Saturday, September 19, 2009

HBO's Bored to Death

So... are you a fan of Rushmore? This is a movie that seems to have divided more people I know than just about any film. There are those who fiercely love it (that's my hand raised right there). There are those who fiercely hate it. And there are those who watched it, didn't care for it, and are baffled at the love other people show for it.

If you loved it, then you've probably followed more of what Jason Schwartzman -- the lead in that movie -- did after Rushmore. He's been in other movies, he's played in a band, he's still a Coppola... and now he's starring in HBO's new comedy series, "Bored to Death."

Do you like Damages? Just when you thought Ted Danson had done his best work on Cheers, and no amount of Beckers or guest spots were ever going to revive that career (with the exception of the awesome stuff he did on Curb Your Enthusiasm), he shows up as the slimy yet difficult-to-read Arthur Frobisher on Damages, and I, for one, went, "Sam who??" He is BRILLIANT on that show... and now he's starring in "Bored to Death."

Did you see The Hangover? Some people went to see it because of that poster with the guys and the baby. Ed Helms is hilarious (and very Ed Helmsy). Bradley Cooper FINALLY leads a movie, something Alias fans have known for years that he was quite capable of doing. But the real standout was Zach Galifianakis. You may have seen his sardonic standup over the years (it's pretty much like the character in the movie) but for a lot of people, he just came from out of nowhere and stole that film. And now he's co-starring in... well, I think you get the picture.

Bored to Death will appeal to fans of any of the above. It's is the story of Jonathan Ames, a writer who's made a name for himself with his first novel, and now is having that horrible second-book writer's block. His girlfriend has just left him, and as he commiserates with his best friend Ray (Galifianakis), a comic book artist, about women who love you for being an artiste and then leave you when reality sets in, he tries to figure out how he's going to start writing again. Meanwhile, his neurotic boss, George (Danson), the editor of a high-profile New York magazine that Ames writes for, is on his back about writing material for the magazine and supplying his re-emerging need for pot. After reading a Raymond Chandler novel for inspiration, Jonathan decides on a whim to drop an ad onto Craigslist saying he's an unlicensed private detective with reasonable rates, specializing in missing persons. Within hours, he gets his first assignment.

The result is messed-up, complicated, and hilarious. By following through on the job, Ames reveals himself as a lousy detective, and an even lousier human being, so caught up in his own problems he's not really equipped to be dealing with anyone else's. In between hunting down missing persons, he confides in Ray, who provides some of the biggest laughs and will make anyone who loved "The Hangover" want to watch this show (yes, he's pretty much the same character). I think I'll be laughing about the phrase "falcon hat" for weeks to come.

When I first read a brief synopsis, I thought, "That's strange they named him after a real novelist," having been a fan of Jonathan Ames' work (he writes absurd fiction, like "Wake Up, Sir," a novel about a layabout who suddenly comes into money, so he decides he'll hire a personal valet named Jeeves to just follow him around everywhere) and it turns out... the show is created by Jonathan Ames, who thought it would be funny to give his main loser the same name as himself. The show is a lot like Ames' fiction -- surreal, strange, filled with annoying people who all work against the main character in the same way people are always keeping Larry David down on Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Danson is insane, Schwartzman is really funny, and Galifianikis is hilarious. The writing is crisp, the acting is great, and the way the other characters are eventually intertwined into Jonathan's schemes is brilliant.

Bored to Death premieres Sunday, September 20 at 9:30p.m. on HBO in the US and HBO Canada in Canada.


Corey said...

I love Rushmore, my wife not so much. She looked at me like "what's wrong with you?" Weird, because she loves all other Wes Anderson.

Anonymous said...

this show is AWESOME!!!