'Bored to Death' - 'Escape from the Dungeon!': Bring out the Gimp

The private eye parody returns

<p>Jason Schwartzman in &quot;Bored to Death.&quot;</p>

Jason Schwartzman in "Bored to Death."

Credit: HBO

"Bored to Death" is back for a second season, and while I suspect I'm not going to be writing about it a lot, I have a few thoughts on the premiere and the series in general coming up just as soon as I see the tasting menu...

"Bored to Death" was a show I ran hot and cold on last season. (For a while, it seemed to be following a "Star Trek" movie pattern where only the even-numbered installments were good.) The show seemed to find itself late in season one when George finally got involved in Jonathan's private eye work (and when Jonathan Ames finally realized it might be smart to put Ted Danson and Zach Galifianakis together to see what happened). But I've seen four season two episodes, and as with "Hung" - another HBO quasi-comedy that I liked with reservations in season one, then got frustrated when it failed to evolve in season two - I think I may have hit my limit with this show, these characters and this world.

Specifically, I think I may have hit my limit with Jonathan himself. I enjoy George when he's on his own (here sparring with Mary Kay Place as the fixer for his magazine's new Christian right ownership), ditty Ray, and the group when they're all together. But I find myself losing interest rapidly whenever we're just following Jonathan, in either his personal or PI lives.

Some of that's on Jason Schwartzman, who I think fits perfectly inside the archly-constructed worlds of Wes Anderson films, or something like "Scott Pilgrim," but rarely seems like a recognizable human being anywhere else. Ames is going for a slightly-exaggerated type of reality with the way scenes like Jonathan meeting his client at the police stable are shot as a parody of hard-boiled cliches, yet Schwartzman still feels out-of-sync with the other characters in that portion of the show. I don't really believe anything he says, or in him as a character, and therefore none of the comedy around him works - not even Jonathan running through the streets of Manhattan locked into a leather gimp suit.

I don't know how much of the character is based on Ames other than the name, but I think "Bored to Death" is one of those shows like "How I Met Your Mother," where the central character is a weak link but is too tied to the premise and (at least partly) reflective of the creator to go anywhere.

Love the Emmy-winning main titles, dig Danson and Galifianakis, but otherwise find it to be a trifle. If a later episode really tickles my funny bone, maybe I'll do a post on that, but for now it's not gonna be part of the rotation on an absurdly busy night for cable programming.

What did everybody else think?

Alan-sepinwall-sm
Alan Sepinwall
Sr. Editor, What's Alan Watching
Alan Sepinwall has been reviewing television since the mid-'90s, first for Tony Soprano's hometown paper, The Star-Ledger, and now for HitFix. His new book, "The Revolution Was Televised," about the last 15 years of TV drama, is for sale at Amazon. He can be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com
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