Sunday, October 10, 2010

Bored to Death will leave you far from it

     HBO's Bored to Death began it's sophomore season two weeks ago.  Starring Jason Schwartzman as Jonathan Ames, a struggling writer, who moonlights as an (unlicensed) private detective, it's a truly unique show.  Ames is joined by his two best friends, George (Ted Danson), who is also his boss, and Ray (Zach Galifianakis), a cartoonist.  All are into pot, and each has their own brand of alcohol.  The show comes across as part noir, part screwball.  This season, Ray's girlfriend, Leah (Heather Burns) was added as a main character.

     Last week tied up some loose threads left after from last year's season finale.  Jonathan is hired by George's nemesis, Richard Antrem (Oliver Platt, The Big C) to find out if his wife, Priscilla (Laila Robins), is cheating on him.  While hiding in a closet, Jonathan is disturbed to see George come back and have sex with Priscilla, something that has been going on for awhile.  What's even more disturbing is that George forgets to keep track of the nights that Jonathan will be waiting in the closet, and it happens a second time.  Jonathan tries to cover up the tryst from Richard, but eventually Richard returns home to find both Jonathan and George in his closet.  In a true testament to just how weird the series is, and how accepting the characters are of each others' various flaws and vices, Richard, George, and Jonathan all go out for a drink afterwards.  It's also worth noting that Richard is George's foil, and the two are far more alike than different.

     The show is mostly about Jonathan.  George and Ray have subplots, such as Leah dumping Ray in the season premiere, and his struggle to win her back, but they are always minor to whatever is happeneing with Jonathan.  In fact, the main character often has two plots going on in each episode.  This week, his new girlfriend, Stella (Jenny Slate, Saturday Night Live) wants him to have a sleepover with her and her ex (Josh Gad, Back to You).

     A side note, the naked man in Leah's bed last week was played by series creator Jonathan Ames.  It is interesting to note that in a deleted part of the scene, Ray actually grabs Ames's penis as he runs past.  Ames says on his blog that it will be on the DVD.  Why would the creator put himself through something like that?  It's a brief glimpse into the mind making the show that fits totally with what we've seen.

     It's a weird show, a perfect vehicle for Schwartzman.  Ames feels like most of the other parts that the actor has ridden to fame, and so fits perfectly.  Somehow, even in weekly doses, it's still a thrill to watch Schwartzman work.  Danson, who has had one of the most successful, consistently wonderful careers of any television actor, shines once more.  I wonder if there isn't more than a little bit of the real Danson in George, who has had bright periods in his life, intermixed with faliure, but weathers it all with good humor and genuine niceness, though he's far from a pushover.  Galifianakis, who soared to notority after The Hangover also plays a part we've seen from him before.  The repeat performance of any of the leading men never comes off as stale, but more finely honed and aged.

     I recommend you tune into Bored to Death, which will have a new episode tonight 10pm on HBO.

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