The old days when cops and G-men solved crimes with grit and shoe leather seem so '90s in today's high-tech age, where the government's latest weapon is forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan. "Bones" aspires to achieve a mix of "House" and "X-Files" chic, but for the most part its playful banter feels forced and visual flourishes overly familiar.
The old days when cops and G-men solved crimes with grit and shoe leather seem so ’90s in today’s high-tech age, where the government’s latest weapon is forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan. “Bones” aspires to achieve a mix of “House” and “X-Files” chic (there’s even a reference to Scully and Mulder), but for the most part its playful banter feels forced and the way-cool visual flourishes overly familiar. What’s left, then, is another crime procedural with a not-especially-fresh twist, which, admittedly, has proved a surprisingly durable skeleton over which to drape new dramas.The series’ best wrinkle actually involves the somewhat testy relationship that exists between FBI agent Seeley Booth, played by “Angel” alum David Boreanaz, and the evidence-examining scientists he derisively refers to as “squints,” who shouldn’t be trusted in the field. Still, Booth has a sunken body that needs identifying and calls upon Temperance (Emily Deschanel), a forensic sleuth who has conveniently just split with her boyfriend. So the Jeffersonian Institution loans her out to the FBI, giving her plenty of cause to bicker with her handler and only half-angrily snap, “Don’t call me ‘Bones!’ ” Temperance dives into the missing-woman case with gusto, using a hologram that not only reconstructs the victim’s features but also recreates the murder, which would be more impressive if there wasn’t such a been-there, “CSI”-ed that feel to it. Unfortunately, Temperance’s brilliance in the lab doesn’t always translate to the real world. Her assistant (Michaela Conlin) tries to remind her of this by saying, “People are mostly soft,” to which Temperance retorts, “Except their bones.” Real-life forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs, who writes the Temperance Brennan book series, serves a consultant on the show, but Deschanel comes off a little too much like a sorority girl rather than a scientist with missing-parent issues — not that series creator Hart Hanson’s script doesn’t hammer that psychological baggage home. The pilot also lays on Temperance’s Indiana Jones persona a little too thick, including mad martial arts skills. In another peculiar choice, the opener indulges in two longish musical sequences where the camera leisurely caresses the protagonist as she sifts through bones looking pensive. At some point, I began to wonder if someone was rationing plot and dialogue. Given Fox’s reliance on serialized dramas, it’s understandable why the network would be eager to mine the procedural vein that “House” tapped into, albeit with an assist from “American Idol.” Still, the scientific genius here isn’t nearly as compelling, and barring some attack out of “Jason and the Argonauts,” it’s worrisome whether the team can keep unearthing misplaced skeletons week after week. Fox has the hour to play with before “Idol” returns midseason, and the timeslot competition isn’t unduly formidable, which means “Bones” might gain a toehold if there was more meat on it. As it stands, though, a home is not a “House.”