Bored to Death

Heidi Wicks describes some lovable losers to look for in this HBO series

In this series, Jonathan Ames (Jason Schwartzman) has released a buzz-worthy debut novel, with a book deal for his sophomore effort. Except instead of letting his genius spill from his big brain onto the page, all he seems to be able to do is sit at home and drown his sorrows in dainty glasses of white wine. What’s a poor, tormented genius to do? Why, become a private investigator of course!

Bored to Death is a film-noir-inspired sleuth comedy that follows Ames’ misadventures as he moans and sighs about his writer’s block, his lack of luck with the ladies and the success of his arch nemesis — the New Yorker-published poindexter Louis Green (John Hodgman). Jonathan’s best friend is a failing comic book artist named Ray Hueston (Zach Galifinakis) — a desperate, dirty but loveable loser with an unquenchable thirst for whisky.

Jonathan’s mentor/publisher George Christopher (Ted Danson) is a filthy-rich, many-times divorced, aging and increasingly useless pot-head magazine editor whose spark is re-ignited when he finds a new purpose in assisting Jonathan with his detective work.

The trio help each other through break-ups, health issues, drug busts, hold-ups and more. The scripts are drenched in references to the New York literary scene, with frequent scenes in the dean’s office, in the classroom where Jonathan becomes a professor, in his literary agent (Bebe Neuworth)’s office. And while the first season (a mere eight episodes) is a little high-brow and, well, dry, the second season loosens up like a nerdy freshman after his first keg party.

The characters’ nuances and quirks become largely loveable. Ray and George start to become friends and in the process we see a childish naivete and tenderness between them. We start to love them a little more, but the show never crosses into mooshy, syrupy Friends-zone, and we never forget why they’re losers in the first place.

Galifinakis’ dry delivery is understated and a treat to watch.

“George,” he says, “I don’t like talking on the phone that much, but um, you can call me all the time. I won’t pick up, but you can leave me a message.” He’s a filthy man, for sure, but watching him do the doggie-paddle to swim out of loser lake makes him loveable. He tries so hard.

Danson really starts to carve out his character, refining his questionably gay gestures and inflections, while always channeling his womanizing inner-Victor Newman suaveness. He’s snobby, he’s superfluous, he’s self-obsessed. Sam Malone would kick him out of Cheers.

There are some great cameos in the second season, too – SNL’s crack-pot Kristen Wiig and cult-favourite Kevin Bacon.

This could be the guy’s equivalent to chick lit. Created by Jonathan Ames (the writer, not the character, but who named his character after himself), this is a self-promoting, self-deprecating, celebratory lament for losers.

Season One of HBO’s Bored to Death is available on DVD or through iTunes. 7/10 microwave donuts.

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