Like automobiles and bad fast food restaurants, police procedural television programs are around every corner, all resembling the others, all copying the basic formula, though everyone has their own specific tastes. Be you a 'CSI' guy or a 'Law and Order' fan (or any spin off, for that matter), or if your interests in sci-fi lead you to 'Fringe,' this wildly popular program theme has a show for everyone, and with so many shows out there in the genre, it's hard to not get exposed to them.
Fox's attempt to create a unique and memorable procedural to compete with the big boys with acronyms for titles, 'Bones' debuts on Blu-ray with the fourth season of episodes. Does one need to view any episode from prior seasons to get the point of the show? Far from it. In fact, this show requires zero foreknowledge of the series, and can be picked up at random without missing any vital plot developments, a plus in my book.
As the title sequence states, 'Bones' is "inspired by the life of forensic anthropologist and author Kathy Reichs," with a character from her books, forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance "Bones" Brennan (Emily Deschanel, and yes, they're related) playing one of two leads. When corpses are found, in any state of decay, Brennan and her FBI partner Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) leap into action along with their support crew who play a variety of roles in discovering identities, causes of death, and other odd jobs in order to solve the mysteries.
The show is a mix of the good with the bad, sadly, mixing some fresh ideas and scenarios (how many murders can play out on primetime television before every variation in the book is covered?) with a cookie cutter template that's fun for the first few episodes, but grows stale with repetition, repetition, and some more repetition for good measure.
Sadly, I'm not joking. Out of the twenty four episodes (twenty five if you count the double length first episode as two) in this fourth season of 'Bones,' nearly 90% follow the same outline, with a cold opening with random pedestrians happening across a corpse by accident, credits, introduction of the interpersonal subplot for the episode involving two to three of the Jeffersonian crew, random intern blabber, analysis, interviews of friends or family, conclusive evidence of cause of death, more investigation and interviews, a conclusion and confession, and a thrown together brief tie up of the side story. Lather, rinse, repeat. Throw in the fact that many of the subplots are conveniently thematically linked to a portion of their respective episode's murder, and you have a show that is just overly convenient and unbelievable, one that feels amazingly like 'House,' even borrowing a few plot points, just with the cast diagnosing the dead rather than the living.
The first episode of the season, a two part affair with Bones and Booth in London with their English counterparts was a great introduction to the show that felt like two completely separate stories linked together, perfectly splitting at the midpoint. The episode was enjoyable, though, due to the separation of the crew, which was a scenario later duplicated (poorly, like a parody) in an episode where a murder is revealed while the two B's are on a plane to China, having to race against the landing of the plane to catch the perp.
The support staff are where most of the positives for the show lie. Angela (Michaela Conlin), Hodgins (T. J. Thyne), Camille (Tamara Taylor), Sweets (John Francis Daley), and a rotating slew of interns (think Star Trek red shirts) have wonderful chemistry with each other and the show's leads, providing many of the best lines and deep characters, despite their limited screen time. Deschanel is, amazingly, a worse actor than her sister, so the fact that her character is not supposed to show any range of emotion fits her perfectly. Boreanaz is pitch perfect, though, with his "cocky" belt buckle telling all the character back story any viewer needs.
The victims in each episode are a very diverse cast, even more than the crew working to solve their crimes. From circus freaks and reality tv hosts to the extreme sufferers of OCD, transgender preachers, fantasy convention workers, models, black metal musicians, and wine critics, an amazingly wide range of lifestyles are analyzed, with quite a few episodes echoing the odd news stories that reach a national level (a pregnancy pact, for example).
There's plenty of fun to be had, as some of the stories can be truly entertaining (including the fantastic turn by Bones and Booth as carnies), but the show can't even be original compared to itself, let alone other shows. 'Bones' has far more potential than many of its ilk, but this season doesn't spread its wings far enough to warrant extreme praise in my book, even with intriguing cameos by hockey legend Luc Robitaille or Stewie Griffin from 'Family Guy' (no, I'm not joking there), and the finale episode is one of the most frustrating exercises in self congratulation that I've seen ever on screen. Do yourselves a favor, and just skip 'The End in the Beginning,' save for the last scene, which shows the consequences of the end of the previous episode, which should have been the climax.
'Bones' arrives on Blu-ray by way of an AVC MPEG-4 encode at 1080p in the natural broadcast ratio of 1.78:1, with a visually appealing set of episodes that show off the fine attention to detail the show provides, though possessing flaws, while not as frustrating as the faults in the program itself, can bring things back down to reality.
Detail is absolutely solid, with clothing details utterly popping constantly, definition in cracks and indents on bones coming through clearly, and sets looking as life-like and defined as any I've seen from a TV program on Blu. Facial detail on Borreanz' stubble draped face is respectable, though occasionally blurry. The picture is very front focussed, making backgrounds often just turn into fuzz, while the grain level is certainly light, only spiking randomly on some softer shots that are few and far between. The print is clean, with very few instances of dirt or debris.
Digital noise isn't too much an issue, with a few episodes (with obvious looped backgrounds in vehicles particularly) taking on a light hit, while the credits are an absolute onslaught. Sky shots are often incredibly busy, and at one point, when coming back from a commercial cut (no, commercials aren't in this presentation, but the cuts are obvious), they come through amazingly dull for a few seconds before getting a dark blue tint. It was a pretty goofy error.
Aliasing is not a real issue, with even the finest cross hatched suits maintaining their patterns, though Bones' dress at the funeral (no, that's not a spoiler) suffers from flickering, with the little white dots constantly being attacked by the solid black around them, shifting in brightness. Edges are quite natural, with tons of wild hairs popping constantly, and no real edge enhancement halos worth noting. Delineation isn't all that great, with darker shots absorbing clothing and hair into the abyss. Skin tones are often as natural as can be, while colors in general take a natural tone, not over saturated or leeched of depth. Artifacts are visible in some darker shots, and in the interrogation room walls, but they aren't all that major.
The camera for the show can be a bit wishy washy, especially during the Imagicon episode, which can make a viewer feel they're swaying up and down, or side by side as if the show were made on a boat. It nauseated me a few times (and no, I'm not pregnant or stricken by swine flu), and that's saying something, as neither 'Quarantine' or 'Cloverfield' achieved that effect on me. '[rec]' did, but that's another story.
The audio options for season four of 'Bones' are quite brief: you can take your sound by way of a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix and like it, or just watch the show on mute. Subtitles are available in English, Spanish, and French.
'Bones' is one of them there procedural shows, I reckon, so the ability to hear the theories and conclusions crew members come to are the most vital element of the sound mix. Dialogue does have a nice layer of priority in this surprisingly active sound mix, but suffers from a muffled feedback that laces around many bits of dialogue in random episodes, while it sometimes just felt off, like it were hollow. The score to the show can get quite hefty at times, but it never drowns out the dialogue, which was surprising.
The surround speakers get plenty of activity, from some natural, seamless pans and pushes of sound through the room, to plenty of localized little bits providing depth to scenes, making busy rooms actually sound busy, a rarity in television programming, creating a liveliness that can help bring one into the crime solving. Bass use isn't too powerful, though the theme song from the awesome tech group The Crystal Method is pumped up with plenty of rumble.
Some sequences have an atmosphere that possesses a high pitched squeal that felt similar to the oddity in the 'Sin City' sound recording. While scenes in the lab would have machinery making hums and whirs, there were plenty of these instances that could not be explained by work in the Jeffersonian. Dogs barking in the one episode that involved canines sounded hollow, but the noise was probably looped in later. I did have some problems with the sound balance, especially in the black metal episode, as it got amazingly loud and active, creating the urgent need to crank things down, but then would die off, making dialogue tough to hear without adjusting again, right in time for more bad examples of black metal.
There are no supplements on the first four discs of this release, as they are all located on the final disc. There are no audio commentaries on any episodes, or any real deep features or documentaries, despite the infinite potential for such.
'Bones' tries to tickle your funny bone ever so slightly as the crew tinker around with the skeletal remains that constantly create work. The show can be fun, for a while, but grows awfully tedious due to repetition. This TV on Blu-ray release sports excellent video and audio, but a pathetic batch of worthless extras. 'Bones' may not be for everyone, but I found plenty of fun and excitement is to be had here.