"Bones" ends on Tuesday. And that's not a moment too soon.
Please understand: I was a staunch fan of the show when it first went on the air 12 seasons ago and remained a loyalist through its precipitous decline the last few seasons.
Watching it now is like going to dinner at the houses of very old friends or relatives who, for some reason, feel no compunctions whatsoever about filling the evening with open squabbles, hard feelings, resentments, recriminations for past misdeeds and utterly insoluble family dilemmas that can't help but harsh your mellow.
It was part of Hart Hanson's game plan from the beginning that "Bones" was going to be unafraid of going dark. And, in one sense, the show's success in doing just that was admirable. The show could, quite often, be accused of having its own kind of integrity.
But that didn't necessarily make it that much more welcome in your living or bedroom.
Among the weirdnesses about "Bones" for those of us in this town is how often the show seemed to relate tangentially to Buffalo. Its executive producer and prolific writer is Buffalo native Stephen Nathan. Its co-star David Boreanaz is the son of the hugely likable broadcaster who was known as Dave Thomas when he worked for WKBW and Dave Roberts when he worked in Philadelphia. And Boreanaz' co-star Emily Deschanel spent one summer here with her younger sister Zooey when both were pre-teen children and their father, cinematography master Caleb, was in Buffalo making Barry Levinson's "The Natural" the most beautiful film, by far, ever to be filmed in this city.
But none of that is what earned my loyalty against some stern odds.
"Bones" -- taken from Kathy Reich's series of mystery novels about forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan -- arrived during television's sudden wave of crime-solving geniuses.
In the history of detective stories, that is an ancient gambit. It goes back way past Nero Wolfe and Sherlock Holmes all the way to Poe's C. Auguste Dupin and beyond. But let's admit that before "CSI" showed us William Petersen as spectacurly colorless Gil Grissom, our idea of mentally prodigious crime fighters was likely to be a cigar-chopmer in a filthy trench coat or a medical examiner who sounded like a racetrack tout giving you a tip on the fourth race at Hialeah (as lifelong gambler Jack Klugman once remembered a fellow once advising him about one horse competing for Klugman's "Quincy M.E." salary "Bet your LUNGS.")
I had no idea what a forensic anthropologist was when I started watching "Bones." I hadn't read Reich's books. And I certainly hadn't read her anthropological academic papers -- for which see that page-turner "Ontogenetic plasticity in nonhuman primates: Secular Trends in the Cayo Santiago Macacques."
As time went on and Bones and Booth romanced, married and had kids, the two leads -- especially Deschanel as Temperance -- became less agreeable to watch.
There were times when Dr. Brennan's dressings-down of ambitious young interns became difficult to stay with. As indicative as they might have been of her pitilessly exacting scientific personality, they were also, unfortunately, indicative of Deschanel's inability to humanize that quality. Or, for that matter, her total disinterest in doing so.
Perhaps that was the decision of the honchos at the show but if so, it was not a good one.
To go from there to thoroughly unbelievable romantic friskiness between Bones and Booth often made the show hopelessly clumsy.
On the other hand, the relationship of Michaela Conlin and T.J. Thyne --Angela and Hodgins on the show -- was always loaded with frisky possibilities, which were unstopped by the plot, eventually, confining Hodgins to a wheelchair. In the second to last episode of the series last week, we learned that the sexy couple was about to have another baby.
I can't tell you how much better the show might have been if we in the audience had been better prepared for it by the plot. As it was, my favorite plot development in the show's run wasn't the sudden appearance of Ryan O'Neal as Brennan's father but rather the appearance of Billy Gibbons of Z. Z. Top as Angela's prophetically-bearded father. While it's true my affection for that may have been influenced by my hopeless fandom for Z. Z. Top, I still think appointing Gibbons Angela's father was the show's nuttiest inspiration.
As we left the show last week, the major plot point that remained to be cleared up on Tuesday's finale is the bomb that had gone off in the lab, endangering the four principals -- Brennan, Angela, Booth and Hodgins, and, undoubtedly, killing no one. I can't imagine those responsible for the show ending a 12-year run by enraging faithful watchers so much that they might want to throw cans of cling peaches at them if they encountered them at the grocery store.
The Death of Chuck Barris, at 88, last week reminded me exactly how extraordinary I always felt "The Gong Show" was. Few people in TV history ever got worse reviews in their lives than Chuck Barris. Before his death, he always cheerfully pleaded guilty to being the ancestral inventor of Reality TV. And so he was if you look at what he wrought on "The Dating Game" and "The Newlywed Game."
But on his supreme junk-brained masterwork "The Gong Show," he was far greater than that. I'd nominate him there as a cardinal figure in the hallowed TV ranks of anti-television that once gave us Sid Caesar, Ernie Kovacs, early SNL, early Letterman (on NBC at 12:30 a.m.), Steve Allen on the Westinghouse network and Jon Stewart on Comedy Central.
Barris daily showed us everything that show business wasn't and could never be. It turned out, as he always knew, that it was truly great show business.