“For what it’s worth, I read your first book. I’m not Jewish, but I liked it.”
In the spirit of disclosure, the first time I tried watching Bored to Death, I gave up early in the first season. The title described the experience of this viewer. Jason Schwartzman has never really clicked with me. His schtick always seemed a little too precious and self-aware for my tastes. Pressure from friends who insisted the show got better in the second half of the season got me back. I did find myself falling into sync with the stoner-noir rhythm of the series and laughing out loud at writer/creator/inspiration Jonathan Ames’ absurdist humor by the final third of the first season.
I am happy to say the second season of Bored to Death really found its legs. The entire narrative is more cohesive and the characters more engaging. It picks up shortly after the first season’s finale. Jonathan’s (Jason Schwartzman) second novel, a sexual farce involving the Kama Sutra, has been rejecting and the publishing company is demanding the advance back. To make ends meet he’s taken a job teaching writing at a night school. Jonathan still dates hippy chic Stella (Jenny Slate), but he finds her bohemian lifestyle threatening. George’s (Ted Danson) magazine, Edition, suffers recession woes and comes under the control of new investors from Texas initiating sweeping cuts with a meat cleaver instead of a scalpel. Ray (Zach Galifianakis) gets dumped by his girlfriend and creates a new, critically acclaimed comic, Super Ray, to win her back. The comic book takes off bringing with it a financial windfall, filling Ray’s pockets while his heart stays empty.
Pretty much every unlicensed private dick job ends up with Jonathan fleeing for his life, but somehow kind of succeeds in each case’s challenge, even if doing so leads to greater problems down the road. The levels of humiliation blow up to hysterical proportions. George and Ray, although dealing with their own troubles, increasingly get sucked into Jonathan’s fantasy life as a modern day Raymond Chandler, and the three of them face the night with stoned bravado.
Very loosely inspired by the experiences of the show’s creator, the real life Jonathan Ames, Bored to Death is a potent blend of ironic observations, sitcom send-ups, slapstick humor, eccentric characters, social awkwardness and noir parody. Although the chemistry between Schwartzman, Danson and Galifianakis is enough to carry the series, Ames spikes the show with a stellar line up of guest stars, including Emmy nominee Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live), Emmy nominee and Golden Globe winner Kevin Bacon (HBO’s Taking Chance), Emmy and Golden Globe nominee Oliver Platt (Frost/Nixon), John Hodgman (The Daily Show) and Oscar winners Olympia Dukakis (Moonstruck) and F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus).
Bored to Death looks astonishingly film-like considering it is captured in high definition on ARRI Alexa and ARRI D-21 high-definition cameras. It comes to Blu-ray in a progressive 1080p/24 AVC/MPEG-4 in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio as originally shown on HBO and runs an average of 39 Mbps. Everything is sharp and clear except some of the night scenes where the video noise looks more electronic than analog. Colors are bright, skin tones natural, and the detail is striking. Blacks tend to be well layered except in some of the darker scenes.
The DTS-HS Master Audio 5.1 mix is serviceable if not extraordinary. There is a satisfactory amount of immersion in the surround, but I feel the sound design could have done more to bring to life the rich city ambience. The front-centered soundtrack properly errs on the side of clear dialog and keeps the SFX/music balanced nicely with the lines.
- Audio Commentary on Episode 2 “Make it Quick, Fitzgerald!” with Jason Schwartzman (Jonathan), Jonathan Ames (Writer/Series Creator), and Alan Taylor (Director/Consulting Producer)
- Audio Commentary on Episode 3 “The Gowanus Canal Has Gonorrhea!” with Jason Schwartzman (Jonathan), Ted Danson (George), Jonathan Ames (Writer/Series Creator), and Michael Lehmann (Director)
- Audio Commentary on Episode 4 “I’ve Been Living Like a Demented God!” with Jason Schwartzman (Jonathan), Ted Danson (George), Jonathan Ames (Writer/Series Creator), and Michael Lehmann (Director)
- Audio Commentary on Episode 6 “The Case of the Grievous Clerical Error!” with Jason Schwartzman (Jonathan), Ted Danson (George) and Jonathan Ames (Writer/Series Creator)
- Audio Commentary on Episode 8 “Super Ray is Mortal!” by Jason Schwartzman (Jonathan) and Jonathan Ames (Writer/Series Creator)
- Bored to Death: Inside the Mind of Jonathan Ames (HD, 21 minutes): These hilarious three- to four-minute insights from series creator Jonathan Ames touch on the inspiration for each episode with anecdotal absurdity. Be warned, not everyone gets Ames’ humor, so viewer beware.
- Outtakes (HD, 5 minutes): A selection of mainly Zach Galifianakis improv moments.
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 4 minutes): Three deleted scenes.
I am very happy I have quirky friends that talked me into giving this show a second chance. The second season is comedy gold with wonderful rewatch potential. This is the kind of humor that sticks with you and gestates with friends. It really has a cult quality to it that, although it may take a bit to develop a taste for, grows quite addicting. Jonathan Ames’s creation may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for some, like me, Bored to Death is a wonderful joint of goofy chronic that keeps a permagrin pasted to my face.
“Jonathan, is this a joke? I’ve already vaporized two bags of pot.”