Thursday, April 01, 2010

Bones, "The Bones on the Blue Line": Author! Author?

A quick review of tonight's "Bones" coming up just as soon as I turn to page 187...

Fienberg and I joked on yesterday's podcast that this episode was made 100% for me, and while I doubt Hart Hanson even knows who I am (what with me not regularly watching or writing about his show), "The Bones on the Blue Line" did manage to neatly hit two of my buttons.

First, it gave a nice showcase to John Francis Daley, who's as good an expressive an actor as a grown-up as he was as l'il Sam Weir on "Freaks and Geeks." (I also don't know if it was intentional, but I appreciated the Apatovian symmetry of Daley's character getting engaged to Carla Gallo's, what with her being the female lead on "Undeclared.")

Second, it finally addressed a question that's been bugging me since the pilot: how does a woman like Temperance Brennan, who has so little aptitude for or interest in understanding the emotions and motivations of others, become a best-selling crime novelist? Particularly since her books are, as described here, clear roman a clefs based on her work with Booth? (And with a heroine named after Brennan's creator, Kathy Reichs, in a bit of real-world/fictional-world quid pro quo.)

Well, it turns out that Brennan doesn't write the books - or, at least, that she doesn't come up with the parts dealing with emotion, or romance, or whatever it is that's on page 187. It does seem a little sketchy that Angela wouldn't realize just how much she was contributing to the books (I imagine the first drafts would be entirely technical), nor that Brennan wouldn't have realized before now that her success as an author comes as much from the "unimportant parts" as from the science, but it's about the most plausible explanation we're going to get.

What did everybody else think?


kboss said...

Usually a lurker here, but I totally thought about you last night when watching this episode: "Oh my god! Alan was just talking about this! The TV Gods must have read his mind..."

And I was totally loving the showcase on John Francis Daley. But I'm telling you, if this season doesn't end the WTWT I'm not sure if I'll be back. Five seasons! Worse than Chuck...

Hatfield said...


Anonymous said...

So Alan,

Why did MF schilling the iPad irk you so much, while Angela bringing the episode to a dead halt to laud the Toyota Sienna's features not even warrant a mention?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Because this was a quick review and, while the plug was annoying, it was just one scene in an episode, and not the center of the main storyline.

Anonymous said...

Fair enough, but I buy the premise of someone pining after the latest piece of technology (as the iPad's wait list attests to), way more than a young, good looking single woman buying a minivan. I wasn't a fan of last night's MF, but I felt Angela's in-show commercial was a lot more jarring.

Fay said...

"...Temperance Brennan, who has so little aptitude for or interest in understanding the emotions and motivations of others"

IMO, little aptitude, yes; little interest, no. I think she's more like what Hodgins said "deep water runs still".

If only based on this single one episode, it would appear that all the relationship stuff in Brennan's book has nothing to do with Brennan herself. But I'm thinking there's more to it. After all, she wrote that married couple story in last season's finale all by herself. So I'd like to see how this plays out for the rest of the season.

Stephanie said...

I laughed when I saw the twitter update, because I knew what you'd be commenting on.

I watch Bones regularly but my enjoyment of the show has always been contingent upon the episode ignoring or avoiding mention of Brennan's novels. I agree that it's ridiculous that someone like Brennan could ever write that kind of book. The reveal that Angela is responsible for the non-science parts does mitigate that somewhat. It's still pretty weak, but it does make it easier to swallow.

And since I love JFD, this showcase was a treat for me. I'm glad he got a chance to show his stuff.

Anonymous said...

How about the fact that this episode made no sense at all?
First - they get to the first suspect by having Angela see the recipient of the email through his computer because of the IP address, is that even possible, or legal?
Then the motivation for the killer? No sense at all!!!
And yes. I noticed the plug, but I don't mind if it keeps good shows on.

Sam Garret said...

Anonymous: tapping a PC camera via IP address is not really that plausible. There are security programs that allow remote access to your camera and laptop thieves have been caught by this method - some email attchements carry payloads that enable hackers to gain access to your system also and once there they could comandeer the camera. So conceptually it's possible, but hacking a camera just on its IP address is quite fantastically unlikely without other such mitigating factors.

I never had a problem with Bones being able to write those scenes - we know that she's both sexually active and experienced and I can easily see her doing research into how other procedural novels have tackled such sexual themes and scenes and doing it by rote (this is probably just fanw**k on my part). It does make more sense that Angela helped, though, for the reader connection to be as strong as the interviewer character indicated.

This does mean that Angela, Bones and Hodgins are now all Extremely-Well-Off people...Though, now I think about it, her dad was a rock star, so she's probably not that short of a bob anyway.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyable episode, that I was glad to see tackle your greatest pet peeve.

I do enjoy Hart Hanson's humor of handling the product placement. He could have had a killer or suspect drive it, but instead he gave it to the least likely main cast member to drive a minivan, and then included the return of Hodgin's mini.

The problem with letting an actor direct is their on screen appearance has to be minimized in the episode prior. The last time Boreanaz directed, they brought in a different agent to work with Brennan, which while it wasn't bad wasn't as effective as this week. Giving JFD such a great situation to work with, was very nice to see. Spending the rest of the time focusing on Angela and Brennan was also a great use of time.

The final scene I found to be almost incomfortably intimate. I know Brennan isn't bashful, but something about her being in her robe, and Booth dressed down worked on a very intimate level.

DeeTV said...

I'm getting tired of this show. I used to really like it, but not anymore. And, if Bones and Booth do page 187, I am outta here.

Boreanaz is the main reason I watch the show. But even he's not enough if the story isn't good. I agree with the folks who said last night's story just didn't make much sense.

Also, I don't know if it's b/c it's gotten so much more blatant or if it's b/c Alan has brought it to my attention, but boy did the Sienna in-show commercial annoy me, as did the Camaro commercial in the last episode of Human Target. But for some reason the MF iPad story line didn't bother me that much - go figure.

Reminds me of the fact that Soap Opera's were invented to advertise soap!

Mrs_B said...

I didn't mind the ad that much. I've seen way worse product placement. American Idol's coke glasses annoy me way more, lol!

I thought the Angela writing the sexy parts of Bones books actually worked pretty well. Angela is just the type of person who would help out in such a way without expecting anything in return. As someone with a pretty (I assume) high paying job, and with a father who's a rock star, I would imagine she's never had to worry about the cash.

I think her reaction to the check was more about being shocked at how much Bones actually makes off the books as opposed to being thrilled to get the money.

I actually teared up when Daley's character perposed!

Mrs_B said...

Err, proposed.

Chrissy said...

Can anyone explain why Clea Duvall killed that guy? There's usually some overly explanatory wrap-up where one character explains to another a bunch of stuff they should already know - normally it annoys me but tonight I missed it. She was mad that the letters weren't real (but she didn't like the guy she thought they were from that much anyway)? And then her ex was so touched by what she did for him? What did she do for him, besides steal his bullets and then hand him to the Feds as a suspect? I feel like I missed a scene or something.


Anonymous said...

I did notice the product placement, but it didn't bother me. I disagree that Angela having a mini-van is unrealistic. I too am an artist; a mini-van with its side cargo door works better than an SUV or truck with cap when it comes to getting canvases in and out. Actually most of my colleagues drive some form of van or mini-van, be they young, female, attractive, old, homely or what have you.

I've never been able to really buy that Brennan was this uber successful author. This helped by way of explanation, but the whole concept still feels incongruent to the character. It's always felt to me like something they keep telling us about instead of something I believe.

Elena said...

Isn't the whole author thing based on the fact that the author of the books Bones is based on is a uber scientific whatever the heck Brennan is in real life? Or am I misinformed. Its never bothered me that she's a writer, of course, I didn't really think about the books having emotional complexity. It makes sense to me that Angela wouldn't realize how much she's contributing, but Brennan not realizing it is more of a stretch. But it made for some amusing scenes. Liked the emphasis on Sweets, although I thought he was going to break up with Daisy, but once again, Angela was right--he's being distant, so he's not breaking up with you.

Xeddicus said...

Isn't the whole author thing based on the fact that the author of the books Bones is based on is a uber scientific whatever the heck Brennan is in real life?

Yes. Bones is based on/inspired by the life of Kathy Reichs, who is a forensic anthropologist and an author. Hence so is Brennan. I imagine Brennan's anti-social skills are greatly increased for comedic and drama affect, but it does prove a scientist can write a decent book.

BigTed said...

The show has made it clear that Brennan is very sexually active (at least at times), and considers herself to be great in bed partly because she doesn't confuse emotional involvement with a good roll in the hay.

So while it makes sense that Angeles would have written the "emotional" parts, there's no reason Brennan couldn't have thrown in the sexy herself.

BigTed said...

er, "Angela."

Unknown said...


FWIW, they seemed to suggest that Clea killed the blind dude because it was his fake letters that led her to dump the pawn shop guy and date the Metro supervisor. She said she was happy with pawn shop guy and never should have left him, and I guess she figured out the ruse and killed blind guy for causing her breakup. Pawn shop guy was so touched that she killed for him, he then fell back in love with her.

jenmoon said...

I beg to differ with Angela: everyone that's dumped me got distant/acted like Sweets beforehand. So...audience fakeout.

I think the case in this episode was extremely weak, but I also think it was in there because they were required to have a case. A professional letter-writer in this day and age? REALLY? I was ignoring this in favor of the other drama, which was far more interesting.

Did like that they finally established how Brennan can write people. And I was amused at Hodgins's "signature move." That thing you do, indeed.

Caravelle said...

A professional letter-writer in this day and age? REALLY?

I could use that, actually. I get by cribbing stuff off the internet and asking older relatives when they're around and I'd be way too cheap to use one anyway... but yeah I'm really really bad at formalese, having someone help people like me out for a living doesn't seem far-fetched to me.

rosengje said...

A little late, but I just got around to watching the episode and I wanted to echo the sentiment that I found Angela's weird Sienna plug way more distracting than the use of the iPad on Modern Family. It was like a complete break from the episode to extol the virtues of a car. Very strange.

Otherwise, really enjoyable episode.

Kate said...

I agree about John Francis Daley. Sweets is one of the characters I'm now watching the show for. (Cam and the revolving interns being the others. I am over Bones, Booth, Angela and Hodgins because of the stalled writing and repetitive stories for them.)

It makes sense that Angela writes the sex scenes for Brennan's books. What makes no sense however is that Brennan is so clueless about how important they are to the readers. Every time she offered a completely dry description to the interviewer and the interviewer then corrected her and told her what she wanted, I rolled my eyes.

Brennan is an anthropologist, which means that she studies the customs of people, as the show keeps telling us. How could she miss that mating rituals are one of the most important and interesting customs there are? Even if she doesn't feel the need to care about them herself, she must be aware by now that people who read her books do. Her cluelessness is getting ridiculous. Even Templin Grandin, who has a much more severe form on the austic spectrum, could figure it out and make an effort to learn socially important matters.

I feel that the show has got stale and hung up on it's one joke. Season five and no one in the cast has really had any development. David Boreanaz said in an interview that he hoped Booth and Bones would never consumate the relationship. That would be a very big mistake in my thinking. Even now, every episode seems the same, with the exception of hallucinatin sex and Hart Hanson and David Shore have to stop sharing a brain on that one.

I imagine Brennan's anti-social skills are greatly increased for comedic and drama affect, but it does prove a scientist can write a decent book.

Kathy Reichs doesn't have a social handicap (she's quite charming in interviews). And some of the best books I've read are written by scientists. Try something by Carl Sagan or Oliver Sacks.

It just makes Brennan's one note even more ridiculous.

Mark Jones said...

Others have beaten me to it, but I agree--they've established that Brennan has a very healthy sex life (at least at times). So writing sex shouldn't be difficult for her. That she can write murder mysteries successfully, however, given her cluelessness about the squishy psychological stuff that Booth handles, to say nothing of personal relationships is a much bigger stretch.

I don't think it was as hard to believe earlier in the series. She was overly literal and out of touch with pop culture but seemed more human than she does now. She's been "Flanderized" to use the TV Tropes term--they've taken a quirk and, over time, magnified it to such a degree that it's become utterly implausible.

Still, I'm a big fan of the show despite their mistakes (and occasional BIG mis-steps, like the Zach as Gormogon's Apprentice travesty).

lizriz said...

I think Angela is fully aware how much she contributes to the books, but just doesn't care about it in a financial/credit way because to her that's just part of her friendship with Brennan.

And I actually thought the Sienna bit was the most natural product placement I've seen in a while due to the performance. The fact is that we *do* talk about products and brands in our natural lives. The trick is to somehow achieve a natural conversation in a show when viewers know what's up and it's so easily jarring. Often actors deliver those lines like they've been asked to bite twenty lemons right before the take. I thought Michaela Conlin was very natural with it. For me it's commercial-esque beauty shots that kill me in terms of in-show product placement.