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Bonekickers DVD Review

On paper, this seems like the perfect series for a television world that is packed full of procedural dramas and forensics experts solving crimes – as well as one where TNT’s popular Librarian movies captured the thrilling side of bookishness. Unfortunately, it manages to fail where so many of those programs have succeeded: making the intricate details of an investigation and an archeological dig seem positively tame and boring.

The series centers on a quartet of archeologists who spend each episode uncovering new relics and skeletons, only to find that themselves wrapped up in a variety of life-threatening intrigues as a result of their work. It’s a formulaic concept that works as well as it can considering the somewhat shaky plotlines, but is upended throughout by some of the dodgiest dialog committed to tape and acting that is a subtle as a rock hammer to a thousand-year-old skull. Each of the characters comes cut from wide stretches of cloth: the leader, Gilliam Magwilde (played with stone faced brio by Julie Graham), is a tough, no-nonsense doctor who doesn’t suffer fools and has dark secrets in her past; her partner Gregory “Dolly” Parton (Hugh Bonneville) has a penchant for wide brimmed hats, dusters and frequent references to alcohol and provides the show with copious lectures on history and stray bits of comic relief. The two black characters in the show – Ben (Adrian Lester) and Vivienne (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) – are treated as such. Not equals since they end up doing much of the grunt work, and, especially in Vivienne’s case, annoying stumblebums still trying to get their feet under them in the fast-paced, high stakes world of academic archaeology. And for good measure, there’s the stock villain, the head of the department who doesn’t see the value in the work that they are doing. Garnish with a generous amount of scenery-chewing overacting and half-bake for an hour each episode and you have a recipe for a complete failure.

What the program does get right are its facts. The creators and writers are obviously history buffs in their spare time and make sure to imbue each episode with as much detail and factual information as they can, even as it butts up against the far fetched bits of drama they wrap them all up in. For the amateur history enthusiast and the longtime learner, there’s sure to be plenty of episodes that will spark your own investigations or hearty debate tossed at your TV screen.

February 4, 2010 - Posted by | DVD review | ,

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