Wednesday, September 14, 2005

More Fall TV Reviews: Reunion and Bones

Here's my self-promotional bid for a job as a TV reviewer at one of our local newspapers. Not that I have anything against the Star-Ledger's current TV critics, Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz. It's just that I'll watch TV and write about it for free, so why pay more?

Reunion looked like crap from the ads, like someone said, "Let's take Dawson's Creek, set it back in the eighties, and let's throw in a mystery so people will keep watching even though these characters are boring as hell." I wasn't going to watch it, but then the New York Times weekly television insert did a front-page story on Reunion and I thought that it couldn't be that bad. Well, it is that bad. Even for FOX, the network that thrives on ridiculous conceits (i.e. Prison Break, Skin, 24) like I thrive on Prozac, Reunion looks desperate. First of all, the show's not going to tell us which one of the main characters is dead in the opening scene. I guess the lazy-ass writers thought it would just be easier to give everyone stilted, unnatural dialogue where they can't mention the deceased's name rather than write material that actually illuminates the inevitable death around May sweeps. Strike one.

Strike two: Are these six kids all great friends? I can't tell. Someone only tells me how close they all are like every five freaking seconds. Just random extras will walk into the scene and say things like, "I've never seen six such good friends, and I knew they'd be friends for the rest of their lives." That line, by the way, comes courtesy of the gang's high school newspaper photographer, who's delivering the eulogy because.... why? Their junior varsity football coach wasn't available? All I know is that if my high school newspaper photographer were delivering my eulogy, I'd probably... well, I was going to say that I'd kill myself, but I suppose that wouldn't work out too well. Okay, anyway, they're great friends and we have the photos to prove it except they never actually do anything reminiscent of what people who are friends with each other actually do. There's a lot of brooding in their clique, and they spend a good deal of time yammering about how awesome their lives are, and there's some man-hugging. But nothing that indicates these people are actually friends. Like I said, lazy-ass writers.

Strike three: Every forty-four minute episode chronicles exactly one year in the story. So we have episode titles like "1986," which ends with the gratingly obvious line, "So that was 1986. Now, why don't you tell me about 1987? That way, we can bludgeon our audience with the setup for the next episode." Just tell the damn story; don't make me get a calendar to keep track of your stupid show!

The worst part is that the whole flashback-to-the-eighties structure gives the producers license to clutter the soundtrack with those kinds of songs Michael Bolton reminisces about in VH1's I Love The 80's, songs that really should have been put out to pasture back in, well, the eighties.

We also had the premiere of Bones last Tuesday, a show that proves Joss Whedon is a god by making David Boreanaz somewhat watchable. (I'm still not shelling out ten bucks for Serenity though.) Boreanaz is basically typecast as dour, lifeless Angel, although since Bones is a plain-old CSI ripoff instead of a unique genre-twisting film-noir-meets-fantasy black comedy, we get fewer crazy make-up effects. More insert shots of people putting dirt into test tubes, though.

Also, there's this woman played by Emily Deschanel (who FOX is plugging like anybody's actually heard of her before) nicknamed "Bones." And she's a forensic anthropologist, whatever the hell that is, which means she studies bones. And she and Angel solve crimes by examining the victims' skeletons, and skeletons are made of bones. Get it? Oh good, you're not retarded.

There's also a supporting cast of irritating know-it-all scientists, each one wackier than the next. You've got your innocuous intern toady scientist. You've got your crazy paranoid conspiracy-theory scientist. You've got your sexually liberated well-adjusted scientist. You've got your generic scenery-chewing scientist. Basically, all they're missing is a mad scientist with the Einstein hair and the thick glasses cackling maniacally over a leyden jar. None of them can go a scene without mentioning how they're all super-cool cause they know all these awesome science facts, but how they're also emotionally damaged and unable to relate to, you know, those of us who manage to get along without throwing the words "diaphantious soil" into our conversations. Oh, did I forget to mention that Angel and whatsherface have issues? I did? How silly of me...

Her parents disappeared when she was a teenager and now she's afraid to trust anybody who's not a rotting corpse. And he lost his soul and killed lots of people, then he got his soul back and is racked with guilt. No, really, that's the subtext. Somehow, this gives them license to behave as childish, narcissistic assholes oblivious to the consequences of their actions. I don't know. That shit works on The Sopranos, but not so much when you don't have an anti-hero.

On a side note, there's an early scene where the forensic anthropologist lady is at an airport and beats up one of our nation's crack homeland security officers, which I find quite disturbing. Not as disturbing as this, but still, I'd prefer our homeland security department had the upper hand over the forensic anthropologists when it comes to stopping terrorism.


Chailyn Cole Runewood said...

Wait a second. Named Angel. Lost soul. Killed people. Got soul back. Guilt. Hmm. That sounds ODDLY familiar. I don't know. Maybe straight out of Buffy?

Jay said...

It's not an Angel/Buffy rip-off. It's more like a rip-off of CSI: Miami or maybe Navy: NCIS: one of those shows that's supposedly about science and forensics but is really just an excuse to show larger-than-life crime-fighters. That being said, Boreanaz is playing exactly the same character he did in Angel and Buffy. He's either extremely typecast or extremely lacking in acting range, and — did you see Valentine? — my guess is the latter.