Anyone else looking forward to this offbeat comedy about a writer who becomes a fake detective? Is it just me or has HBO slowly transformed from focusing on quality dramas to focusing on sitcoms? Anyway, I wasn’t terribly excited about Bored to Death, despite the excellent cast, until I read this profile of writer/show-creator Jonathan Ames.
In Ames’s novels and essays on life in New York, most of which revolve around self-loathing, loneliness, sexual misadventure, and bodily dysfunction (P.S. they’re comedies), he’s cultivated a style that you might describe, oxymoronically, as uproariously melancholic. Bored to Death reconstitutes this tone for TV; the show is like The Long Goodbye meets The Squid and the Whale. In the tent, Ames says, “I was always drawn to the Philip Marlowe character in Raymond Chandler’s books. He’s so sure of himself! He’s so cool! He drinks black coffee in the morning!” Much of the humor in Bored to Death comes in the juxtaposition of that male archetype—the dapper, tough-talking, hard-boiled Humphrey Bogart type—with the modern-day Brooklyn males of the show, who are in no way cool, or sure, or hard-boiled. They are soft-boiled. Ames (the character); his best friend Ray (Zach Galifianakis); and his mentor, George (Ted Danson), a Graydon Carter–esque magazine editor, are, to varying degrees, infantilized, neurotic, confused, and emotionally inept. When Ray gets upbraided by his girlfriend on the street, he starts crying. When Jonathan is asked by an Israeli mover if he’s “another self-hating New York Jew,” he nods and answers softly, “Yes, I am.”
Bored to Death premieres on HBO, September 20th at 9:30 p.m.