After the season premiere of Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, HBO’s new program, Bored To Death, made its debut Sunday night. The series, created by Brooklyn novelist Jonathan Ames, stars Jason Schwartzman (Rushmore) as Ames.
Based on a story he published in the magazine McSweeney’s, the fictional Ames is struggling with his second novel and has just gone through a bad breakup with his long-term girlfriend over his alcoholism and marijuana addiction.
A depressed Ames drowns his sorrow in pulp detective novels, then decides to advertise himself on Craigslist as a private eye.
Unlike in the story, the show gives the reason for Ames’ actions. Ames antics are the result of his search for a purpose, and possibly also the result of his dull life as a writer. The debut episode shows how Ames’ lack of qualifications as a private detective bring about cases of missing persons and cheating spouses. He is contacted by a girl who cannot reach her sister and suspects that her abusive boyfriend may have kidnapped her.
Asking for only $100 a day, Ames is hired and goes on a chase to locate the missing girl, who he finds tied to a bed in a motel room by her now ex-boyfriend. His ability to relate with the recently dumped kidnapper allows for Ames to comedically patch things up between the two.
The pilot episode is rather low-key, though it introduces the supporting characters.
There’s Jonathan’s best friend, Ray Hueston (Zach Galifianakis), a comic book artist who is in an unsatisfying relationship with a clingy, tightly wound single mom, who seems to see him more as a project than a lover (she withholds sex until he gets, among other things, therapy and a cleansing colonic).
And there’s Ted Danson, in a scene-stealing role as George Christopher, socialite and editor of a magazine that Jonathan freelances for. Danson’s character uses Jonathan as a sort of on-call pot hookup and last minute companion. Their interesting relationship and the conflict and tensions that it could easily present provide a lot of comic situations for the show. The characters are sure to bring interesting side plots for Ames to explore as he is moonlighting.
Jonathan’s cluelessness about life is so pronounced it might as well be a third arm. He’s empathetic yet selfish, sweet and uncalculating yet infuriating. Innocent and pure, he doesn’t know any better than to tell his ex-girlfriend Suzanne that he misses the life she made for him: “I’m living like an animal. I have no toilet paper, no food, no toothpaste.” The character’s cluelessness is endearing and, due to Schwartzman’s clever acting choices, does not come off too strongly.
The interesting characters and clever writing behind Bored to Death are sure to keep the show interesting. By the looks of the pilot the show, Bored to Death should become the detective screw-ball comedy that viewers will love.