Season 1 of 'Bored to Death' has been accused of being too slow; and it does indeed creep slovenly towards fruition. Inertia hangs about the first 2 or 3 episodes like a threatening elephant in the room as we begin to wonder if the whole thing is some sort of clever post-modern parody – is 'Bored to Death' supposed to be actually boring? The immediately apparent lack of plot depth and character development seems intentionally aimed at not engaging its audience into finding sympathy with its characters. The opening sequence of events sees the main protagonist, Jonathon Ames, being left by his girlfriend (she is literally in the moving truck) claiming she feels he drinks too much and smokes too much pot. The sequence feels almost rushed and we are left vaguely suspecting we might need more context; if this is a dark comedy sparked by a break-up, shouldn't the particulars of this be given more weight? In fact we soon find out the gritty reality of Ames' life, his failed relationship and his ex-girlfriend are relatively unimportant both to himself and to the series; the real depth of the drama emanates from the virtual reality world he subsequently creates for himself when he posts an ad listing himself as a private detective on Craigslist. The first episode sees him get his first case which he fumbles his way through as cluelessly and aimlessly as he appears to complete anything else he attempts. He is, in reality, a writer struggling to get started on his second novel, and in this vein, pretty much all of the plot action derives from the central characters creating deliberate distractions from their mundane or 'real' everyday lives. Ames' best friend Ray is played effortlessly from the off by The Hangover's Zack Galifianakis, a struggling animator/cartoonist always trying to distract himself from the miserable reality of his girlfriend, and her children, and her endless 'intimacy exercises' and her withholding of sex. It is worth noting here that not only are all the main characters men, but all the supporting female characters are deliberately underdeveloped and marginalised. This is comedy exploring the inner working minds of men, who seem to need to escape from the tedious reality of the idiosyncratic, nagging behaviour of their female counter parts. However, whilst there is no room for female narrative here, men are ultimately at the butt end of the jokes.
There is however enough real life, every day concern in here to just about anchor the series in the observational comedy arena, as the various complaints of the women are undoubtedly common ones we can all relate to. Despite the obvious inadequacies of our protagonist, Ames is affable and likable. He is polite almost to a fault and has a formality about him that both helps and hinders him in equal measure in his various encounters with the broad ranging characters he meets whilst conducting his detective work (he says he in unlicensed, so he rationalises this is fairer and 'more legal') For the most part, the men are generally insensitive and selfish towards the women in their lives and cut humorously pathetic figures in any of their attempts at reconciliation with them. In the opening episode we see Ames attempt to win his girlfriend back by bemoaning, 'I am living like a pig...I have no toilet paper; no milk!'. Their inadequacies as men in relationships are obvious, but instead of trying harder to fix their problems, they retreat further into a fantasy world now largely facilitated by Ames' detective work. By far the most intriguing and fabulously colourful character is eccentric magazine editor George Christopher played magnificently by a rather dashing looking Ted Danson. Foppish but with an irresistible boyish charm, George is enigmatically enthusiastic about everything and anything that comes his way. Unlike Jonathon and Ray, George is sophisticated and wealthy, but despite having the enthusiasm, drive & romantic sensibilities that the other two lack, even he has been alluded by a meaningful relationship with the opposite sex, leaving him cynical and bored enough to want to constantly smoke pot and invite himself along to whatever Jonathon is doing.
Cannabis is a prevalent element as both a plot device and a central theme, but this is more than just a stoner comedy. 'Bored to Death' is effortlessly stylish; the tone is often flat and inert leaving room for the most subtle of nuances. The laughs often come from the smallest of charming details - an earnest look from Jonathon, the childish enthusiasm from George or a miserable and defeatist remark from the down trodden and vulnerable Ray. They all genuinely have the best of intentions here, but the humour derives from their constant refusal to live in the real world, the world in this case, represented by women. 'Bored to Death' is by no means laugh a minute, but if you scratch just underneath the off-beat sensibility of the humour, you find something all together more interesting. Couple this with the fact that its writer/creator, Jonathon Ames bases the protagonist loosely on himself and we have some interesting musings on the artistic mentality, relationships, drugs and escapism. All in all the series reminds us in charming and subtle detail that men never really grow up.