Here’s the problem: They make TV dramas about all sorts of occupations; crab fishermen, lawyers, doctors, ice-truckers. The excellent A Very Peculiar Practice even made academic environments look intriguing and Third Rock from the Sun had some fun with anthropology. So why can’t they make a good dramatic or humorous series about archaeologists then? Bonekickers, a 6 part series shown in the UK on ITV in 2007 was a try at this. Conceived by writers with a good track record, it featured very competent actors and interesting camerawork and editing. It was reasonably well funded and marketed. It was, sadly – a turkey. Never renewed, it attracted embarrassing professional criticism from archaeologists as well as some poor reviews by critics and general moans and groans. Why?
The style of the thing was rather Da Vinci Code meets Time Team meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Mix well, then overheat. The result was mildly amusing and engaging up to a point, but on the whole not good enough to be sustainable. At least not in the eyes of schedule controllers anyway. Why not? I personally think the storylines, cast and so on might have been better off simplified. Anf if some attention had been given to character development so much the better. Well, I say that, but actually the stories are probably a little too clever too. Taking the time to introduce characters properly seems to me to make a better basis for a serial on TV.
Will someone try again? A slightly different genre has produced a great hit in Time Team, of course. If you don’t know it this is a long running series about archaeological excavation featuring real archaeologists working on brief excavations of real sites, and interpreted by the actor Tony Robinson. Now franchised in several countries including the US, it is a long term hit. There are also many one off documentaries of course, or the archaeological contribution to shows like Coast. Just not the same. Hey, you know I did actually go out and buy the Bonekickers DVDs with a full set of episodes so you know I must have a soft spot for it because I don’t buy many DVDs.