At 100 episodes, "Bones" not ready for burial yet

Wed Apr 7, 2010 2:30am EDT
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By Randee Dawn

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Stephen Nathan doesn't use the typical approach most executive producers of hit TV shows do -- ratings or awards -- to measure a show's success. In the case of Fox's "Bones," which celebrates its 100th episode Thursday, Nathan uses another criterion.

"There's a bit of tongue-in-cheek to every episode," he says. "We're winking at the audience when we show a body that's truly horrific. We know if we see the Twitter boards where someone says, 'I couldn't eat my dinner!' we're doing something right."

No show survives on the strength of disgusting corpses alone. "Bones," however, is an unusual television animal: A criminal procedural grounded in being a reliable, workhouse audience generator that's also very modern in style and tone. Think of all the quips cops are known to make at murder scenes to keep their sanity, and expand that dark humor into an hourlong series.

Call it -- as the producers do -- a "crimedy."

For the past five seasons, the creators behind this crimedy have built a skeleton piecemeal: Each week, a mystery -- what, or who, killed this body? And each week, a romantic comedy between two leads (a social misfit forensic anthropologist and an FBI special agent with his own issues), clearly nuts about one another yet unable to take the obvious next step.

It has taken 100 episodes, but this show -- which almost couldn't cast its female lead, which played time slot musical chairs and which had a tone that baffled the suits -- is now earning its highest ratings ever.

"From the outside, I thought of 'Bones' as a well-produced show with two terrific leads that had chemistry; it was a solid utility player, but didn't have a home on the schedule," says Fox Broadcasting entertainment president Kevin Reilly, who joined the network from NBC in 2007. "Once I got to know the show, I started thinking of it as the secret weapon."

With good reason. "Bones" has never been a flashy, high-octane series. It never got the "event" treatment that Fox dramas "24" or "House" did. But it always drew a core audience that tuned in no matter where it turned up on the dial.   Continued...