CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I've never watched "Bones." I don't have anything against it; it's just that, no matter where Fox put it, it was always on opposite something else I was more interested in until too many seasons had passed for me to want to jump on board.
Because of that, I wasn't all that interested when Fox announced a spin-off series, "The Finder," about an eccentric Army vet who has a knack for uncovering hard-to-find objects and people. I figured, since I hadn't watched "Bones," why would I care about a show tied to it?
Except that "The Finder," which airs at 9 p.m. Thursdays, is only tied to "Bones" in the loosest of ways. It was created by "Bones" mastermind Hart Hanson. The team was introduced in an episode of "Bones" last season, and one "Bones" star, John Francis Daley (Dr. Lance Sweets), has made a guest appearance on the show. (A second, T.J. Thyne -- aka Dr. Jack Hodgins - is scheduled to appear next week.)
You don't need to be familiar with "Bones" to watch "The Finder." Heck, you don't even really have to be familiar with the titular finder (Walter Sherman, played by Geoff Stults) to watch "The Finder."
By that, I mean it's not vital to watch the show in episodic order to enjoy it. It's not 100 percent self-contained; there are character relationships and stories that continue across episodes, but they are minimal. You truly can drop in on any episode and be able to follow along and enjoy it.
The reason I like "The Finder" is Walter. Just as Matt Passmore elevates "The Glades" from a rote police procedural with his smart but smart aleck Detective Jim Longworth, Geoff Stults does the same here with his kooky, unfiltered Walter, who literally isn't quite right in the head after suffering a brain injury from an IED explosion in Iraq. Should Fox decide to ditch the show after its current 13-episode run (a distinct possibility, given its ratings thus far), he would be right at home on USA with its "characters welcome" brand.
The cases are varied, too. Walter, with assistance from his "legal adviser," Leo (Michael Clarke Duncan), and U.S. marshal girlfriend, Isabel (Mercedes Masohn), has searched for everything from people (a missing father, a magician's assistant, Mrs. Right) to a 20-year-old bullet, some lucky socks and John Fogerty's guitar.
The one thing I could stand for him and the show to lose is the teenage parolee/gypsy Willa (Maddie Hasson). She contributes in some way to the solving of each case, but she's not an official part of the team, and her character feels tacked on. Whenever it brings up the subplot of her arranged gypsy marriage, the show drags.
Unfortunately, since I decided to write about "The Finder" this week, Fox, is pre-empting it for yet another hour of "American Idol." (Yawn.) It returns at 9 p.m. Feb. 23.
In the meantime, get caught up with the first five episodes for free on Hulu.com. If you don't want to watch them all, my recommendations are "A Cinderella Story" and "Bullets."