Monday, May 11, 2020

Something to Watch if You're "Bored to Death"

From the opening credits of "Bored to Death"
I was feeling a little, well, bored to death while sheltering at home, so it seemed like the kiss of Kismet when I noticed that Amazon Prime is running the 2009-2011 HBO Series Bored to Death through 5/21.

I knew I would like it right away when, in the cartoon-drawn opening credits, Ted Danson's character George hands a joint to Jason Schwartzman playing Jonathan, an insecure writer who tries his hand at being an "unlicensed" private detective after reading too many Raymond Chandler novels.

The show almost has social distancing
down (with Olivia Thirlby).
In the pilot episode Jonathan loses his girlfriend (Olivia Thirlby, from The Wackness) because he won't stop drinking and smoking pot. He cuts down to white wine, but smokes in almost every episode with his friends George, a womanizing magazine publisher, and Ray, an infantile cartoonist played by the always-funny Zach Galifianakis, who's probably most famous for lighting up a joint on Real Time with Bill Maher.

Jonathan hilariously captures his prey with kindness, acting more as a psychotherapist than a detective much of the time. But as the series evolves he finds his courage, as does Ray, whose spoofy cartoon character "Super Ray" gains his powers when his huge penis touches a subway rail. (Yes, we're in New York City.) Ray and George bond over some weed-fueled revelations while they wait for Jonathan on a stake out, leading to more madcap adventures.

Jonathan (Jason Schwartzman) and Stella (Jenny Slate) on a date. 
One of the girls gets to have her ganja fun when Jonathan meets the pro-pot Stella played by comedienne Jenny Slate. "She's beautiful, she's Jewish, and she's got a great vaporizer," he says after Stella invites him over to try her new Volcano vaporizer.

Mary Kay Place—who puffed pot in The Big Chill (1983) and I'll See You In My Dreams (2015)—plays a corporate executive at George's company who puts him through a drug test in the episode titled, "I've Been Living Like a Demented God!" (Other titles are, "Nothing I Can't Handle by Running Away" and "The Case of the Grievous Clerical Error!")

Lots of other funny folks show up in guest spots, like Babe Neuwirth, Kristin Wiig, Sarah Silverman, Samantha Bee, Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt, John Hodgman, Patton Oswalt, Stacy Keach (who played the bumbling cop in Cheech & Chong movies), and Kate Micucci from Garfunkel and Oates.

Mary Steenburgen and Ted Danson in "Bored to Death"
By the third and final season George finds a soulmate in his real-life wife Mary Steenburgen playing his singing coach Josephine, who pronounces after they smoke in bed, "And you're a pothead, so we're doubly perfect."

Ray has a dalliance with a grandmother figure played by Olympia Dukakis (who played the pot-proffering landlady Mrs. Madrigal in Tales of the City), and Jonathan meets his match in Isla Fisher (Mary Jane from the Scooby Doo movie), who dazzles him with her detective skills.

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