Buffalo native Stephen Nathan left his full-time position on the Fox series "Bones" a few years ago, but he came back briefly to say goodbye to a show that has been in his bones for more than a decade.
Nathan, who had been the showrunner for several years, is given a "story by" credit for the Tuesday series finale (9 p.m., WUTV).
If you watched last Tuesday's episode, you probably weren't shaking in your boots wondering if Dr. Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel) and her husband, FBI special agent Seeley Booth (Buffalo native David Boreanaz), were going to survive a fiery explosion in the lab.
Spoiler alert: (You can stop reading now if you don't want to know the obvious).
They live! And so does every adorable character in the cast who has used science, medicine and math to solve crimes for 246 episodes over 12 seasons on Fox's longest-running scripted drama.
The series has always been one of the most popular Fox shows in Buffalo, though last Tuesday's semifinal episode was hardly must-see TV. It didn't hit a 2 live rating here.
Nathan called from Hawaii late last week on his way home from a vacation in Japan and said he worked the story out with the staff and John Collier and Michael Peterson wrote the script.
"I wasn't going to be able to be there from beginning to end with that episode, and I didn't want to just write half of it," said Nathan. "I did my part and they did their part."
It actually is the second series finale Nathan has been involved in. The first one came at the end of season 10 when "Bones" was in jeopardy of being canceled.
"We did have different stories for different finales at different points in time," said Nathan, who left the program after year 10 to deal with his own medical issue.
"The longer the show went, the more that changed. Because the characters changed, the situations changed, and consequently the finale, the end had to change."
"The year I left I essentially wrote a finale," he added. "We didn't know at that point if we would be back. We found out soon after it was written and in production that was going to come back. It was kind of waffling between an end and a new beginning."
"We were basically asked to write a finale that wasn't a finale. I remember writing a finale realizing that we could come back from that. And basically, you can come back from anything. You know the show can come back from this finale, too. I don't think it will."
Tuesday's finale finds both Brennan and Booth vulnerable as they try to solve a crime committed by a character from their past. Brennan's gift for solving crimes is in jeopardy, and Booth is realizing he can't always be the hero and solve everything after the explosion. The serious situations are balanced with nostalgia and humor. There is a joke about the Power Rangers and a nod to another famous Fox couple, Mulder and Scully, from "The X-Files."
"It was the way to put them in a circumstance that was truly life or death for both of them and again to see Brennan through that journey of seeing what her life would be like without those things she has relied on her whole life," said Nathan of the explosion. "A rational life."
"We decided to see where the characters have ended up emotionally after 12 years," added Nathan, "to test them both in the most extreme circumstances that we could think of. We really got to see who they were at this point in time. Brennan thinking she is being deprived of her intellect, something she is relied on for her whole life. And testing their relationship because of that. And he can't solve every problem."
The ending has some dialogue about moments that never end, which seems to leave open the possibility of future "Bones" movies as Brennan and Booth.
"There was talk of that, but I don't think that it is a realistic thing that is going to happen," said Nathan, who felt his decade working on the program full-time went fast.
"I'd never done a show for more than three, four years and I never thought I could last on a show as long as this, because I didn't know I could tolerate doing one show that long," said Nathan. "For some reason, this was very easy to live with for that length of time. I love doing the show. It always changed. It was based on characters rather than just murders. It was funny. I had come from comedy for 25 years." (His credits included "Laverne & Shirley," "Everybody Loves Raymond" and "Love and War.")
"It was an opportunity in a strange way to do a more realistic comedic show, not sitcom-y. It just had a life of its own, so it just kept growing, and every year it was a new experience. The time passed extremely quickly, I was shocked it was all of a sudden 10 years."
So were some of the show's viewers. They'll get plenty of happy endings Tuesday. The two-part finale that started a week ago covers all the bases of a series-ender, including a wedding, a pregnancy, an adoption and a new romance.
"It was really a way to say goodbye after all these years," said Nathan. "It can never be done ideally. You want to give each character an episode to say goodbye. But that's impractical. I think we all did our best to show how important each character was to the show."
Nathan, who started his entertainment career by playing Jesus in the original version of the musical "Godspell," doesn't know what is next in his life.
"I'll have to think of what I want to do next," said Nathan, now recovered from the medical issue that led him to leave "Bones." "I'll do something."
Story topics: Shared