The water cooler buzz on Friday (May 15) morning was all about the “Grey’s Anatomy” finale, unless you happen to be in a workplace where people were more interested in talking about why the Lakers and Celtics are suddenly incapable of putting forth any effort in consecutive games.
I’ve already done my 2000 words of due diligence on the “Grey’s Anatomy” finale, voided myself of both shock and awe.
But how about some of Thursday’s other variably shocking finales, specifically “Bones” and the NBC 9 p.m. comedy duo of “The Office” and “30 Rock”?
Sure. Let’s talk about those…
Click through after the bump for spoilers in the order of “Bones,” “The Office” and “30 Rock” (just in case you feel like reading piecemeal)…
Not usually a show to play around with style and format, “Bones” had a bit of fun on Thursday, with a sort of alternate-reality episode. The Jeffersonian had become a nightclub called The Lab. There was a murder and club-owners Bones and Booth were the owner/operators, now suspects. The Squints were largely employees of various sorts, though T.J. Thyne’s Hodgins was a mystery writers, providing hammy voiceover.
The conceit was that all of the show’s actors got to play just a bit against type, but at their cores, the fantasy all had similarities to who they really are, which was fun for the thespians and also for series creator Hart Hanson, who wrote the episode. Director Ian Toyton got to play around with some different colors and filters and the entire endeavor felt like a lark.
Why, then, did I feel left out of the fun? Part of the problem was that I, like 100% of the audience (I don’t want to sound like I have any special insight), knew what the game was immediately. Booth went into surgery last week to remove the tumor that was causing his hallucinations and the finale was instantly identifiable as a product of his post-operative brain. So the game was to try to find meaning in the superficialities of his subconscious, which meant that I was mostly trying watching every second trying to decide whether or not the different characterizations were clever or not (the answer, mostly, was “not”), while the characters nattered on and on about a mystery that I couldn’t have cared less about. At least the polarizing “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” dream-sequence finale “Restless” was just fragmented and Psych101-y, without trying to make me pay attention an advancing plotline. I, for the record, detested “Restless,” but I know that some people loved it and I suspect there will be a similar split for the “Bones” finale.
None of the in-jokes felt worthwhile to me and they often cheapened otherwise nice moments. Like who knew that John Francis Daley could sing? But having his band named Gormagon and tossing in the meta-dialogue, “Some people think that I’m Gormagon. But I’m not.” added nothing. The references to The Gravedigger added nothing. And what the blazes was up with Motley Crue? I simply don’t believe that reflecting back on the insights from the episode tells me anything at all with the way Booth views the world or his Squint colleagues.
Or were we just supposed to ignore the things that were unenlightening an concentrate on the idea that Booth badly wants to marry, have sex with and impregnate Bones.
Oh, did I not mention that? In the fantasy, Booth and Bones were married, giving us the chance to see them tussling in bed and all that other good stuff that married couples do and that ‘shipper dream about.
A key problem: As a married couple, Bones and Booth had less chemistry in this episode than they ever had as a platonic professional partnership.
Or was that not a problem at all? Was that actually intentional?
It’s no coincidence, folks, that two of FOX’s procedurals took time out to have their main characters have fake sex this week, following after the not-sex between House and Cuddy.
You understand, dear fans, that this is the showrunners mocking you, right? They’re saying, “We never intended for these characters to couple off, but fans have begun to obsess over that relationship minutiae to the exclusion of everything else. So here. Take it. Suck it.” Or, put a different way, they’re saying, “Look, this is something we don’t want to do, but we’ll do it so that you can get it out of your system, all without screwing up what we actually hope to accomplish.”
So now Booth and Bones have had sex. And Cuddy and House have had sex. The spoiler sites and message boards got to go “Squee!” The FOX promo department was able to create some titillating ads. And, best of all, the “House” writers and the “Bones” writers can now sit back and wait another four years before dealing with it again. Unlike the classic “Moonlighting” example, there are no ramifications to discuss next season because the sex never happened. There are no feelings. No developing relationships. There’s nothing tangible.
It’s truly the perfect television embodiment of Erica Jong’s zipless f***. Oh dear God. Did I just make a “Fear of Flying” reference? Yes. I did. But it’s appropriate, right? It’s sex without emotion or even without reality, only for the gratification of a small percentage of the fanbase that needs to see that sort of thing take place.
As Hodgins’ voiceover observed, “You see two people, you think ‘They belong together’ and nothing happens.” Now it can happen! If viewers don’t stage an uprising, I reckon that next season we’re due for hallucinatory sex between Liz and Jack on “30 Rock,” Chuck and Sarah on “Chuck,” Simon and Paula on “American Idol” and Mr. and Ms. Jay on “America’s Next Top Model.”
Anyway, we all knew that the episode was a “Wizard of Oz” gag — “I just had the strangest dream… You were there. And you were there” — so there couldn’t have been a soul in America surprised or interested when we cut to Bones sitting by Booth’s bedside and Booth waking up. And the last line, “Who are you?” sets up an amnesia subplot which will, I’d guess, have all of the audience support of every other amnesia subplot on recent network television (i.e. “low”).
Really, last week’s episode felt more like a season finale to me. Stewie guest stars! Booth finds out he has a tumor! Booth gets wheeled off into surgery! Everybody is concerned! Cut to black.
The finale, in turn, felt more like a series premiere, a circumstance in which viewers would be more open to these sort of fantasy antics, knowing that a real “Bones” episode is just a week away. This wasn’t the way I’d have sent “Bones” off for its four-month dirt nap.
Fortunately, I was far happier with…
The past three or four or five weeks have been “The Office” at its very best. Or at least at its near-best. And the finale was satisfying on all levels, from Michael chicken pot pie hangover in an extra-long pre-credit opening to beautifully played sweetness of Michael’s love for Holly and Jim and Pam either getting news about her pregnancy [or about her ankle not being broken]. The episode was a 30 minute reminder of how much fans love these characters.
*** I thought SlumDunder Mifflinaire was vintage Michael Scott creativity, the sort of misguided parody that’s funny both in its ambition and also in its seemingly failed execution, plus it included the Stanley response, “I usually don’t enjoy the theater, but this is delightful”
*** “There weren’t any laughs” “Well, it was a tough audience” “But we wrote it specifically for this audience”
*** Pam’s a volleyball star. Who knew? “What? Maybe I played a little in junior high. And in high school. Maybe a little bit in college. And went to volleyball camp most summahs!”
*** Talk about ace casting, how about James Urbaniak as Dwight’s equally weird best-buddy Rolf.
*** “You don’t grab these for balance”
*** No, really, what test could Pam possibly have gotten in that emergency room that would have also let the doctor know that she’s pregnant? Did anybody read Pam’s lips? I mean, we’re all assuming pregnancy, but is there any other alternative? [Thanks to the commenters for catching me in a moment of concentration-lapse. My bad!]
And what about…
Mary J. Blige would have been low on my list of people I’d expect to deliver Thursday night’s funny line, but I had to triple-rewind “My Mary J. Blige Foundation is celebrating its 10th year of searching for the Loch Ness Monster.”
The “30 Rock” finale didn’t come close to delivering the same amount of heart as “The Office,” but it had many more laugh-out-loud moments, as Jack staged a celebrity-filled benefit to get his newly discover father a kidney, Liz became a self-help guru and Kenneth helped Tracey temporarily overcome his fears to address the graduating class at Frank Lucas High School. Tee-hee. Frank Lucas High School.
Things that made me laugh:
*** Vontella, specifically Jenna’s half-sister Courtney. R.I.P.
*** Dr. Leo Spaceman, specifically, “Opposite! Opposite! Opposite!”
*** “Science was my most favorite subject, especially the Old Testament.”
*** “There are no secrets in the tanning community”
*** Milton’s three-volume Jimmy Carter biography, “From Peanut to President”
*** Weird Al’s benefit concert “We Are the Pizza”
*** “I haven’t seen that many riled up dirtbags since CVS put the cold medicine behind the counter.”
*** Clay Aiken is Kenneth’s cousin.
*** Liz went to elementary school with Sheryl Crow
*** In addition to Aiken and Crow, the episode featured Elvis Costello, Norah Jones, Moby, Sara Bareilles, various Beastie boys, Talib Kweli, Michael McDonald, Adam Levine of Maroon 5, Cyndi Lauper, Rachael Yamagata and an assortment of other people I’m either forgetting or didn’t recognize. That’s some crazy stuff.
*** Plus, you can download “He Needs a Kidney” on iTunes, with all proceeds going to charity.
*** Tracey Jordan only uses the bathroom at 3 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
*** “While you don’t have two beards, you do have two kidneys.”
*** “We sure had quite a year.” “What are you talking about? It’s May.”
Enough of me… Any thoughts on the “Bones,” “The Office” or “30 Rock” finales?
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