CHICAGO – The issue of gender identity, especially for those who are born with a vagueness as to what to call themselves between/beyond boy and girl, has come front and center in the U.S., both with the legalization of gay marriage and the callous repudiation of identity by trying to pass laws dismissing it (the North Carolina “bathroom” laws). The performance companies of The Living Canvas and Nothing Without a Company is currently staging “[Trans]formation,” which presents gender identity art by six performers, who perform most of the play in the nude.
TV Review: Jason Schwartzman Still Can’t Save ‘Bored to Death’
CHICAGO – “Hung” returned for a third season this week and every year that program comes back, I think “Boy, I like Thomas Jane, maybe this is the year that this disappointing show turns around.” And, just like that program, every year that “Bored to Death” lands on my desk, I think “Boy, I like Jason Schwartzman, maybe this is the year that this disappointing show turns around.” And, just like “Hung,” I’m disappointed yet again.
Television Rating: 1.5/5.0
Like every HBO show (with the possible exception of “How to Make It in America”), “Bored to Death” comes with a strong ensemble despite my overall disappointment with the program. In fact, the casting agent for “Bored to Death” did the best pre-production work on the show. Jason Schwartzman, Zack Galifianakis, Ted Danson — you couldn’t ask for three comedic leads with better timing. So why isn’t “Bored to Death” funnier? Why doesn’t it ever click in a thoroughly engaging way? Why is it always on the verge of “almost” working? Why am I tired of waiting for it to work and now realizing that it just never will?
Bored to Death
Photo credit: HBO
Jonathan (Schwartzman) continues to try and be the most hipster private detective in the history of noir, taking a case in the premiere that sees the author (who just released his second book) framed for murder and even runs into next week’s episode with a cliffhanger. Meanwhile, George (Danson) has opened a restaurant and is trying to reconnect with his daughter, who catches him in a moral quandary when she introduces her new boyfriend. Finally, Ray (Galifianakis) also reconnects with a child, although this one is the baby who resulted as a product of the theft of Ray’s sperm from a sperm bank.
Bored to Death
Photo credit: HBO
The biggest problem with “Bored to Death” is a tonal one courtesy of creator of Jonathan Ames. The noir elements are sometimes clever, but just as often jarring and annoying. The show simply doesn’t exist in the real world — people don’t talk or act like this. It’s exaggerated. And then it’s not. Scenes that seem like hipster posturing are followed by scenes of genuine emotion and the tonal inconsistency is startling.
Everything about “Bored to Death” is jarring. Dialogue doesn’t click. Music choices seem wrong. It’s as if the producers and writers are trying to keep viewers off their game and a little on edge but to what end? I understand the desire to make an edgy comedy but there’s a fine line between edgy & original and annoying & silly and “Bored to Death” too often crosses it.
So why not give up entirely? The cast. Jason Schwartzman has evolved after a few years of delivering similar performances to his breakthrough in “Rushmore” and he’s quite good here, matched by excellent supporting performances from Galifianakis and Danson, two of the funniest guys on TV. Sadly, they’re not given the kind of material they deserve here. The “Ray meets his son” plotline is woefully written with nothing but ineffective jokes. You can hear them hit the ground with a thud. Despite the strong work by the three leads, “Bored to Death” too often produces a thud.
The second season of “Bored to Death” was recently released on Blu-ray and DVD from HBO and while they may be struggling to find creatively consistent half-hour programs, they still rule when it comes to TV on BD. This is a minor set as the second season ran only eight episodes but the program looks great in HD and the small set includes quality special features, including deleted scenes and commentaries. Fans of the show will be satisfied. If there are any left.