It’s the kind of high-concept nonsense more commonly associated with Hollywood rather than the Auntie Beeb: a combination of Time Team, National Treasure and The Da Vinci Code; how could it possibly fail? Spectacularly, as it turns out, for Bonekickers is surely the BBC’s most spectacular and hilarious misfire since the dark days of Eldorado back in the early 90s.
Bonekickers introduces us to the maverick, wildly over-acting Gillian Magwilde (Julie Graham) and her crack team of archaeologists. With a gurgling cry of ‘We start digging’, they proceed to excavate a park in Somerset, and within minutes they’ve uncovered a piece of the True Cross and incurred the wrath of some fundamentalist christians.
The BBC’s lack of faith in its own premise has had an unfortunate side-effect; terrified that viewers will get bored and turn off, Bonekickers‘ characters all shout at one another in headlines (‘History. It’s all about layers!’, or ‘There’s always something down there!’) and the whole show is edited like a Jerry Bruckheimer movie, even when there’s very little happening. Forget the slow, painstaking archaeology popularised by Time Team, where vase fragments are carefully teased from the soil with tiny brushes; Gillian’s crew pile in with JCB diggers, tearing relics from the earth with psychotic abandon.
Elsewhere, there’s a lurid and gratuitous beheading that’s obviously been thrown in to cause some controversy, a fight in an underground chamber full of burning crosses, and one character manages to save herself from death with a bit of impromptu singing (a moment that is sure to go down in history as the most jaw-droppingly awful sequences in television ever).
I was introduced to the term ‘jumping the shark’ earlier this year, and Bonekickers should be commended for managing to leap straight over it in its maiden episode; in fact, mere words can’t express what a dreadful, monumental failure this show was – it makes Torchwood look like 2001: A Space Odyssey. I loved every inept, ludicrous minute of it, and it seems I wasn’t alone – reports are in that the first episode garnered 6.8 million viewers.
Whether the next episode will reach the dizzying nadir that this first outing achieved or not, one thing’s for certain: I can’t wait.