Is anyone else watching The Finder on Fox these days? The Bones spin-off has been on for a couple of weeks now – the third episode airs tonight at 8pm – and, while I doubt it’s ever going to be a show that’ll win awards and critical praise, I have to admit that it’s a pretty perfect example of what I call the “Good Enough” genre of television – and an odd example of watching a show find itself in very public circumstances.
Everyone has at least one television show that they watch, feeling like it’s some kind of guilty pleasure; a show that they know that they don’t really think is that great, or that entertaining, or that whatever, but they’re addicted to nonetheless. It’s the show that they love to tune into – or, more likely, perhaps, save up on DVR or Netflix until they’re in the right mood – but wouldn’t really want to admit to loving while all their friends are talking about Justified or The Walking Dead or whatever; shows that, if you’re really honest with yourself, are the televisual equivalent of comfort food more than the bran of PBS or the sugar high of Community or the like. That’s what “Good Enough” television is for me; it’s the TV shows that you watch that you know aren’t great, but are nonetheless perfect for when you need something pleasant to unwind to that doesn’t require too much thought.
I’ve gone on before about the fact that this isn’t to say that such shows are stupid (Far from it; getting a show like this right is a lot of work), so when I say that The Finder is a perfect example of this type of television, I promise that it’s meant as a compliment. The series so far has been entirely professional, fulfilling what you want from a show called “The Finder” (There is someone whose job is to find things; he does so with some adventurous hijinks resulting from his investigations) with nods to the quirky sensibility that you’d expect from a Bones offshoot (Walter, the lead, could definitely go head-to-head with Temperance Brennan in a weird-off) and the procedural aspects that you expect from a primetime weeknight hour long drama on network television, and it does so in such a way that it goes down easily enough after a long day of work.
But what’s more interesting, for me at least, is watching the show construct its own formula as it goes along. There was a “Finder” episode in Bones last year, and the course correction between that and the series proper is telling; one character disappeared completely, and watching her replacements try to fulfill the same purpose in different ways has been weirdly compelling (Isabale Zambada clearly takes the love interest and voice of concern/sanity angle – the first episode even featured a retread of an exchange from the Bones episode, with Isabele’s dialogue very close to the words Saffron Burroughs’ character, Ike Latuilippe, was given in Bones – while Willa Monday brings the moral ambiguity and proof that the writers have a terrible sense of what names work and what names should be thrown in the trash). More subtly, the “obsession” of Walter’s feels toned down even as his overall attitude feels tweaked just a little to more easily resemble Bones‘ Seely Booth.
It’s also telling to see the show play with its own formula without trying to make it obvious; we’ve seen Leo and Walter both essentially insult the show’s premise, implying that the things Walter will be finding in future might get a little weirder if the series has its way, and we’re also watching the writers work out just what to do with Willa without making her (inevitable) redemption too obvious. Watching all this unfold feels like a guilty pleasure within the guilty pleasure of the show itself; a meta purpose and commentary that gives viewing an extra depth that the show itself may be trying not to have on its surface reading. But even that seems fitting for a show about finding things most people wouldn’t see, surely; after all, isn’t The Finder exactly the kind of show that should have hidden treasures all through it for people who know where to look?
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