The flip side to this is that Hanson and his “Bones” team had to come up with what they felt were engaging murder mysteries every week. On the one hand, there was less pressure to land a home run; if one of them proved to be a dud, it could be brushed aside and forgotten by the next episode (again, like the medical cases on “House”). The problem is, that also means having to come up with as many as 20-plus interesting murder cases per season, which is no minor feat. As “Bones” writer-producer Stephen Nathan told TV Tango:

“It’s much easier on one hand to do a serialized show, because you’re just continuing with one story for the characters. To do a case that has to resolve every week is very labor intensive. Fortunately, we have a great writers’ room led by Jonathan Collier, and they come up with astounding stories. But after almost 200 episodes, it’s very difficult to continue to give the audience murders that are worth [their time].”

The other advantage to episodic arcs is that they can oscillate wildly in tone, swinging from the comedic highs of Bones embarrassing herself on the dance floor or Booth donning a fake mullet to blend in with the crowd at a demolition derby to the somber lows of the show’s crime-solvers uncovering a dog-fighting ring or domestic abusers. This, in turn, allows for bigger and bolder swings than you can take with any singular storyline, which generally shouldn’t veer too far away from whatever tone is established at the outset. 

In the end, that’s the thing about serialized plotlines: You better damn well know what you’re doing with them on a show like “Bones,” lest your audience mutinies against you.



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