Only HBO could make a series starring the unlikely pairing of Jason Schwartzman, Ted Danson and Zach Galifianakis. Of course, if the quirky casting wasn’t enough to make you equally interested and disinterested, then the premise of HBO’s “Bored to Death” would do the trick. “Bored to Death” follows down-on-his luck writer Jonathan Ames (Jason Schwartzman) who’s just been dumped by his girlfriend and decides to become a freelance private detective. While he’s not exactly a trained detective, he’s an avid reader of noir detective novels and thinks he has what it takes to help other people in true pulp-fashion to solve their crimes.
Jason Schwartzman gives a memorable performance as Jonathan and the crimes he sets out to solve (of which there are many varieties) manage to be entertaining enough. The idea of a writer exploring other options by being a private detective is certainly an interesting concept and the series does a decent job bringing the concept to life. Beyond being a new private detective, Jonathan has other things going on in his life including dealing with his breakup, reporting to his Editor, George Christopher (Ted Danson) and spending time with his best friend, Ray (Zach Galifianakis). At thirty minutes, none of the crimes take that long to solve. In fact, this isn’t a crime show at all, it’s more of a look at the life of an intellectual who decides the best way to cope with his recent setbacks is by becoming, in a way, a character in a detective novel. “Bored to Death” does do a nice job of combining a modern-day television series with a noir-feel including similar crimes, conversations and characters.
The best thing about the series is the unexpected casting. It takes awhile for Jonathan, Ray and George to come together and start working towards helping Jonathan solve his mysteries, but once they do it’s completely enjoyable. While none of the characters are necessarily likeable, there’s something about each of them that make you tune in to see them solve next week’s whodunit. Not only do Schwartzman, Galifianakis and Danson work incredibly well off of one another, the scripts seem to flow better and have more direction when they’re in the same scene.
“Bored to Death” has its highs and lows and its main strengths are definitely concept and casting. The concept came from writer Jonathan Ames who worked on the episodes and who’s main character is named after him. The idea is the kind of thing that people will either want to like or be turned off by. It takes a certain kind of combination of styles to pull off, but if done right it could be fantastic. While I’m sure the story would be fantastic in a novel, the translation to small screen does feel somewhat focused on a single demographic audience. As the series progresses, however, it does start to feel slightly more accessible.
With only eight episodes, it’s hard to fully decide where “Bored to Death” is headed. Hopefully there are more episodes focused on Jonathan, Ray and George, as well as more homage to the classic detective novels.
1 20/Sep/09 Stockholm Syndrome -Heartbroken by a recent breakup, between-books writer Jonathan Ames places an ad on Craigslist offering his unlicensed services as a private investigator.
2 27/Sep/09 The Alanon Case - A woman with a drinking problem hires Jonathan to see if her boyfriend has been cheating.
3 04/Oct/09 The Case of the Missing Screenplay - An ill-advised encounter undermines Jonathan’s chance to rewrite a Jim Jarmusch movie script.
4 11/Oct/09 The Case of the Stolen Skateboard - Jonathan falls for the mother of a boy whose skateboard was stolen by a neighborhood bully.
5 18/Oct/09 The Case of the Lonely White Dove - Jonathan tracks down a Russian chanteuse; George gets in touch with his feminine side.
6 25/Oct/09 The Case of the Beautiful Blackmailer - Jonathan, George, and Ray team up to retrieve a damning sex tape for a married man.
7 01/Nov/09 The Case of the Stolen Sperm - Jonathan and Ray investigate a lesbian black-market scheme; George publishes a scathing editorial directed at his rival, Richard Antrem.
8 08/Nov/09 Take a Dive - George, Jonathan, and Ray step into the ring for a grudge match against their publishing rivals.
VIDEO: HBO presents "Bored to Death" in 1.78:1 (1080p). While a sitcom, the series does have a nice visual style and the transfer presents it reasonably well. Sharpness and detail (aside from a few dimly-lit interiors that looked slightly softer) looked quite good during many scenes. Some minor artifacting appeared on a few occasions, but the picture was otherwise clean and clear. Colors looked bright and rich, with excellent saturation and no smearing. Finally, black level remained solid, while flesh tones looked accurate and natural.
SOUND: The DTS 5.1 soundtrack offers fairly limited activity, with the surrounds only being used for music, ambience and the occasional sound effects. Audio quality was fine, with crisp dialogue and well-recorded music.
EXTRAS: Included on the Blu-ray DVD are: “Making of Bored to Death,” “Jonathan Ames’s Brooklyn,” “Deleted Scenes,” and Audio Commentary.
Final Thoughts:“Bored to Death” has its highs and lows - its main strengths are definitely concept and casting, and the series gets better over the course of the season. The Blu-Ray offers solid audio/video quality, as well as a nice set of supplements. Recommended.