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From Guardian.co.uk

David Boreanaz

David Boreanaz - "Bones" Tv Series - Guardian.co.uk Article

By Jonathan Bernstein

Sunday 25 September 2005, by Webmaster

Jonathan Bernstein’s Aerial view of America

A matter of minutes into the new Fox crime drama Bones I turned into Michael Buerk. Mindful of the tiny window of opportunity available to engage audiences with ever-decreasing attention spans, the show shone a blinding spotlight on its main character, Temperance Brennan, the feisty forensic anthropologist played by Emily Deschanel. Even before the opening credits, we’d had it impressed upon us that Temperance was brilliant, beautiful, no stranger to the bestseller lists, handy with her hands and feet, capable of a tart rejoinder, impatient with authority, and the boss of an investigative unit of geeks who pore over skeletal remains to crack unsolved crimes that baffle the plods. In other words, she’s another glacial overachiever. It’s a massive overstatement to sum up the state of American TV drama by saying men play flawed and women play strong, but it’s not too far from the truth. A random sampling of male leads in well-regarded series throws up Denis Leary’s messed-up firefighter in Rescue Me, Julian McMahon’s screwed-up plastic surgeon in Nip/Tuck, Michael Chiklis’s loose-cannon cop in The Shield, Dennis Franz’s slowly recovering drunk in NYPD Blue, Christopher Meloni’s rage addict in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Hugh Laurie’s Vicodin-addled misanthrope in House.

Compare these trainwrecks to the ruthlessly efficient blondes on shows like Cold Case, Crossing Jordan and CSI. You have to wonder whether it’s a network perception that audiences won’t accept female characters who are anything less than paragons of virtue or professionalism. It’s a little galling to consider that Cagney & Lacey, one of the first successful female-driven dramas, was one of the last to feature, in Sharon Gless, a lead character who went off the rails and endured a season or two when she stopped acting like a saint. At this point, I will completely negate my previous complaint by praising the performance of David Boreanaz, ex of Angel, who is supposed to be playing Temperance’s confused and sceptical cop partner but infuses his role with a lightness of touch that almost makes you forget you’re wading through yet another forensic drama.

Despite the deep-rooted problems I personally might have with Temperance Brennan’s smartypants persona, I can’t deny that Bones works. I didn’t buy a second of Fox’s other new hour, Head Cases. Chris O’Donnell, breaking bold new ground as a bland, callow Wasp, is the high-profile attorney who suffers a nervous breakdown and, as therapy, is persuaded to align himself with another nutty lawyer on the road to recovery - a low-rent ambulance-chaser with anger management issues, played by Adam Goldberg. If this sounds like another of David E Kelley’s wacky legal confections, it’s far worse: it’s a knockoff of a David E Kelley show that makes you appreciate the original. Kelley’s faults are many and agonising but, if he was in charge of a show about crazy lawyers (as Head Cases was originally titled), he’d have zeroed in on the fact that Adam Goldberg, decent and quirky as he is, was doing a Woody Allen impression when he was supposed to be a hair-trigger psychopath.

Proving there’s no such thing as too many mismatched legal-duo dramedies, the WB steps into the arena with the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced Just Legal. I have no basis for this theory, but I have a feeling that, back in Macaulay Culkin’s heyday, when Hollywood was genuflecting before him and offering him billions to do kid-becomes-president or kid-goes-to-the-moon movies, someone came up with the concept of genius-kid-lawyer-teams-up-with-crusty-veteran-and-renews-his-faith-in-justice. I have a feeling that what should have remained a scribble on a sheet of paper was brought back to life and turned into a vehicle for Don Johnson, as the craggy cynic, and Jay Baruchel as the timorous, mumbling 18-year-old with the razor-sharp legal mind. Just Legal works better than Head Cases, probably because the weariness on Don Johnson’s face is real as he realises he’s signed to do an entire season with this yammering kid.

1 Message

  • While I’m pleased about this author’s praise of David, I don’t think he has paid that much attention to the women he calls paragons of virtue - Lily on Cold Case is a very flawed character, Jordan on Crossing Jordan is always doing wrong, and the 2 women on CSI have personal problems out the wahzoo. I like them all! But I don’t think the author has actually watched those shows for any period of time and draws an erroneous view of American TV, which, lets face it, is not always the greatest. But lots of folks, including me, really like the procedural cop shows, so that’s what the networks are going to show. Of course, even more than those, I loved Angel, Buffy and Firefly.