Review of HBO’s Bored to Death

No show on television right now quite unites Brooklyn culture, high and lowbrow humor, detective work and Ted Danson quite like HBO’s Bored to Death. The show, which airs Sundays at ten, owes its strong following to a stellar cast, featuring Jason Schwartzman, Zach Galifianakis and Ted Danson (plus cameos from John Hodgman, Kristen Wiig and Jenny Slate) and its unique aesthetic: think Wes Anderson meets film noir.

Jason Schwartzman stars as Jonathan Ames (named after creator, Jonathan Ames), a struggling writer turned Craigslisted PI.  Jonathan, after going through a rough breakup, reaching the tail end of a one book career and struggling with his “pot and white wine addiction,” looks to the hard-talking, cocktail-sipping detectives Nick and Nora Charles as inspiration for a kinda life-changing move.  With the help of his nonconformist, always hilarious boss, George (Ted Danson) and his goofy, comic-writing best friend, Ray (Zach Galifianakis), Jonathan moonlights as a detective doggedly chasing the truth, provided the truth doesn’t conflict with NPR scheduling.

Since last season, Jonathan has moved from one breakup to another (with SNL’s Jenny Slate as Stella), picked up a second second job teaching night classes at Brooklyn College and has developed a love of sport coats (they fit his dual aspiration of writer and professor, plus they look so cute!).  His cases so far have included a mounted police officer with a secret fetish, his literary nemesis with suspicions of a cheating wife, vengeful would-be dungeon hackers and a junkie professor looking for a valuable Kerouac collectible.

In this week’s episode, Jonathan is hired by an Indian woman, whose name I can’t find online so I’ll ignore to avoid totally ruining it, who suspects that her limo-driving husband is cheating on her.  Stalking the husband and luring him to the truth with a crossword clue, the husband admits that he is indeed a 42-down, nincompoop.  He’s no cheater, but he’s so ashamed of being let off at work that he spends his days and nights with the daily NY Times puzzle and a coffee instead of admitting the truth to his wife.  Jonathan thinks he can reunite the two, especially because the husband’s misdeeds are out of loyalty to his wife, but in his usual smugly bumbling fashion, tears the two apart.

Meanwhile, George, already fighting prostate cancer, receives notice that his column is to be cut, and spirals into an existential crisis even “medical” marijuana can’t cure.  Needless to say, his guest speech at Jonathan’s class is something of a buzzkill.  Without revealing too much, the culmination of Jonathan and George’s ever-increasing shenanigans finds them in an orange get-away car with a loaded and a very happy Indian man.

Bored to Death has so many good qualities it’s hard to believe.  It is, by far, the most refreshing half hour of television on right now, a quirky, self-effacing nugget of cool.  Even when Jonathan is being his pretentious, liberal elite self (like, all the time), he so earnestly wants to be cool and original that it’s equally tempting to slap him with a rolled up copy of The New Yorker as to send them his references.

courtesy of, Jason Schwartzman plays character Jonathan Ames