The American fall TV season kicks into gear this week, and Bones begins Season 4 on Wednesday night with a 'very special' two hour episode set over in the UK. The following is just a cut and paste of an email exchange me and old pal/Bones showrunner Hart Hanson had over the weekend, so don't take it all too seriously.
WD: So big Brit two part season opener this week, how did it turn out?
HH: It turned out very well. It was a bear to shoot, lots of budget considerations to take into account, not to mention cultural differences with crews, etc., but I think it might have been the most fun I’ve had on a shoot. It didn’t hurt that the hotel was great.
WD: Did you write a story that ended up being a two-parter, or did it have to be at least two eps to make it worthwhile to even go over there?
HH: It’s a seamless two hour extravaganza with a gigantic seam in the middle that should be invisible. HAHAHAHA! We were given an impossible task. The network wanted a seamless two hour movie version that could nonetheless be split into two separate episodes. Insane! We did a pretty good job, I think. You’ll tell me after you see it. Tonight it’s showing at the IMAX. I may slip down and see how a crowd in a theatre likes what we did.
WD: How did you get Bones gang over there, story-wise. Does it track or at end of the day, was it just a stunt move? (man, what a dickish question!)
HH: Nah, that’s not a dickish question. That’s a question involving reality. The whole gang didn’t go over, just Booth and Brennan. The squints stayed home and worked on the lab stuff – we gave up trying to adjust to the time change REAL fast. Also, there’s a huge story for the squints, biggest we’ve ever had. I expect to hear hollering on the level of when Zack turned out to be the Gormogon’s apprentice.
WD: Are the cast all behaving after the 'demise'(sort of) of Zack last season? Or have they gotten paranoid and bothersome? Or all wanting to direct now?
HH: The cast is mostly behaving. I would prefer that they simply blindly do what I ask them to do but if they did that then they wouldn’t be actors. Though David Boreanaz will be directing this season – most likely episode 11.
WD: And what are the message boards saying...are you still on probation?
HH: On the Zack thing? The fans have not calmed down. I think I’m definitely on probation. We just finished shooting an episode in which Zack is featured again. Here's a pic from a scene where Zack and Hodgins confab at the loony bin. It's from the third episode of the new season called "Pieces in the Purple Pond" or something.
It was lovely to see him for the actors and for the crew. Millegan is a sweetie-pie. It’s possible that some of the fans may rethink their ire as Zack’s story unfolds but the fact is he’s not a regular on the show any more. Zack was some peoples’ favourite character and they will never forgive me.
WD: Do you still like writing for the cast, or is the 'thrill gone'? And is the network happy with how the stories and relationships are playing out, or are they constantly asking you to spice it up?
HH: I like writing for them still, a lot. And for the rest of the ensemble. And John Francis Daley is new to the cast and we have these new interns to write for and they've been a blast. The tricky thing is not to move too fast on Booth and Brennan's relationship but not to let it grow stale. The network tends to want to rush things too much. ADD as a corporation. But it's actually a good dynamic: they push for stuff, I resist, and we find equilibrium.
We should be getting reviews on the season opener any minute and then we'll know whether Bones still has it or not.
WD: Fourth seasons always seem to be a bitch and can be the beginning of the end for a lot of shows. You know, coming up with new stories...remaining familiar but not predictable --- any plans for how Bones will combat the 4th season curse?
HH: I’ve already had one tantrum in the writer’s room. I was waving two scripts in my hands. Both were good. Unfortunately, both were stories that were far too familiar. I actually hollered. Since then, the room has been more careful about generating stories that I might find too similar to earlier stories. Alas for everyone (especially me) it means that I have to be involved in story generation earlier in the process than I’d like.
We face all the typical problems of Season IV, which I, in my simplistic way, always think of as the "Desire to Be Sympathetic". I don’t know what it is exactly, but on every series I’ve ever worked on around Seasons III or IV everybody wants the audience to love them even more so they resist everything that might make them less sympathetic.
WD: Any spoiler scoops for the upcoming season? Or is all the good stuff already out there on the internets...
HH: Booth and Brennan will be in bed together naked. One of Angela’s ex-lovers, a woman, returns to complicate her love life with Hodgins. How’s that? Not exactly scoops because I said these things at Comic-Con. Lemme think of something no one else knows...how about we are currently working on a story revisiting “The Gravedigger” serial-kidnapper. He comes after one of our own. Also, we are looking for someone to play Booth’s brother.
WD: Any more behind the scenes pics you can share?
Here's David, me, and Emily in front of the monitors. We are at Greenwich England, pretending to be at the side of Buckingham Palace, a scene where Booth and Brennan confront one of the Queen's Guard.
WD: Are you really listening to Emily, or just wondering what's for lunch? And is Boreanaz texting??
HH: Hmmm, good question. I know that later in the day I got ice-cream for the crew and it cost a fortune. This was a fairly simple scene so I very much doubt there was any meaningful discussion. The dark haired woman next to Emily is Indira Varma, who played "Inspector Cate Pritchard" ... she was INCREDIBLE. Very beautiful and talented woman.
Lunch was something called a "Banksey Chop" -- that's phonetic. And I'm sure my bladder is full of tea. Oh, and David and Emily are both WILD texters between scenes.
WD: You're starting to look old. I recently touched on the issue of ageism in the TV/move biz... what's your take?
HH: I think it’s massively complicated. Yes, ageism exists. But then so do entitled writers who need an excuse to explain a career dip. As someone who thinks real writers peak in their fifties, I think TV is all too anxious to turn to writers in their twenties. Also, in the last couple years I’ve been privy to young writers being asked to run shows and being BROKEN by the experience. Also, again in my opinion only, there is this seething need by the networks to appeal to younger audiences and it ain’t happening. Perhaps TV isn’t a young person’s medium? Who knows? I certainly don’t. If I did, I’d offer to run a network. My own network seems fixated on bringing “film like” premises to TV when I personally think that TV should be as far from films as possible in conception. “Lost” would never be a film, for example, and it’s a lovely, lovely TV show. But what do I know? I’m old.
WD: You and me both. Speaking of old, will there be a Led Zeppelin reunion album?
HH: Jimmy Page played at the Olympics. He wore a ponytail. A PONYTAIL. Now, no offense Will, I remember when you had your wacky samurai type haircut, but I think that pretty much suggests that a Led Zeppelin reunion is only weeks away, if you follow my reasoning.
WD: I do...sort of (what was wrong with my tail??). So what new music is 'must listen' on your cd player/ipod(?) these days?
HH: I’m not sure what counts as “new” these days. I’m listening to Madrugada, Jim White, Pedestrian, Bonnie Prince Charlie, Phutureprimitive, Alejandro Escovedo, Patrick Wolf, Antony and the Johnsons, Bardo Pond, VAST, Tomasz Stanko, Smog, Skalpel, Pedestrian, the New Mastersounds, Jazzhole...is that enough?
WD: Man, I feel so mainstream and uncool now. Okay, what new TV series do you hear good things/bad things? about for this fall? Are you looking forward to anything in particular?
HH: I’m woefully out of touch. One of my writers, Noah Hawley, got a series pickup off his pilot “The Unusuals” so I’m pulling hard for that one and it has good buzz. Another bud, Dave Hemmingson, has an hourlong in limbo, untitled. “Fringe” looks massive. I’m a Joss Whedon fan so “Dollhouse” looks good in the winter though I’ve seen and heard nothing. But let’s face it, the guy’s a genius. But I’m really not paying attention so your guess is better than mine.
WD: Okay, and most importantly...when's the House/Bones crossover?
HH: David Shore and I talk about this once a week. So far, it’s much more to "Bones" advantage than it is to “House’s” -- although we are now beating “House” in reruns. Like anyone cares. Aside from us.
Ugh...what a bunch of lame questions, but thanks to Hart for playing.
Bones Season 4 premieres Wednesday September 3 on Fox.