THE SHOW "Bones"

WHEN | WHERE Tonight at 9 on Fox/5

REASON TO WATCH The seventh season begins with an extremely pregnant star, Emily Deschanel.

CATCHING UP Forensic anthropologist "Bones" Brennan (Deschanel) and agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) shared a bit more than a good-night kiss when he spent that night in her apartment, and the result is -- season-cliffhanger surprise! -- a love child. Real life has also intruded, as Deschanel -- who gave birth to her son in September -- is on maternity leave. Hence, a shortened season for Fox's hot show.

WHAT TONIGHT'S ABOUT Some weekend warriors in a paintball battle discover a decomposed corpse in a park, and when Bones comes to investigate, she is shocked (as is everyone else) when she begins to silently weep over the lost soul. "Hormones," she explains, but one wonders.

She and Booth are in the midst of this "my place or your place?" tussle over where to move when the baby is born. Short of marriage, he wants tradition, and she wants logic and musters a formidable array of stats explaining why they even need to cohabit. Booth is frustrated. Bones is puzzled because emotions are involved.

MY SAY What would happen if Mr. Spock were to have a baby? Get around the obvious physiological complications -- even for a Vulcan -- and you quickly realize that comedy would ensue. There's some of that here because Bones simply is incapable of understanding what it means to be a mother, or pregnant. But what fans will obviously witness this season is a metamorphosis: Bones' brick-and-mortar edifice of logic begins to crumble, as the world of babies and equally needy fathers intrudes. It's a tricky balancing act for a show that depends on the reliability of those bricks and mortar. Will fans embrace her "Murphy Brown" unmarried mom lifestyle? How long will Booth? Will they turn into the Bickersons? ("You feed the baby! . . . YOU feed the baby.") Will fans say, "You both feed the baby -- I'm outta here."?

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BOTTOM LINE OK, caution dispensed, tonight's episode is a good start. But wait till the baby comes.