Bored to Death -- TV Review

Benjamin Walker
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 13:  Actor Benjamin Walker attends the "Bloody Bloody Jackson" opening night after party at Brasserie 8 1/2 on October 13, 2010 in New York City.

With a name like "Bored to Death," HBO's new comedy series presents tempting low-hanging fruit to a TV critic. Nevertheless, in the interest of accuracy and originality, I'll resist.

Besides, the truth is that boredom is not the biggest problem. It is not hard to muster enthusiasm for any series that combines the performances of Jason Schwartzman, Ted Danson and Zach Galifianakis.

Not just that, but the premise has potential. Schwartzman plays a version of series producer/writer Jonathan Ames. In this single-camera comedy, Ames is a mentally blocked writer who is unable to create a follow-up to his first, successful novel. So he mostly gives up trying and busies himself with the consumption of copious amounts of white wine and marijuana, all the while avoiding emotional commitments.

He becomes so oblivious that, in the premiere, he doesn't fully grasp that his patient girlfriend Suzanne (Olivia Thirlby) is leaving him until after the movers finish loading all of her possessions. By then, of course, his protestations of love and his promises to reform are too little, too late.

A little later, Ames stumbles on the idea of advertising his services as an unlicensed private detective. It is a situation rife with possibilities for humor and stories with fascinating twists and turns. Only, as executed in "Bored," the humor is so subdued and the stories so unsurprising that there is nothing to divert your attention from the fact that you're watching someone whose life is far less interesting than your own.

Thankfully, there's still Danson, who plays George, Jonathan's depraved, lecherous magazine editor, and Galifianakis, who is Ray, Jonathan's best friend and a cartoon-drawing slacker. Much of what is funny in this series involves Ray's yin-yang relationship with live-in girlfriend Leah and the inescapable realization that men will endure anything, including colonics and counseling, for coitus.

"Bored" prefers droll to funny. Almost implicit in its tone is the attitude that viewers should be satisfied merely hanging out with the literati of New York, flawed though they might be, and not hope for compelling stories and charismatic characters, as well.

Ironically, that is the exact opposite of the approach taken by Larry David in "Curb Your Enthusiasm," the comedy with which "Bored" has been paired. For David, Hollywood life and big-name guest stars are merely the starting point from which the real comedy evolves. David makes it look so easy that any talented author, like Ames, might think his life contains the kernel of a great TV comedy. That's not necessarily true.

Airdate: 9:30-10 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 20 (HBO)
Production: An HBO Original production
Cast: Jason Schwartzman, Ted Danson, Zach Galifianakis, Olivia Thirlby
Executive producers: Jonathan Ames, Sarah Condon, Stephanie Davis, Dave Becky, Troy Miller
Co-executive producer: Tracey Baird
Producer: Anna Dokoza
Produced by: Michael Stricks
Consulting producer: Paul Simms
Director: Alan Taylor
Writer: Jonathan Ames
Director of photography: Vanja Cernjul
Production designer: Rick Butler
Editor: Malcolm Jamieson
Music supervisor: Michael Hill
Set decorator: Chuck Potter
Casting: Kim Miscia, Beth Bowling