For mystery and comedy lovers alike, the HBO mystery comedy Bored to Death boasts self-conscious flair, quirky characters, a lovely Brooklyn locale, and a jazzy score. It targets such similar independent audiences as the offbeat TV comedy Flight of the Conchords and Wes Anderson films.
Beneath its sarcastic façade, it's Bored to Death's characters and their interactions that enchant viewers.
The main character, Jonathan Ames (portrayed by Jason Schwartzman), is a writer who is suffering from a challenging second novel and is dumped by his girlfriend in the first episode. His girlfriend claims that, despite his efforts to reduce his drinking and marijuana use, he consumes both excessively.
Jonathan posts a Craigslist ad for his private investigator services after being inspired by a Raymond Chandler novel. His cases—and the difficulties he encounters while attempting to solve them—serve as the framework for this compelling yet humorous mystery show. At the hands of any other actor, Jonathan's antics could grow weary—yet Schwartzman's charm prevents the character from becoming overly sentimental.
Jonathan turns to Ray (played by Zach Galifianakis) when he runs into problems. Ray has a beautiful girlfriend, Leah, but he's also struggling to succeed as a comic book artist. Like Jonathan, he creates Super Ray—a superhero alter ego—to help him navigate his woes.
Ray has a hard time managing his relationships, though he's aware of his habitual behavior: “I'll just act like I'm changing. I can’t change. That is not feasible," he says.
Jonathan and Ray's friendship—and their willingness to go above and beyond for each other—provides an unexpected layer of profound depth to the show. The story of two delusional, narcissistic creative types—bored with themselves and seeking escape from the doldrums of their regular life—has elements of a buddy comedy.
But the true star of the program is Jonathan's tutor George—masterfully portrayed by Ted Danson. The publisher of Edition—a publication purportedly modeled after New York Magazine—wrestles with the apparent demise of print media, in addition to his declining status at work and deteriorating health. Like Jonathan, he enjoys drinking but uses marijuana to counterbalance his habits.
George's flashy, conceited nervousness proves to be a thrill; his passion for anything fresh or novel counterbalances Ray's gloom. Jonathan's quiet neuroticism, on the other hand, grows irritating. He employs Jonathan as a helper, a youth advisor, and a distributor of drugs; his frantic phone calls pleading with him to supply his weed are expertly executed.
The majority of the action is centered around Boerum Hill and Fort Green Park in Brooklyn, New York—with episode five venturing to the Russian neighborhood of Brighton Beach. This departure from New York City as the central hub is notably enjoyable.
Bored to Death adds levity and charm to the standard mystery trope—and provides viewers with an enjoyable escape from the weight of the world (and the sweltering heat of summer.)