“It’s a good thing to stay in the dark about things – it keeps life interesting.” –George

November 7, 2010

Bored to DeathHere’s something you don’t want to be in the dark about—HBO’s Bored to Death (10pm/9 Central).  Although I have only watched the first season, I am so thrilled about this very entertaining comedy.  I am particularly excited because I have heard wonderful things about season two and the show was just picked up for season three.

Created by writer Jonathan Ames, Bored to Death boasts one of the most appealing lineups I have seen of late.  The three main stars are perfectly cast and its roster of actors in recurring roles is superb.  Starring Jason Schwartzman, Zach Galifianakis, and Ted Danson, BTD delivers a great, laugh-filled thirty minutes. Schwartzman plays Jonathan Ames (who I can only assume is based on the eponymous creator), a novelist with the daunting challenge of writing a successful follow-up to his acclaimed debut.  After his girlfriend dumps him, Jonathan advertises himself on Craigslist as an unlicensed private detective.  Hilarity ensues, and fans of film noir rejoice in the parody.

I have always found Schwartzman to have it all going on, so to speak—he’s cute enough, funny, charming, and not so much of a hipster that he’s unappealing—but this role casts him in an especially endearing light.  Jonathan bases his private detective persona on the archetypal one of film noir and crime sagas, but his portrayal is bumbling and often, well, ridiculous.  He knows what he’s supposed to be, but falls short when he attempts to be that gumshoe.  And the way Jonathan reconciles this disconnect between what happens and what’s supposed to happen is exquisite.  I have never found a man who orders white wine at a bar to be so cute.

Great chemistry

The show works well because Schwartzman delivers, but Danson and Galifianakis are the secret weapons.  Danson plays Jonathan’s boss, magazine editor, and socialite George Christopher, while Galifianakis plays Jonathan’s best friend, comic book artist Ray Hueston.  (Gasp!  He plays an average, everyday Joe, rather than a borderline autistic space cadet!)  I don’t know that Danson and Galifianakis necessarily steal the show, but scenes where the two interact with each other are brilliant.  Marijuana is featured prominently in BTD, and its functionality for each of the characters is especially amusing.  The same can be said of alcohol and sex, and they all make for great story lines.

The aforementioned stellar supporting cast includes Bebe Neuwirth, Kristen Wiig, Patton Oswalt, Oliver Platt, John Hodgman, and Olivia Thirlby, to name a few; certainly, seasons two and three are sure to deliver more. In addition, I also find the title sequence to be entertaining and well, visually pleasing.  (Speaking of which, much of the show is filmed on site in New York, which allows for a super appealing vérité hue.)  I’m especially fond of the theme song which was written by Schwartzman and Ames.  (For those who recall and refuse to forgive the nightmare that is the theme song to The O.C., also written by Schwartzman–I swear, this song will not make you want to perform a self-inflicted lobotomy and is not half as ubiquitous.)  Another added plus: BTD leads into Kenny-Fucking-Powers!  And what’s that?  A cameo by a not-so mainstream yet highly celebrated enigmatic director?  Sold.


Schwartzman with Oliver Platt

Co-star Olivia Thirlby, aka Leah from Juno, homeslice

Schwartzman with John Hodgman. He may be more recognizable as a PC.

I leave you with an interaction from season one episode seven, “The Case of the Stolen Sperm,” featuring Schwartzman, Galifianakis, and Jenny Slate of SNL.  Slate plays Stella, a co-op employee who might be able to point the PI in the right direction.  Jonathan and Ray bribe Stella for the info, but when she balks at the idea of accepting cash, they notice her t-shirt shows a pot leaf with “Legalize It!” underneath and offer to get her high instead:

A comparable counter-offer to a cash bribe

Slate:  I can tell that this is good stuff because I’m kind of missing everyone in my life right now, but I don’t mind because it’s like a beautiful sadness.

Schwartzman:  That happens to me too when I’m high.  I miss everyone, and I love everyone.

Galifianakis:  When I get high, I realize that I clench my anus.

Slate:  That’s not healthy.

Schwartzman:  You clench it all the time?

Galifianakis:  Yeah, but smoking helps me unclench it.

**Originally posted November 6, 2010 on Josh Du Jour as a guest contribution.