Hart Hanson talks ‘Bones,’ ‘The Finder,’ the art of show running
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Hart Hanson, the creator of both “The Finder” and “Bones” on Fox, talks about the pitfalls of running a network show. And one of those pitfalls -- cancellation -- happened earlier this week, with Fox canning ‘The Finder’ after this interview was conducted. The final episode of ‘The Finder’ airs Friday; the ‘Bones’ season finale is next Monday.
Were you surprised by ‘The Finder’s’ performance?
I was hopeful that the “Bones” audience would check it out, but as I said to the network: It’s always tough to explain the “Bones” audience to people.... Every character that we’ve introduced on “Bones” has been roundly hated from the get-go. It took a year for people to like Tamara Taylor (who plays Dr. Camille Saroyan). They didn’t like her. And when John Francis Daley came on, I told him, ‘Don’t look at Twitter or the message boards for a year because they are going to hate you. You’re coming in to a very tight community.’ And, so, I thought there was a very good chance that would happen to ‘The Finder.’
And it did. I got a lot of messages saying, ‘Hey, quit trying to force ‘The Finder’ down our throats.’ There was no way to explain to people that “The Finder” wasn’t replacing “Bones” -- that Emily [Deschanel] got pregnant and she took some time off to have a baby; “The Finder” wasn’t there to push “Bones” away.
As a show runner in this new age of TV, what do you look at as your measure of success?
I’ll tell you, one of things that has been hugely gratifying for me, especially with “The Finder,” was the anecdotal response I’ve gotten. People talking to me [about “The Finder”] love it. And on “Bones,” the satisfaction was, literally, the fact that we were booked to be dead before the end of the first season and the network moved us around a ton on the schedule — really, a ton. We never had four episodes in a row without being moved or pre-empted — and yet 6 million people followed us wherever. I think it was in Season 3, the network realized it wasn’t going to die and thought, “Well, we might as well be nice to it.” And here we are going into Season 8.
You touched on time slot changes that can happen to a series. What goes through your mind when you get that call?
“Bones” was ordered by [former Fox chairman] Gail Berman and then she left. That means that “Bones” was an orphan. The new network head did not make the show so they don’t love you as much as a show that they bring in. At first, I was irritated and cranky. And then there was a perverse pride, like, “Yeah, sure, go ahead, move us.” Even this year, I understood that the network had to remove “Bones” from the post-“Idol” slot in order to try and make “Touch” catch.... So they said they were moving us to Mondays at 8 p.m. — and I took a huge gulp because you’re up against “The Voice,” CBS comedies and a dancing show. That’s a brutal slot. But it’s just another time that survived and thrived. I was very proud of us, a couple of weeks in, to discover: This is not going to be our death knell, going into this slot.
Does all this make you reconsider your field? Why not stick to writing?
Yes, every day. Every single day. I think being a second-in-command on a show is a great job because when you’re done, you go home at night and you can sleep. I always think, “Well, I’m not going to develop next year.” And then something starts tugging at you. I had lunch with Michael Thorn, who is the head of development at the studio that owns me, and he says, “What are you thinking?” And I find myself saying, “Well, this could happen and this could happen.” And I want to tell myself, “Shut up! Just stop!”
“The Finder” was based on a book that has fans -- do you find that it’s almost essential to have an established community for a show, given how quick networks are to pull things?
It’s a very nerve-wracking thing for them for me to create a show and for them to invest millions and millions of dollars in it. But I think the fact that a universe exists and there’s a market out there helps. Kathy Reichs had a ton of readers when we started “Bones,” and I think that helped us. That, and David Boreanaz. On “The Finder” they touted it as being from “the creator of ‘Bones.’” But with “Bones,” they weren’t going to say ‘from a guy you never heard of who invented a show in Canada.’
I would totally watch it if they had marketed it like that.
Right. It’s counter-intuitive marketing.
You’re someone who hates spoilers, right? Talk about the difficulty of keeping things under wraps in the Twitter era.
Yeah, I hate it. I hate the fact that fans and people who write about TV on websites and print feel like they have to tell us what’s going to happen. To me, it feels like you’re gouging out a chunk of why people tune in. I’m terrified if I give a spoiler -- ‘Booth and Brennan are going to sleep together this season” -- people are going to go, “Well, I don’t have to watch.” I don’t know what little magic thing makes someone choose a TV show so I hate to chip away at it. It’s a curse....
There’s been a lot of talk about Booth and Brennan and their relationship. You sort of blew off the “Moonlighting” curse with them. How did you decide to do away with having a couple madly in love?
In Season 6, we knew that Brennan and Booth would sleep together.... But then Emily, God bless her, came and whispered into my ear that she was pregnant. I thought, ‘This is not a good show for hiding a pregnancy.’ I worked on ‘Judging Amy’ when Amy Brenneman was pregnant and she could just wear big black robes and sit behind a desk. But we couldn’t hide it, so I realized we should just make her pregnant.
The “Moonlighting” curse is, you watch a couple go back and forth in a romantic comedy way -- vacillate over whether they’re going to sleep together; then they do, and then they become something that I hate, which is a googly-eyed, I’m-in-love, I’m-the-only-person-who-has-ever-been-in-love, I’ve-never-been-so-happy type of person. I don’t even want to go to dinner with people who have recently fallen in love because you just want to kill them.
I realized, ‘Oh, we don’t have to do that.’ We are going to slam them into a relationship because of the baby and I think in our season ender this year, Brennan says something to Booth that is very, very profound about their relationship.
-- Yvonne Villarreal
Top photo: David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in ‘Bones.’ Credit: Ray Mickshaw / Fox. Bottom photo: Hart Hanson. Credit: Fox Studios.