September 21st, 2009


Bored to Death

Jonathan Ames' (Jason Schwartzman) girlfriend of undetermined length moves out on him one day, and in the world of quirky indie filmmaking, that would be enough to launch an entire film's worth of plot about soul-searching and growing up, since the woman in these relationships is generally perfect and the man is a walking mess of arrested development. In Bored to Death, this is exactly what happens because it is, in essence, a quirky indie film turned into an HBO Sunday night series. It's everything you've seen in every quirky indie film from The Squid and the Whale to I Heart Huckabees, only not as well developed.

The show isn't entirely bad. Some of the writing is clever, and I really love the idea--a frustrated Brooklyn novelist decides to become a private detective by advertising his services on Craigslist. (Though the cliché of a writer struggling to write his second novel after a successful first one has become overused, in my opinion, and no longer welcome.) In some ways it reminded me pleasantly of pgtremblay's novel The Little Sleep, in that both protagonists are actually terrible detectives. However, the reason for Jonathan's decision to place the ad is left mostly unexplored. We do see him reading Chandler's Farewell, My Lovely after his girlfriend leaves him, but that's hardly enough. In a later scene there are hints Jonathan wants to be a hero, wants to matter to someone, but narratively that revelation should have come before he takes the action to change his life, not after. It's an "I want" moment, not an "I wanted" moment.

Still, with Ted Danson's involvement as a drugged-out social guru and Schwartzman's likability, Bored to Death has the potential to be something better. The only question is, will this overly self-conscious series reach that potential before its title comes true?



Oh, Heroes, Why Must You Be This Way?

Dear Heroes,

Having a character who is a tattooed lady and actually naming her Lydia isn't clever, it's just lazy. Also lazy is having the opening scene of tonight's season premiere be a near carbon copy of the opening scene of HBO's series Carnivale from 2003. Just because it was six years ago doesn't mean it wasn't instantly recognizable.


P.S. At least the season premiere didn't feature your usual "frightening vision of the future that must be stopped" this time. That's something anyway.

P.P.S. Surely by now someone realizes The Haitian has an actual name, right? The Haitian isn't a cool nickname like The Batman or The Hulk, it's simply referring to someone as being from somewhere, but because The Haitian is black and everyone else, all of whom are addressed by name, is white, the whole concept comes off with a gross undertone you'd think you would want to avoid if you had any kind of self-awareness at all.

P.P.P.S. Why am I still watching you?