TV Review: ‘Bored to Death’ is Consistently Quirky, Funny

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CHICAGO – The ability of HBO to launch a series and let it develop is one of the true advantages of their subscription system. Of course that and no censorship issues. The series “Bored to Death” begins its second season on September 26th at 9pm CST, featuring Jason Schwartzman, Ted Danson and Zach Galifianakis. Television Rating: 4.5/5.0
Television Rating: 4.5/5.0

Created by writer Jonathan Ames, the premise of the show remains the same. A writer named Jonathan Ames (Schwartzman) places an ad on Craigslist touting himself as a private detective, unlicensed. Between the circumstances of his new caseload, he deals with issues of his second novel (rejected) through his magazine publisher friend George Christopher (Ted Danson) and best friend Ray Hueston (Zach Galifianakis).

Ames, Jonathan Ames: Jason Schwartzman as the Writer/Private Eye in ‘Bored to Death’
Ames, Jonathan Ames: Jason Schwartzman
as the Writer/Private Eye in ‘Bored to Death’
Photo credit: HBO

Of course being a famous writer and private dick has its interesting side. As season two opens, Jonathan is escaping from a hip New York neighborhood (”your husband is definitely cheating on you with an artist in Dunhill who hasn’t been pushed out by gentrification”) while planters crash beneath his feet. He goes from there to another job, that of night course creative writing instructor.

Afterwards he meets his George and Ray, who have their own problems. Ray is trying to jump start his relationship by doing couples activities, including Yoga and a sign language class. Something is also happening to George, as he feels a sharp pain. In New York City, these are signs that passes for ominous foreshadowing.

Jonathan takes on his next case. A New York cop on the horse patrol is tipped off that a S&M brothel he frequents is about to be raided. He needs Jonathan to infiltrate the parlor and erase their hard drive. He goes undercover as a client, and ends up with more than he bargained for, including a hysterical chase through the familiar New York environs.

The relationship issues also keep piling up. Jonathan’s galpal Stella keeps prodding him to become more stable. Ray isn’t adapting to Yoga all that well, and his girlfriend his having second thoughts. George’s magazine has been bought by Christian publishers, who like to say a prayer before every meeting. As the old adage says, “only in New York.”

This is NYC in the midst of the recession, and it couldn’t be a better backdrop for the adventures of these three schlemiels. Ted Danson is in prime form, luxuriating in George quirky-stoner-highly-sexed lifestyle, now being quashed by a takeover from the Christian right. The ubiquitous Zach Galifianakis, shaving his famous beard back a bit, continues his rise as a perfect alternative to reality. Jason Schwartzman has slipped comfortably into his post modern Woody Allenesque detective (”As a child I was too nervous to join the Boy Scouts”).

There is also a nice end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it quality to the constant boozing, pot smoking and underemployment. There is no security in Bored to Death, only the wealthy overseeing the crumbling empire, and everyone else finding ways to survive (Yoga and sign language). Why not become a private detective, and why not advertise on Craigslist?

Brothers From Other Mothers: Ted Danson as George and Zach Galifianakis as Ray in ‘Bored to Death’
Brothers From Other Mothers: Ted Danson as George and Zach Galifianakis as Ray in ‘Bored to Death’
Photo Credit: HBO

The show is also wryly funny, with many of the episodes written by Jonathan Ames himself, the ultimate in fantasy fulfillment. Danson’s character is a constant source of witty Greek Chorus observation, and the private detective’s obsession with gentrification is perfectly indicative of the real estate porn of the Naked City. In essence, lots of laughs.

The flexibility and freedoms of the pay cable series have provided a renaissance of comic takes on society, with a little nudity thrown in. As the fictional Jonathan Ames might observe, the neighborhood of sitcoms has gone upscale.

”Bored to Death” premieres Sunday, September 26th at 10pm EST/9pm CST on HBO. Check local listings for channel location. Featuring Zach Galifianakis, Ted Danson and Jason Schwartzman, created by Jonathan Ames. senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Senior Staff Writer

© 2010 Patrick McDonald,

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