No matter how you look at it, BONES is a remarkable show. It deftly blends humor into some of the most tragic (and gory!) storylines to be portrayed on television. It also offers a delicate balance of familial friendship that has enchanted viewers for the past six seasons, and remarkably continues to lure in new viewers each week. For a show entering its seventh season, BONES is showing no signs of slowing down and — as this week’s heart-breaking episode will demonstrate once again – is creatively at the top of its game.
On May 9th, the Paley Center honored BONES and gave fans a chance to celebrate the show with creator/executive producer Hart Hanson, executive producer Stephen Nathan and cast members: Emily Deschanel, David Boreanaz, Michaela Conlin and T.J. Thyne. After a special screening of the May 12th episode “A Hole in the Heart,” the moderated panel provided some insight into what BONES is planning for its 7th season and the ever-elusive “will-they-or-wont-they” dance of Brennan and Booth. As the lights rose after the screening, there was not a dry-eye in the house. Watching an episode in which a beloved character dies is hard enough in the solitude of one’s own home – but to share in that momentous loss was a collective grieving experience that seemed to affect everyone all that much more. It was also a special gift to the fans who had flown in from around the globe – Biba (Brazil), Claudia (Belgium), Nicole (Canada), Anne (Boston), Diana (Texas), Joanna (Texas) and Jenna (Sacramento) – who were not only able to celebrate the show together, but who could also console each other over the loss of a fan-favorite character.
After swearing to secrecy everyone who saw the sneak peek episode and tissues were put back in pockets, the Q&A portion of the evening began with guest moderator Mike Ausiello from TV Line. Not even hesitating to ask the one question weighing on everyone’s minds, he jumped right in: Did Brennan and Booth just sleep together, or was there something more going on under those sheets? A show about murder and a major character had just been killed, and yet THAT is the one question hanging in the air. As Emily and David quickly looked in askance at Hart for the answer, Hart tried to dissuade everyone by artfully dodging the question yet again, saying, “It’s an issue we need to deal with pretty darn soon. . . . tune in to the finale to see what the answer may be.” Emily simply said, “No comment.” Unsatisfied with both non-answers and, as Michael tried to say that it looked like Booth and Brennan had sex based on what was shown in the episode, David blurted out: “You have a funny idea what sex looks like!” After the erupting roar of laughter, the tension was broken and from that point forward the panel was a free-for-all as everyone tried to get funnier responses and more outrageous reactions out of each other. Fortunately, the moderator took it all in stride and let the cast have some fun – after all, this was their night; not every show makes it through six highly successful seasons and can boast that their ratings are still increasing.
So as the spoilerish and sensitive sex topic was put to bed (all puns intended), the next question pertained to the shocking death in this week’s episode. Without revealing who it is out of fear of Hart Hanson hunting me down to the ends of the Earth, here are just a few comments about that. Hart quite candidly acknowledged that it was a beloved character and Emily even admitted, “It’s so hard when both the character and the actor go – so it’s like a two-fold loss.” Hart explained that given how much the sniper storyline was built-up, there had to be a big payoff and that meant someone drew the short-stick. Stephen Nathan also cheekily added, “You don’t want to kill someone on the show and have the audience say, ‘Oh, thank God!’” This got quite a laugh out of everyone too!
Then, after a number of compliments about the departing character and the actor, it was noted that BONES has a tendency to kill people – to which Stephen admitted that over the course of the show, they have killed 127 people to date – and David playfully interjected, “Time out: WE didn’t kill them!” indicating his fellow castmates. After the laughter subsided, Stephan clarified that BONES is a show about solving murders, not that any of the characters actually go around killing people like they are serial murderers.
Taking another humorous detour, Hart mentioned that he keeps a bin on his computer entitled “David’s Ideas” – which includes David’s proposal that he can see Hodgins bouncing around the lab on a pogo stick (which T.J. firmly replied would only happen over his dead body!) or embedded in a wall of the Jeffersonian after taking an unfortunate test ride with a jet pack. Though the one idea that they all agreed would never happen on BONES was a musical episode – which will make more sense after everyone sees the end of tonight’s episode. (On a side note: David gave a glowing shout-out to Joss Whedon for his fine work on the “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer” musical episode.) When David said he could sing, Emily tried to get him to sing “Hot Blooded” or “You Are My Sunshine,” but David quickly backpedaled saying he could not sing either of those songs. He then tried to change the subject by asking about when they will be doing more stunts on the show. Emily called his bluff on this one too but noting that it is odd for a guy afraid of the water, he would want to do more stunts – apparently, David had freaked over the idea of standing in the Everglades marshes and had refused to get in the water. Tongue-in-cheek, David tried to defend himself by saying there were snakes and who knows what in that water and he was not about to risk it. He is a parent after all. Though with Emily’s recent announcement of her pregnancy, he won’t be the only one making that claim. Emily also shared how when David found out that she was pregnant, he immediately put the entire set on lockdown to keep her and the baby safe. So cute!
As it was also debated what the show would do to allow Emily the time off she will need once the baby is born, and one of the possibilities proposed was that David’s character would partner up with Tina Majorino and Booth could take Brennan’s place for a few episodes – Emily then mockingly noted that while Booth could not fill in the shoes of a forensic anthropologist, Brennan could step into Booth’s shoes. When David tried to assert, “You couldn’t be Booth. How could you be Booth?” Emily deadpanned and said, “What? I could get a lot of props and put them in my pockets.” As David mockingly glared at Emily over the simplification of Booth, Emily laughed. With such great banter on stage, the audience was in stitches for the most part.
Taking a brief serious turn, when it was noted that Booth’s backstory about his abusive childhood was never really delved into, Hart explained that storyline was derailed by the writer’s strike a few seasons back, but that it was one that they hoped to revisit next season. He also noted that the BONES characters were deliberately drawn with some emotional scars in order to create interesting characters and stories. He believes that abused children recognize one another and that hyper-awareness creates conduits to forge strong relationships. In response to one fan’s question about why Booth has been stuck in such a rut and wallowing in his dark-side this season, Hart impishly quipped, “Get a life! And stop watching BONES!” Deftly stepping in and before Hart could continue his provocative comments, David explained that from his perspective Booth carries the weight of the world and is just very flawed, but that this season allowed him to open up more. David made sure to remind everyone, “Just keep watching!” Stephen chimed in to add that each character has a certain evolution – a journey – that allows them to see into their own souls, address their flaws and scars, and hopefully embrace a happier and healthier life because of it.
In follow-up, when queried about the significant tonal shift of the show from being a darker procedural to more of a light-hearted, family-oriented type procedural, Emily said that it had been the intent from the beginning to incorporate more humor into the show. In fact, that is what makes BONES different – the characters and stories are evolving, and it is natural for things to change. Stephen added ruefully, “We TRIED to do a serious show!” Michaela also added that from her perspective, “The darker episodes resonate well” – such as the recent episode “The Sign in the Silence” and the Christmas special “The Doctor In the Photo.” That is one of the joys of working on BONES, it balances the light with the dark and each feels more extraordinary with the contrast.
One of the ways the show has delved into such heart-warming tragedy has been exploring the issue of whether Angela and Hodgins’ baby will be born blind. It is a horrifying thought, but it grounds the show in real-world issues that every couple must face – yet putting the BONES loving spin on it. It is to BONES’ credit that it embraces and highlights its characters — and that the murder-story-of-the-week does not eclipse the wonderful characters that populate its world. In fact, CASTLE creator Andrew Marlowe gave BONES a nice shout-out, which tickled Hart to no end. He said, “[Andrew’s] a very good showrunner. Happy for shout-out.” Hart also explained that, “TV is not about how good you are at your best, it is about how good you are at your worst.” BONES may not always reach mega-millions ratings wise, but it strives to be its best at all times and that consistent pride in the show it portrays has drawn more viewers each season.
Talking a bit more about the experience of portraying an expectant mother-to-be, Michaela noted that while she has had to wear a fake prosthetic baby-bump for over 13 episodes, she enjoyed every minute of it. In fact, one of her favorite parts was being able to film while lying down for the delivery scene. She also described some of the research she had done to portray the pregnancy and how they had incorporated as much real life anecdotes as possible from both Hart and Stephen’s own experiences and consulting with a friend of hers who works with expectant mothers. For the big delivery scene, which takes place in the season finale, Michaela cheerfully relayed, “I watched some clips on YouTube. I was very nervous.” Similarly T.J. drew upon his own family in order to portray, what Stephen described as, “the perfect harried father.” T.J. also happily pointed his parents who were seated in the front row for this special occasion – at which David immediately jumped up to greet them, which garnered a huge “aaawwwh!” from the fans for his gracious and generous gesture as T.J.’s parents beamed with pride and happiness.
Then turning to the issue of the revolving-door of BONES’ interns, Hart announced that they would definitely be picking up one or two more interns for the 7th season. He felt that because the interns bring so many stories to the show that it is a formula that works well, plus it constantly changes the dynamics of the other characters, which adds a bit of spice and the element of surprise to the usual patterns and interactions. When asked if there was a possibility of the return of the original intern Zach, portrayed by Eric Millegan, Hart said that it was always a possibility and that they would just have to find the right story. T.J. also made sure to emphasize, “Zach is VERY much missed.”
Looking beyond season seven, Hart clarified that the only reason Fox did not issue a two season pick up of BONES was simply because it would have been too hard to renegotiate all the actors’ contracts this year, when all of their contracts are expiring next year. So it was decided to postpone that lengthy ordeal until next year – giving everyone the time and breathing room to negotiate. He also noted, “[BONES] could go a long time . . . as long as people are interested – and as long as people keep murdering people.” Then when David tried to say that he would love to keep going with the show, “As long as it’s challenging and stuff is going on. I enjoy playing Agent Booth.” To which Emily laughingly refuted that by saying, “You’re asking the wrong person! He lives in the moment. He never thinks of the future.” Which forced David to laugh in turn and jabbed back, “Hey, the moneys got to be f-king right!” With everyone coming clean, Emily also confessed, “I thought three years, tops. . . [After all] how much can they do with skeletons?!” Since she has been proven wrong too many times, she is not willing to speculate, but feels confident that the show could go on for awhile given its success.
On that final, fun note, the evening’s presentation wrapped. It was an evening that allowed the cast and creators to share a glimpse behind the curtain on a show that has captured the hearts and imaginations of fans across the world. BONES may be ending its sixth season with a hello-and-goodbye, but it knows how to win hearts. Here is to many more years of such an extraordinary show!
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