TV on DVD: Bonekickers (2008)

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TV screenwriters Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharaoh may have struck lightning twice but if the only way we'll be able to know for certain is by following the Bonekickers crew around whilst using our “archaeological imagination,” we may be in trouble.

Keeping some of the fantastical time-warp elements they so brilliantly employed in Life on Mars as well as the spin-off Ashes to Ashes I have yet to see, the scribes found topical replacement in this odd series, oft-dubbed Indiana Jones meets C.S.I. meets The Da Vinci Code, which failed to inspire any interest for renewal after a mere six episode run.

Similar to Mars, the plot-line sounds amazingly engrossing on paper yet this time around, it doesn't come to life as Graham and Pharaoh ditch the police procedural world for a Doctor Who tinged history mystery. In all reality, this sounds much better than it is as technically, it develops a scientific formula it likes in the first ten minutes and then repeats it like a record for the rest of the series.

Despite bringing on a consultant to get some of the archaeological details right, there's not a whole lot about Bonekickers that feels authentic, even if you flunked out of science class. However, if you don't ask yourself too many questions about logic-- which is obviously a bad sign for a show about a factual/proof-dependent discipline-- you can at least appreciate the series for its dynamic characters who are passionate enough (and probably better suited) to be poets.

In the six episodes, the lead Bonekickers ward off villains with threats like, “I should warn you, I've got an Etruscan spear in my hand and I'm not afraid to use it,” and compliment others' intellect with Simpsons friendly banter such as describing Hugh Dancy's character as, “Google with a beer gut.”

And most importantly, it's the series' strongest character, Dr. Gillian Magwilde (Julie Graham) who delivers both lines and the cringe-worthy “archaeological imagination” one with gusto as a refreshing Jill of all Trades. In Bonekickers, she's the female version of Tom Hanks' Robert Langdon in Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons blended with the charisma of Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones with a little of Michael Douglas' carefree innovation from Romancing the Stone added in for good measure.

However, admittedly as the leader-- if you don't count “Google with a beer gut”-- Gillian Magwilde is a bit larger than life as her personality hinges on manic at times in her insistence to link the strangest theories together but it's still a great juicy Gene Hunt (Life on Mars) like role that similarly seems to “lower the volume” on the rest of the cast of fine actors who aren't allowed to command a scene with the same freedom.

Classified as an adventure show, while Bonekickers suffers a bit in this department thanks to budget and cheesy special effects, tweens just discovering Dan Brown's books may be far more apt to hitch a ride for the next adventure as we go way back in time to the cradle of civilization up through the first world war etc. for an introductory flashback technique that sets the stage for each hour-long historical mystery.

Yet, regardless of age, the preachy nature of the show and its over-emphasis on Catholic theology and additional leaps of enormous faith in working in the Arthurian Knights of the Round Table legend, inevitably weighs it down from the promise that Graham and Pharaoh had from the premise alone.

While personally and professionally, there's a six episode arc for Gillian Magwilde's character that-- if sped up and paid off in much more compelling episodes-- may have been the show's game changer, unfortunately the finished product relies too much on imaginative speculation and convenience than actual adventurous archaeology.

Additionally, Bonekickers is hindered even more by the fact that we're less invested in any given episode than we were in the Choose Your Own Adventure paperback books we flipped through as teens-- making us question once again what happened if indeed the lightning for the writers had struck twice and the storm built into something worthy of Mars.

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FTC Disclosure:
Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.