|Michaela Conlin as Angela Montenegro and Emily Deschanel as Dr. Temperance Brennan in “Bones.”|
The best thing about DVDs is the opportunity to fall in love with television shows a season or two, or even more, after they’ve already been on the air. Erin and I are currently hooked on “Bones,” a Fox series starring David Boreanaz, who paid his dues in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and the spinoff show “Angel.” In “Bones,” he plays an FBI agent, Seeley Booth, who works with Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel), a forensic anthropologist/murder mystery novelist from the “Jeffersonian Institution” (a loosely fictionalized version of the Smithsonian Institution) to identify victims and causes of death from bones — rotting, slimey, decayed corpses.
The kneejerk reaction is to expect that “Bones” is a warmed-over version of “The X-Files” with that series’ professional camaraderie and sexual tension between Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, FBI agents who track down cases of paranormal phenomena. But as much as I loved the first seven seasons of “X-Files,” “Bones” is a first-class show of its own. It doesn’t hurt, either, that the series features my new favorite Asian American character on TV: Angela Montenegro, played by half-Chinese actor Michaela Conlin.
We became addicted when I happened to channel surf one Wednesday night and stopped on Fox to watch part of one show, which caugth my eye with its humor and warm, interesting relationship between Booth and Bones (Deschanel’s character’s nickname). So Erin added the series’ first season to our Netfliz queue, and we burned through those seven discs in less than a week. We’re now finishing disc 5 of season two, then we’ll have to go cold turkey until season three if available on DVD.
The characters are complex, the relationships real and believable, and the storylines clever. Special effects are great — they raise the barre set by the likes of “CSI.” And every show includes plenty of humor that helps offset the violent crimes and often intense, sometimes quite sad emotional situations.
The two main characters are two halfs of a crime-fighting team. Booth is the emotional cop who follows his gut and knows how to speak to people whether it’s bereaved relatives of a victim, or hardened criminals. Bones is left-brained scientist, analytical to a fault, who has no social skills and is blunt and clunky in human interactions.
The show even has good music throughout, with cool singer-songwriter material, especially at the end of the episodes. Once in a while there are surprising covers: one was a new version of the ’80s Kate Bush song, “Running Up that Hill.” The episode we just saw even ended with a soundtrack bonus that appeals to my rock critic past: it featured a beautiful Poco song from 1975, “Keep on Tryin’,” which fit the misty nostalgia of the plot.
The Asian character is another bonus for us. Angela Montenegro is the “normal” character on the team of Jeffersonian scientists (Booth calls them “squints”), an artist who specializes is digital reconstructions of faces and bodies from bone fragments. Her ethnicity isn’t mentioned much, but she’s a strong, beautiful character who doesn’t shrink to fit Asian stereotypes. In one season one episode, when a piece of evidence has some Chinese characters on it, one of the other characters asks Montenegro what it says. Without skipping a beat, she says back to the guy with a smile, “Wise man says why you think I know what it says?” or something along those lines.
When the first character asks, “Well, aren’t you half Chinese?” she follows up with the kind of line all Asian American wish we could pull out when we find ourselves in such awkward situations: “That doesn’t mean I can read Chinese — you’re half Scandinavian, an you read Swedish?”
Just the fact that such a line is included in the script was enough to make us fans.
I’m just dreading how we’re going to be jonesing for the show when we finish disc six of the second season. Hell, we might have to actually tune in to the broadcast third season shows on Fox, and put up with the commercials.