Arts Desk

Jonathan Ames and the World of Bored to Death, Considered

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Eunuch! If you watched the season two premiere of Bored to Death last week, then that exclamation means something. If you didn’t, then you might be feeling a little awkward right now.

SPOILER ALERT

The episode was all about dropping major obstacles in the cast’s path. Ted Danson’s George Christopher is dealing with the takeover of his magazine, Zach Galifianakis’ Ray Hueston gets dumped by Leah, and Jason Schwartzman’s Jonathan Ames needs to break into a dominatrix’s brothel and erase a hard drive so that a sub-loving NYPD mountie doesn’t lose his job. There are also frequent sidebars about the characters’ sexual dysfunctions and proclivities. Readers of Ames’ works, such as The Extra Man and The Double Life Is Twice As Good, already know that he is a complete and total freak. Though there were certainly elements of that in the first season, in this new season Ames seems to be flaunting his sexual explorations even more brazenly (Clue: Imagine an “S&M snorkeling outfit” and the safety word “eunuch”).

Unfortunately, there’s just too much going on for half an hour of television, even if this is HBO. As elements keep getting piled on to the screen, you just want to yell “Cut” and start screaming for a rewrite. Ames crafted one of the most intriguing alt.universes out there with the first season of Bored to Death, but his latest offering is just too far reaching and unfocused. Hopefully, now that the stage is set, Ames will remember that moderation and focus are a good thing when it comes to making television, even if that doesn’t apply to his fictionalized sex lives. Fingers are crossed.

This second season debut coincides with the release of the first season on DVD and Blu-ray, as well as the release of Bored to Death’s kickass soundrack. The soundtrack includes snippets from the show between almost all the tracks, so you can continually relive the moment when Ted Danson’s character wonders aloud, “Are we too stoned? My feet feel really interesting in my shoes.”  These moments are sure to be particularly amusing to people who are as high as Danson’s character, because they almost unexpectedly pop up between songs, like the crying baby that makes its surprise appearance at the end of the Verve’s Urban Hymns. As well as Coconut Records’ (aka Jason Schwartzman) jazz noir theme song, there are top-notch tunes here from TV On The Radio, Freelance Whales, M. Ward and Zoeey Deschanel, Lykke Li, and The Explorers Club. Both this soundtrack and the first season collection are strong reminders of Ames’ potential, even if the season premiere doesn’t live up to it. 

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