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Critic’s Notebook: ‘Bones’ and ‘Sleepy Hollow’ Cross-Pollinate

Photo From left, Emily Deschanel and Michaela Conlin of Bones, with Tom Mison of Sleepy Hollow, in an episode of Bones. The casts will also collaborate on a Sleepy Hollow episode. Credit Patrick McElhenney/FOX

The crossover episode seems not to be as common as it once was, but Fox dusts off the concept on Thursday night and gives it a noteworthy twist. Not only does the network serve up a double dose of crossover, but it also tries the unusual mixing of a series set in the real world with one that ventures into the fantasy realm. And, viewed in the right spirit, the stunt is amusing, even a little thought-provoking.

In an episode of the long-running Bones, 1 Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) and Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) wander in from Sleepy Hollow to help solve a homicide. Then, in the Sleepy Hollow 2 episode that immediately follows, Brennan (Emily Deschanel) and Booth (David Boreanaz), the central characters in Bones, make their way into Crane and Mills s demon-infested world.

It s not the smoothest cross-pollination, but the awkwardness itself is interesting. And the chutzpah sure, it s a ratings gimmick, but everything on television is a ratings gimmick deserves a hat tip.

Bones is basically a cop show. Booth is an F.B.I. agent, Brennan a forensic anthropologist; the episodes are, essentially: Find a corpse, solve the crime. Sleepy Hollow, though, is a horror fantasy in which Crane yes, the guy who inspired the poem awakens in our time after more than two centuries of sleep and teams up with Mills, a modern-day woman with a badge, to stop the apocalypse and assorted invasions from the netherworld.

The Bones episode begins with the discovery of a fresh corpse under the floorboards in a church where some young people are preparing for a kegger. Then a corpse that has been decaying much, much longer, and is headless, is discovered nearby. That one turns out to be a noted Revolutionary War figure who, in Sleepy Hollow, is a nemesis of Crane s. First crossover achieved. In the night s second episode, that corpse disappears while being shipped to the town of Sleepy Hollow, where Crane and Mills had hoped to investigate it further, and the Bones team is called upon for crucial forensics.

The story lines, though, are incidental. The treat (Halloween3 factors into both episodes, by the way) is in the comparing and contrasting.

The writers have a good time pitting the age of science represented by Bones against the wacky spiritualism of Sleepy Hollow. Certain characters on Bones, especially Brennan, dismiss the possibility of an afterlife, a soul, a God. The Sleepy Hollow heroes roll their eyes at this disbelief, having spent the show s first two seasons battling the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and now, in the third, taking on Pandora, the woman with the box full of evil.

Also enjoyable is the juxtaposition of the two central couples, one of which isn t a couple, yet. Crane and Mills have kept things strictly professional so far, despite an obvious mutual affection. Good luck with that, you can almost hear Brennan and Booth saying. Their relationship, too, was strictly professional, even hostile, when the show began in 2005. Now they have children.

The individual characters also have points of comparison that are underscored by putting them side by side. Mills, a sheriff s deputy in the first two seasons of Sleepy Hollow, is an F.B.I. agent now, just like Booth, and often has a similarly full-speed-ahead approach to crime fighting. Unlike Brennan and Crane, who are cut from the same obsessive-compulsive cloth.

Despite those similarities, the crossovers are somewhat awkward because the shows have different tones. Both have an undercurrent of humor, but on Bones, it s the humor of the wisecrack, while on Sleepy Hollow, it s more droll and observational. These pairs of central characters, as alike as they are, don t get each other.

Anyway, the crossovers are a diverting experiment that not many other shows could pull off, or would want to. Both series are playing with house money at this point: Sleepy Hollow had its ratings slip in Season 2 and barely got a Season 3, while Bones ended its 10th season last June with an episode that seemed to assume that it wasn t coming back.

Neither has much to lose. So why not? someone at Fox presumably said, a refreshing bit of whimsy in a business that too often takes itself too seriously.

A version of this review appears in print on October 29, 2015, on page C3 of the New York edition with the headline: Critic s Notebook: Bones and Sleepy Hollow Cross-Pollinate.



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