HBO // 2010 // 240 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // October 4th, 2011
A noir-rotic comedy.
"Nobody disobeys a handwritten sign."
Jonathan Ames (Jason Schwartzman, I Heart Huckabees) is struggling writer unsuccessfully attempting to find a worthy way to follow his moderately well-regarded literary debut. To make a living, he teaches night school classes, continues doing work for a magazine run by Jonathan's friend George (Ted Danson, Cheers) and occasionally moonlights as a private investigator (despite the lack of a license or any experience whatsoever). When Jonathan isn't attempting to scrounge up a few bucks, he's often spending time with his increasingly depressed pal Ray (Zach Galifianakis, The Hangover). Over the course of this season, Jonathan, George, and Ray will find themselves getting into another series of peculiar misadventures.
It took a while for Bored to Death to find its rhythm, but it's finally getting there. The first season of Jonathan Ames' totally-not-autobiographical comedy series offered quite a few pleasures, but never quite managed to successfully convince us that the silly show about a failed writer playing at being a Raymond Chandler-esque private eye should also be the more typically HBO-y show about a young man dealing with relationship problems, writer's block and complicated friendships. Making the matter even more complicated was the fact that the detective material came and went at random; it was the center of attention during some episodes and completely ignored during others. On top of that, Jonathan Ames' fondness for veering between giddily silly whimsy and quieter, more naturalistic comic material made the show feel rather fractured tonally.
None of those complications has changed much in Bored to Death: The Complete Second Season, but somehow the show seems to have gotten better at juggling its seemingly conflicting elements. Part of it may be that we've had time to acclimate to Ames' oddball rhythms, but he's also done a good deal of attentive fine-tuning. At its own lackadaisical pace, Bored to Death has quietly crossed the line from merely chuckle-inducing to laugh-out-loud funny, and a huge part of that has to do with the increasingly impressive chemistry between the leads.
The first season was about Jonathan, and was primarily concerned with the other characters in terms of their relationships with him. However, somebody smartly realized that Bored to Death was vastly better as an ensemble piece, so this time around the show contrives numerous ways to get the unlikely trio of Jonathan, Ray and George to spend a good deal of time together (including a wildly entertaining trip to a spa which eventually transforms into a variation on Some Like it Hot). The interaction between the guys is undoubtedly the highlight of the show, and observing their assorted reactions to the exceedingly odd situations they find themselves in is a delight.
It took a little while for their characters to find their footing, but the actors have now fully inhabited their roles and are clearly having a grand time. Schwartzman is a perfect fit for Jonathan, delivering both the naïve earnestness and the brooding, harmlessly temperamental behavior the role requires. Galifianakis gets to play a character a bit more intelligent than most of his movie roles, but he still brings so much humor to his scenes of weary self-loathing. The best of the bunch is Danson, who's graduated into an exquisitely distinctive comedic presence. He nails every sigh and unintentionally self-absorbed confession with impressive ease; wringing every last drop of comic joy out of every one of George's lines. Two great recurring characters also continue to make an impression: Oliver Platt (2012) as George's increasingly friendly rival, and John Hodgeman (The Daily Show) as Jonathan's increasingly devious nemesis.
Bored to Death: The Complete Second Season arrives on Blu-ray sporting an exceptional 1080p/1.78:1 transfer. The level of detail is superb throughout, flesh tones are warm and natural, darker scenes are impressively nuanced and colors have a lot of pop. It's a sturdy HD release which delivers everything this modest little show deserves. Audio is also solid, though a bit less striking than the picture quality. This is largely a dialogue-driven track, as sound design tends to be minimal and rather repressed. Even louder scenes are on the front-heavy side; there's nothing I would describe as immersive. Still, the track is clean and crisp. Supplements include five commentary tracks with a mix of cast and crew members (with an emphasis on Ames and Schwartzman -- Galifianakis is nowhere to be found, I'm afraid), a featurette entitled "Bored to Death: Inside the Mind of Jonathan Ames" (21 minutes), some outtakes and some deleted scenes.
One man's splendid artistic freedom is another man's tiresome self-indulgence. Much like FX's Louie, Bored to Death is a show that can seemingly wander almost anywhere it wants to from week to week. More often than not, this pays off (and keeps the show from ever falling into a dull routine), but occasionally it can lead to subplots that never really go anywhere or scenes that feel like they're killing time and waiting for something wonderful to emerge. Thankfully, something frequently does.
If you liked (or at least kinda liked) the first season of Bored to Death, then I highly recommend digging into its sophomore effort. The show has grown funnier, friskier and richer, and I'm greatly anticipating the further adventures of these guys.
Review content copyright © 2011 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 240 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Episode Commentaries
* Deleted Scenes
* Official Site