Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bored to Death ends second season

     Last night, HBO's Bored to Death finished its second season. It's a noir-comedy, and that if sounds odd, you should see it! I liked the second season way better than the first. The characters were better defined, as were their relationships to each other. The humor was tighter. Guest stars became recurring characters. Less case-of-the-week, and more play into an ongoing plot. Plus the cases-of-the-week they did have often came back up later, and they were just more fun.

     In the finale, Jonathan (Jason Schwartzman) contemplates whether he should let Nina (Zoe Kazan) move in after one night of great sex. By the end of the episode, Jonathan still hasn't made a decision. He's too involved with his friends' drama, and fighting with nemesis Louis (John Hodgman) to think all that much about it.

     In fact, all three principal characters are pretty self-involved. They care about each other, but that's about it. Only Ray (Zach Galifianakis) truly loves a woman, Leah (Heather Burns). But while Ray is still thinking about her, he beds several other women this season, whom he doesn't seem to care a lick about. Jonathan similarly doesn't seem to let his most recent breakup affect him that much. Even Jonathan's pining over his ex in season one seemed more for his benefit than to make her happy. Thankfully, the pining did not really continue into season two.

     Self-involvment can be funny (think Seinfeld or It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia), but somehow this show makes it seem fresh all over again. Not to mention, the characters stay very likable. They're not mean to others; they let Vikram (Ajay Naidu) hang out with them instead of treating him like a driver. They just don't take much interest in others.

     The heart of the series is not love. It's the hilarious hijinks in a three-way bromance. Whether it's rescuing a lovely Korean tranny from his father's spa, or buying rubber bullets when high to stage a rescue from real bad guys. Jonathan did eventually go to lengths to save Ray from his stalker, but he cut an earlier stakeout short because he had to get to a job interview.

     George (Ted Danson) is the most clueless, but he mostly just rolls with whatever happens. He will occasionally take a stand, such as quitting the magazine in the finale. But when he's with Ray and Jonathan, he just seems along for the ride. It probably helps that he's usually incredibly stoned. I think he's also trying to recapture his youth through them, and there is a genuine father-son-esque bond between Jonathan and George.

     I have referenced three main characters. While it is true that Leah was upgraded to series regular for season two, she still wasn't in every episode, and had not independent plot apart from the main three. Hence, despite her name in the credits, she still comes across as a supporting player. As she should stay, because any dissolution from the three guys would probably bring down the show. Other actors appearing are quite capable, but the three men have a chemistry that defines the series.

     I could spend paragraphs dissecting each of the three leads. There is ample neurosis and depth to them all. But it's not necessary. The show is enjoyable at a surface level, as well as with some after thought. It's three A-list actors, taking a break from careers to film eight half-hours a year. I am very glad that they do. I look forward to a third season.

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Article first published as TV Review: Bored to Death Ends a Second Season on Blogcritics.

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