Review of Bones (2005-2017)

Crime novelist Kathy Reichs, who is also a forensic anthropologist, produced this crime drama. The series stars David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel.

Here’s the premise: FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth teams up with the Jeffersonian’s top anthropologist, Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan, to investigate cases where all that’s left of the victims are their bones.

In each episode of Bones, the subject matter—dead bodies and human remains—is always morbid and often unpleasant. Fortunately for Agent Booth, the FBI has the services of forensic anthropologist Dr. Brennan on retainer. The show is also a love story, albeit one with many dark comedic moments.

I watched several episodes of the series to find teachable moments about FBI policy and procedures. While reviewing the series, I quickly noticed that the world-renowned FBI Laboratory is delegated to a back-seat role.

Instead, Dr. Brennan and her colorful team of scientists at the fictional Jeffersonian Institute are the experts who work alongside Agent Booth to provide complex and innovative scientific analysis to help him solve cases. The show does not acknowledge that the FBI Laboratory Division began its own Forensic Anthropology Program (FAP) in 2010.

According to an article about the FAP published in the Law Enforcement Bulletin, “The FAP provides both laboratory analysis and field assistance for cases involving skeletal remains. Like other FBI Laboratory services, forensic anthropological examinations are provided free of charge to duly constituted law enforcement agencies in support of investigative and intelligence priorities.”

In FBI Retired Case File Review episode 318: Lisa Bailey – Clay and Bones, FBI Forensic Artist we learned how the FBI anthropologists and forensic artist use the skulls of unidentified individuals and anthropologist reports to create forensic facial approximation drawings and sculptures to assist in their identification, She also talks about the “Body Farm” at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where forensic anthropologists teach law enforcement how to identify and excavate human remains, while preserving clues and evidence that decaying bodies might leave behind.

So, although in real life, a “gun-toting” forensic anthropologist wouldn’t be partnered with an agent in the field as depicted on the TV series Bones, the FBI Lab conducts scientific investigative analysis of skeletal remains, and FAP anthropologists may deploy to the field to assist with investigations.

The Bureau, at times, has collaborated with and utilized the expertise of scientists at the Smithsonian Institution. In an episode of FBI Retired Case File Review – 160: Pet Cemetery Scam retired agent Warren Flagg told us about his investigation of a pet cemetery scam where, during the trial, the Smithsonian Institution provided a deposition determining the identification of dog and cat bones from an illegal mass cremation.

All twelve seasons of Bones are currently streaming on Hulu. Watch the official trailer here.

Jerri Williams

View posts by Jerri Williams
Jerri Williams, a retired FBI agent, author and podcaster, jokes that she writes about the FBI to relive her glory days. After 26 years with the Bureau specializing in major economic fraud and corruption investigations, she calls on her professional encounters with scams and schemers to write police procedurals inspired by true crime FBI cases in her Philadelphia FBI Corruption Squad crime fiction series featuring flawed female FBI agent Kari Wheeler. Jerri’s FBI for Armchair Detectives nonfiction series enables readers to discover who the FBI is and what the FBI does by debunking misconceptions about the FBI in books, TV, and movies. Her books are available as ebooks, paperbacks, and audiobooks wherever books are sold. She’s also the host of FBI Retired Case File Review, a true crime podcast with more than 300 episodes available on all popular podcast apps and YouTube.

1 Comment

  1. […] Read my review of the TV show Bones here. […]


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