often finds herself teamed with Special Agent SEELEY BOOTH (David Boreanaz, "Angel"), a former Army sniper who mistrusts science and scientists when it comes to solving crimes. Brennan and Booth clash both professionally and personally, but so far the chemistry between them has only played out in a fictionalized account in Brennan's latest mystery novel."
What did they leave out: It's basically "C.S.I." done "Mulder and Scully"-style with Brennan being the "anti-social, follow the evidence" one and Booth being the "outgoing, go-with-your-gut" one.
The plot in a nutshell: When a skeleton is found and the F.B.I. can't identify it, Special Agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) seeks help from famed forensic anthropologist (and novelist) Dr. Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel). Trouble is Brennan (or "Bones" as Booth likes to call her, much to her chagrin) got burned the last time she helped Booth and wants nothing of it. But thanks to pressure by her boss (Jonathan Adams) and the promise of equal partnership by Booth, Brennan caves and goes on to assist. From here - thanks to some holographic technology (no, I'm not kidding) and the power of montage sequences - we quickly learn the skeleton belongs to a senator's aide and the quest begins to find her killer.
What works: Both Deschanel and Boreanaz definitely have the charm and chemistry to carry a series however they're hampered by some very leaden character development/dialogue: from an intimate scene at a shooting range that comes across as more comical than sexual, to characters not once but twice telling the anti-social Brennan "next time you talk to someone, give up a piece of yourself" with a straight face, to hokey jokes about Brennan's lack of pop culture knowledge (are we really supposed to believe a lab geek/novelist doesn't know who Mulder and Scully are?). In any case, despite all this you get the feeling somewhere in there are two interesting characters. Also worthy of praise: unlike "C.S.I.," the show gives a legit reason why the lab gets to question witnesses, sit in on interviews, etc. and there's a very brief (but very cool) moment that will remind Boreanaz fans of his ass-kicking days on "Angel."
What doesn't: Aside from the new holographic bells and whistles mentioned above (which come across as more hokey than cool), the show does little to deviate itself from your standard procedural crime drama. It's basically find body, collect evidence in a music-driven montage (Howie Day's "Collide" in this case was used on the temp track), go after the obvious lead, find out said lead is a dead end, go back to evidence in new montage (welcome back Howie Day), have typical "a-ha!" moment based on some innocuous piece of information mentioned earlier and catch the real killer. Everything else (Brennan's social foibles, the Brennan/Booth banter, etc.) doesn't come across as strong enough to mask those shortcomings. That's not to say it's impossible: "House" manages to eclipse its imperfections as a procedural - every week it's somebody is sick with mystery illness, House berates some people at the clinic, they try everything until he/she almost dies, House berates some more people at the clinic, House remembers a tiny detail from earlier that happens to lead to a last-minute cure - with some amazing work by Hugh Laurie.
The challenges ahead: Will the show be able to evolve beyond its "Procedural Crime Drama 101" shortcomings? Will the Jeffersonian's Medico-Legal Lab share its "Star Trek"-level of holographic technology with the rest of the world? Will Booth actually call "Bones" her real name in a clich�d moment meant to reinforce their growing bond? We'll get the answer to at least two of these questions this fall on FOX.