Complete First Season
- Buy the Blu-ray
All photos © HBO
Reviewed by Will Harris
think it’s fair to say that HBO’s “Bored to Death” was always going to be a sitcom that appealed to a relatively small audience.
Even when the series received a boost in its profile via the happy coincidence of one of its stars – Zach Galifianakis – scoring a major blockbuster on his resume (“The Hangover”), there was precious little chance that it was going to achieve mainstream success. But hell, you could’ve guessed that much just by seeing the name “Jason Schwartzman” in the credits. God love the guy, but despite being on the fringes of the Judd Apatow camp, his predominant roles are still the stuff he’s done with Wes Anderson, and while that might score you critical acclaim and cult adoration, it doesn’t translate into much else. Additionally, “Bored to Death” sprang forth from the mind of writer Jonathan Ames, whose work, while brilliant, is far too quirky and intellectual to appeal to the teeming masses.
Fortunately, those masses aren’t the ones writing this review.
“Bored to Death” stars Schwartzman as, uh, Jonathan Ames. Except not really. He’s more of a facsimile of the real Ames, except if he decided to temporarily set aside his writing career and pursue a career as a private investigator. He doesn’t actually have a license to be a private investigator, but since he admits as much upfront in his craigslist ad, he figures that it’s probably not that big a deal. Plus, Jonathan’s not in the best of spirits at the moment, anyway, having just broken up with his girlfriend, and with writer’s block having settled in, he might as well do something to keep himself occupied. Why not be a private detective? At first, Jonathan works solo. It doesn’t work so well. He asks his buddy Ray Hueston (Galifianakis) to help him on a case. Then his boss, George Christopher (Ted Danson), finds out about Jonathan’s sideline gig, and he wants to help, too. One would be hard pressed to say that any of these additions to Jonathan’s “team” result in him being that much better a detective, but, hey, at least he’s not lonely on the job.
“Bored to Death” has several solid recurring roles during Season One, including Oliver Platt and John Hodgman playing the nemeses of Danson and Schwartzman, respectively. Bebe Neuwirth is underutilized as Jonathan’s agent, but she still manages to light up the screen whenever she appears, and the same goes for Jenny Slate, who plays a possible love interest for Jonathan in later episodes. Also turning up in guest roles are Jim Jarmusch, Parker Posey, Patton Oswalt, Todd Barry, and Samantha Bee, none of whom are likely to inspire anyone to say, “Wow, this thing has got mainstream hit written all over it!”
But, then, we already said that.
The writing on “Bored to Death” is, as you’d expect from Ames, smart, idiosyncratic, and decidedly hilarious, but you have to credit Galifianakis and Danson for taking the material to the next level with their performances. Schwartzman does his deadpan, semi-noir thing just as the part requires, and he’s a confident frontman for the series, but his co-stars are the ones who really stand out. With that said, you may understand a bit more why the show doesn’t truly take off as a successful entity until it hits the sixth episode, when Jonathan, Ray, and George team up as a trio for the first time.
“Bored to Death” starts slow, closes strong, and leaves one excited about the possibility of a second season. All in all, not a bad way for a show to finish up its first year.
Special Features: There’s a nice making-of featurette which stretches from the origins of the series all the way up to the composition of the theme song – wait ‘til you hear Jason Schwartzman discuss the origins of the tune – along with a trip through Brooklyn with Schwartzman and Jonathan Ames, who make note of their respective connections to the area while showing off the landmarks of the area which appear in the series. Beyond these featurettes, you’ve also got four deleted scenes (including one cut from the season finale which clarifies the status of Jonathan’s book) and several audio commentaries, including contributions from Schwartzman, Ames, Ted Danson, and directors Adam Bernstein, Michael Lehman, and Alan Taylor.