'Bones' Creator Hart Hanson Explains How He Grappled With Goodbye (Guest Column)

The David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel procedural wrapped its 12-season run on Tuesday.
Patrick McElhenney/FOX
Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz on 'Bones'

On Tuesday, March 28, Fox's Bones aired its 246th and final episode. Created by Hart Hanson, the David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel starrer featured an astounding 3,000 actors who have worked on the procedural during its 12-season run. The series has featured 400 feet of intestines, 370 dead bodies and 250 skeletons as props, and it would take 6.8 days to watch every episode back-to-back. But perhaps most significant is the fact that Bones ranks as Fox's longest-running scripted drama series ever after enduring almost as many time slots. Here, creator Hart Hanson writes about how he said goodbye to the franchise.

It's hard to define the exact moments that a TV show begins or ends.

Before Bones, I was on contract to 20th Century Fox Television when I bailed on a very promising project. The people who then ran the studio, Dana Walden and Gary Newman (look them up, they're doing well), were very nice about it, but then-head of development Jennifer Salke and executive Patrick Moran (look them up; they've since done well) had no qualms about guilting me into meeting producer Barry Josephson about a crime procedural property: a genre in which I had zero interest. Barry had optioned a documentary on Kathy Reichs (look her up), a forensic anthropologist and novelist which was just begging to be a TV show. In addition, Barry Josephson (look him up) is extremely persuasive, smart and fun and made me want to work with him, so that was that, especially since Kathy Reichs doesn't know how not to succeed.

We pitched around and Gail Berman (look her up) at the Fox Network ordered a script, and even though we were the last pilot commissioned by Fox, we were commissioned! Fox executive Ted Gold was very keen on a young director named Greg Yaitanes (look him up), so I met with Greg and he was incredible and we knew he was what we needed to translate page to film (look it up; it used to be a thing) and that was that. Dana Walden suggested David Boreanaz for the male lead and despite a disastrous first meeting which I've blanked out of my memory but which David recalls in excruciating detail, that was that. David read with Emily Deschanel and that was that because CHEMISTRY! and chemistry, like Love and Time, is something you cannot manufacture.

We were the last series picked up by Fox — but we were picked up and we had to transition from pilot mode to series mode — the real beginning of Bones — which is like switching from waging a political campaign to governing which, as we now know, is rife with pitfalls.

But Bones aired and over time attracted the insanely loud, insanely opinionated, insanely invested fans now known as “Boneheads.” The Boneheads' willingness to follow Bones from time slot to time slot attracted the attention of Fox's head scheduler Preston Beckman — Preston (look him up) became our essential white knight at Fox given that Bones, like Queen Victoria, would survive multiple network presidents. The American Boneheads made friends with Boneheads from around the world and they were loud and invested and opinionated together in many languages. So, that was that!

Somewhere in there, choose your own point, Bones began.

Bones ended clearly for the world when the last episode aired and my young (now grown) son points at a tree across a field and asks, “What's that mean?”

It's not quite as cut and dried for the tight-knight community of people who made the show over 12 seasons on the Fox lot. First to drop away was the writers' room because no need for new scripts! (Oh, how I wish there was room to list the Bones writers, some of whom have gone on to run your favorite shows; look it up.)  Then, preproduction: casting, locations, props, wardrobe, followed closely by the main event, production, culminating in the crew and core cast (David, Emily, TJ, Michaela, Tamara, John) shooting their last scene! That's that! When actors are no longer playing their characters, well, the characters aren't gone exactly, but they are no longer being born.

Postproduction: editing, music and sound design performed their miracles and that was that and our stages were torn down ... the Royal Diner! The FBI! Our beautiful, blown-up Jeffersonian lab! Our entire world, all gone. Stage Six. Stage Nine, turned over to the next tenant with only a plaque to mark we were ever there. That was that, the end of Bones.

Except ... for me, Bones ended differently. I'd gone home after relinquishing my office to Jon Collier when he and Michael Petersen took over running the show, but although Stephen gave Michael his office he moved upstairs. Because I have a pickup truck and old man strength, I volunteered to come to the Fox lot once more time to help move Stephen out.

It took us less than an hour to get Stephen's belongings. Jon and Michael joined us, as did Rick Millikan, our longtime casting director, also vacating his office. We gathered near the fountain, yacking, stalling, because we knew that this time, when we left Building One, it would no longer be the Bones building. Bones would really be done and gone.

But eventually the time came to drive away. So, that was that. Bones ended.

Except in reruns.

So, there's that.

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