SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details about tonight’s series finale of Bones.
Everybody survived the bomb explosions, Seeley Booth got his man, Temperance Brennan’s astonishing cognitive abilities returned, the decimated Jeffersonian lab will be rebuilt, and after 246 episodes, eight time slots and 12 seasons, Fox’s Bones ended tonight for good. Or did it?
“To get together again, and I would be the last person to speak for everyone, but in a couple years or something, it might be a lot of fun to get the band back together again and see what we could do,” Hart Hanson said of the Emily Deschanel- and David Boreanaz-led Fox series he created based on Kathy Reichs’ novels. The executive producer and former showrunner was more definitive in a conversation about how Fox’s longest-running scripted drama found its end — along with that potential revival and other topics.
The fact that Bones made it this far is remarkable to many — including Hanson, it turns out. Full of dark humor as much as forensics, the series was often close to being cut by the network, as its spinoff The Finder was after 13 episodes. The EP talked about his battles with Fox, how he may have written the series finale differently, what his favorite Bones episodes are, what series finales he likes (hello, Tom Selleck) and who really deserves credit for the series.
DEADLINE: So, it seems the obvious place to start. How long have you been planning on blowing up the Jeffersonian Institute lab as your series ender?
HANSON: A while actually. In Season 1, David Boreanaz, the human being, hated the lab set; he hated working on it, he didn’t like it, and part of that is his sense of things, just who he is. The other part was that it wasn’t Booth’s place, if you know what I mean. The character of Booth was the funky retro guy, and the lab was the opposite of that, so both the actor and much more importantly the character didn’t like the lab.
David and I were standing beside Craft Services and he said — and by the way, this is within the first few episodes — he said, “I want to blow up this lab.” And I said, “If we last long enough and have warning, in the final episode we will destroy the lab,” and that made him very happy. Little did he know 12 years later…
DEADLINE: That’s very literal for you, but, with all the times Bones seemed a goner, you must have pulled that one out for an ender on more than a few occasions?
HANSON: That’s true. David has a better memory for these things than I do, but I’m going to say about Season 3 or 4 where I came to him and said, “If this is the year we’re gone, how would you like to drive a tank through the lab? That seems like it would be a fun way to destroy the lab.” I was semi-joking, but also casting around for how we would do this.
Then we got picked up for two seasons, which was Season 5 and 6, so then we put it on the back burner. But that was the way we were going to do it for a while, and then we actually looked into what that would entail and it was just impossible. The floor of the stage where we film, of Stage 6, would not have been able to bear the weight of even the lightest armored tank, so we ended up doing it the way we did it.
DEADLINE: With all those near-deaths Bones had as a show, was this the only way you thought it would end – besides blowing up the lab?
HANSON: (laughs) It depends at what point I would consider the question. When I first started, no. When we first started all those years ago in 2005, no, but mind you, I thought it was going to end on about Episode 4 in the first season. But when we started realizing that we would be aiming for an end-of-series, you know, two or three seasons in, I wrote down what my idea was for the end of the series, and the first idea was the wedding, they would get married. But then we didn’t get canceled, we kept going, so we burnt that up.
And we thought that the next thing was, well, we’ll have them pregnant, start a family, and we burned by that. So I kept coming up with new endings. Then it was maybe when they have their second child they will decide that they need to make some changes in their lives, they can’t be running around after murderers, and we kind of burned by that. So, although it wasn’t the ending I first had in my mind when we started the show, the endings that I had in mind in one guise or another came and went.
DEADLINE: You were going to write the series finale but instead Jonathan Collier, Michael Peterson and Karine Rosenthal did, based on a story by Stephen Nathan. With all that, the blowing up of the lab was a big part of the end. Why did you like the idea so much?
HANSON: It’s a good ending to the series, and it made us laugh, basically because it was funny and because for the next dozen years every time he stepped in there as Booth and played as David, he’d know that one day he would have his revenge on this place.
DEADLINE: Are you good with the overall ending that was Episode 12 of Season 12?
HANSON: I am, I’m good with that. Stephen and Michael and John and Karine wrote it, and I thought they did a great job. I thought their decisions were all very solid, especially given that they had a sure hand on the tiller for two years. They knew exactly what they were doing.
DEADLINE: Would you have ended things differently had you written the finale?
HANSON: Well, I look at it and go, I wonder what I would’ve done differently. I know it would’ve been different, but I can’t really put my finger on what it would have been, because the show has morphed since I was running it day-to-day. I do know, I think they did a fantastic job.
DEADLINE: We saw Betty White and Cyndi Lauper and lots of past guests return in the final few episodes, but I was surprised that Ryan O’Neal didn’t show up in some way even though his character Brennan’s father is dead…
HANSON: Well, there was conversation about all that, and the showrunner decided that he had gotten a great exit, and I don’t disagree with him by the way. They had to say goodbye to a ton of people after 12 seasons.
I had notes about our final season where you would do something like, I don’t know, there are stories in which everybody shows up at the end … everybody. You know, at the end of the play Our Town, everybody is in the center there. So that was definitely one of the things we could’ve done is just had everybody, have them turn around and see everybody. One of the things we also talked about was how about if we saw every victim? Well, now we’re doing a show that costs so much money that it becomes impossible. Everyone would have to donate their time, but every guest star we ever had was an idea too.
DEADLINE: Hart, it really doesn’t sound like you are ready to say goodbye – are you planning more Bones as we speak?
HANSON: Like The X-Files or something?
DEADLINE: I’m not going to put words in your mouth, but it is a fact that Fox brought Mulder and Scully back for a pretty successful six-episode revival last year, so…
HANSON: You never know what people will say yes to, and getting everybody together again, getting the band together would be a lot of fun. I’ll say this: There are no big personal things to get over. To get together again, and I would be the last person to speak for everyone, but in a couple years or something, it might be a lot of fun to get the band back together again and see what we could do.
Bones has this lovely aspect to it, which is that the people who work on this show love each other. You cannot find two more opposite human beings by the way on the planet as David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel. There’s no way they should get along, and yet here they are all these years later differing on probably every issue, both strong personalities, and they adore each other. That’s huge. We all get along. The showrunners and producers get along with the actors, the crews. It’s a very copacetic production.
DEADLINE: So, what form would that reunion take – a limited series, a one-story season, a movie? What are you thinking?
HANSON: I imagine it would be…well, you just don’t know, do you? We just don’t know. I have no idea, but I’m going to say right now it would seem more likely that a one long-form thing would happen. But, again, you just don’t know, and by the way, there may be no appetite for it. You know shows…
DEADLINE: So, you’re saying you don’t have a Bones 2.0 script in a drawer or on a laptop?
HANSON: I don’t have that, but I have what the writers and most of the people on Bones know I refer to as my bin. I have a bin with stuff in it, but no, there’s no script, there’s no story idea.
There’s notes and notions in a bin that you just keep over the years. It’s like having a shoe box full of scraps of paper that you write down ideas on, and it’ll be put away on an external hard drive — I won’t look at it unless someday someone says, do you have anything, and then I’ll go and see if we do, or we’ll come up with something new because you just don’t know. You just don’t know.
And they may never ask. You know, you know as well as I do there are shows that are big and noisy and popular, and then they go off the air and it’s shocking how quickly they drop off the map, and we don’t know if we’re one of those or not.
DEADLINE: We do know that over the years and the eight different time slots you had, you guys were on the chopping block a number of times with Fox. What was living under that constant Sword of Damocles like?
HANSON: We’d gotten used to it very quickly. There’s no crying in TV, if you know what I mean — it’s a very tough business. So, when I say that Fox never tried to make us a hit, it’s not whining. They made their decision, each year they would decide what show they thought was going to be a hit, and they put the money behind that show, that’s the way the business goes, and we were never that show, and that’s just the way it goes. So I wasn’t crying in my office about that.
Also, it’s important to say that while the network was like that, we had a couple of extremely devoted executives who fought for us at every turn. One of them was Preston Beckman, who was in charge of scheduling – he was tough but great. It was David and Goliath and he was Goliath and I didn’t have a slingshot. But very early in Bones’ run at Fox, I knew that he was in those scheduling meetings doing what he could to keep our show going, he had a lot of faith in it.
DEADLINE: Looking back, what was your favorite episode?
HANSON: Oh, man. I have so many different ones, like the episode where I knew that we were touching our tone correctly, which was a very difficult tone, a comic procedural has lots of character in it. In the first season there was a story, “The Man in the Bear,” that one made me happy. But watching them get married was amazing and made me very happy.
— BONES (@BONESonFOX) March 28, 2017
We wanted to do a show, and it’s almost quaint now to say this in 12 years, but we set out to do a show where the female characters were equal in weight to the male characters. Now every show tries that, but it was slightly more rare to have mighty women at the core of a show when we started, and we did that.
As for favorite episodes, I liked the really weird ones too. The one where the lab was a nightclub, the one where Brennan solved the murder that seemed to be her own. I was really attached to a show where we did the entire crazy episode from the point of view of the skull — the victim turned out to be a boy who was falling in love with a girl.
DEADLINE: Now, up the game a bit. What is your favorite series finale?
HANSON: I wish I had thought about this a great long time because the one that pops into my head first, in an hour and a half I’ll go “f*ck.” The M*A*S*H, finale worked for me. I loved that. I loved the end of The Sopranos.
DEADLINE: Why those two?
HANSON: I can tell you exactly why those two. One of them made me cry, which was the M*A*S*H one — it just went to all of my emotions, you know, it made me cry. The other one made me laugh in recognition of the audacity, so my brain liked it. So, one was completely emotional and the other one’s completely brain food, and so they appealed to different things.
You know, I think Bones owes a lot to a number of shows, but one of them is, of all things, Magnum, P.I. because of the tone. I loved Magnum, P.I. and I loved the ending of that one too. I’m satisfied with the ending of that one in which Magnum stopped being a beach-bum PI and went back to military intelligence. That appealed to you that, you know, he’d gone back to the thing that he had fled.
How about you?
DEADLINE: My favorite series finales? One has to be the second Newhart series when he wakes up and it was all a dream and he’s back in the first series. And the series finale of Six Feet Under because…
HANSON: OK. That is without a doubt the best one ever. That is the best series finale ever, without a doubt. Now that you said that, I don’t know how that didn’t pop into my mind. Not only do you leap a little, you end up like sobbing toward the end, especially if you watched the whole series. It was genius.
DEADLINE: Was there some tears for you at the end of Bones?
HANSON: Oh yes and you know, that whole showrunner thing is fine, except that there’s like 250 people who put in every bit as much effort and time to make the show without being nearly as recognized, and they pop into my head constantly. I should walk up and give them a kidney. I said it before and it’s a bit banal, but it’s just we were such a village. We all kept each other employed and working on something fun and happy for a really long time and that doesn’t happen. It’s not something that gets recognized enough in this business.