A year after it first premiered on HBO, fans will finally be able to grab Bored to Death on DVD and Blu-ray, something that seemed like it may never happen. Despite having some of some of the best talent in Hollywood, the show never seemed to find that many viewers—probably because the series doesn’t actually sound all that entertaining. In fact, until you get past the first few episodes you begin to think that the series really was made to bore you to death as it is terribly uninteresting at first glance. But like most things Jason Schwartzman is involved with, things eventually turn interesting and hilarious, which brings about an incredible feeling of relief as something with Schwartzman, Ted Danson and Zach Galifianakis should be nothing short of incredibly entertaining.
Meet Jonathan Ames: writer, romantic, unlicensed private detective. Moonlighting from his job as a novelist and writer for a New York magazine, Jonathan is looking to jettison some heavy emotional baggage (his girlfriend just dumped him, okay?) through an unusual second career of cracking cases of missing persons, espionage and infidelity in the Big Apple.
There admittedly isn’t even much to look at when it comes to this series. There are only eight episodes, but thankfully by the end of the run the uneasiness you feel going into it is eventually washed away. The strange thing about Bored to Death is that while it seems built around the premise that Jonathan is a unlicensed private detective, it doesn’t always crop up in every episode. This is both a blessing and a curse as you expect that from the series, but when it breaks away from it even for a little bit it feels kind of refreshing. It’s definitely not a fully fleshed out series, as it seems to change its ideas and motives frequently…but in that way I suppose it feels much less tied down to its formula than other shows.
With a scant eight episodes (more are on the way though…at some point), it doesn’t give us a whole lot of time to get acquainted with these characters. They’re all kind of depressing in their own right, dealing with broken relationships, broken hearts, or broken careers and while we really don’t see our three leads pair up until the final few episodes in the set (which is when it gets truly interesting—the sixth episode, “The Case of the Beautiful Blackmailer,” is easily the best of the season), the slow build up to it is what makes it feel so rewarding in the end. Plus at that point Jonathan has finally kind of started to get over his break up and it doesn’t feel as much of a mopey show at that point.
Thinking back over the episodes, I realize now how organic the plots and characters seem to be. Nothing feels scripted and whether you credit that to the writers or the actors (or more likely both), you can’t help but deny that it’s definitely a refreshing feeling show (even if it does share similarities to other HBO productions like Flight of the Concords…well, at least without the musical numbers). Of course the actors play a large part of that—whether it’s Danson’s slightly aloof character (“A colonic! I’d like one of those.”) or Galifianakis’s quirky, self-deprecating persona, there is a lot of fantastic little character moments sprinkled throughout this series.
Most importantly, however, the series is entertaining. I had my doubts when I first started watching it, but by the third episode I didn’t want to quit watching. At the same time by the time the eighth episode ended I felt like that was just the right amount of time to spend with these characters—granted I’d watched it all in one sitting, but nonetheless it felt like a nice little journey that came to a close. Every one of our main characters hit a turning point in their characterization and the show seemingly wrapped itself up neatly in the event it wouldn’t return. Thankfully it will (and in a few weeks too), but to prepare for the second season I really can’t Recommend this first season enough. It’s slightly artsy and not quite as slapstick as you’d hope from three comedy gurus (although, again, that sixth episode was a fantastic example of just how funny this series could be if it focused more on the comedic elements), but it is nonetheless a very entertaining way to spend a few hours.
As is usually the case with HBO releases, they don’t do anything half-assed—despite being a mere two discs, the set is about twice the thickness of a standard Blu-ray case as we’re given a nice little slipcase with a digi-pak foldout. Video is a very nicely done AVC encoded 1080p effort that looks pretty flawless—there are a lot of daytime sequences in this film so you get to see a lot of nice New York parks and buildings. Night sequences are few, but the ones that are lit well while at the same time retaining a nice inky blackness about them. Audio is a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix which is sadly quite overkill for such a quiet and dialogue driven show—you really only get the surrounds when there are crowd or party sequences…of course there’s no reason to have it otherwise, so it doesn’t really matter in the end.
Making of Bored to Death: Go behind-the-scenes of the HBO noir-otic comedy series Bored to Death. Features interviews with the cast and crew as well as Jonathan Ames introducing the main characters of the series.
Jonathan Ames’s Brooklyn: Brooklyn’s neighborhoods each have their own distinct personality and are a huge part of Bored to Death. Travel into Brooklyn and inside the mind of Jonathan Ames, on a guided tour with Jonathan and Jason Schwartzman to set locations of the first season of the series.
Four audio commentaries with cast and crew including Jonathan Ames, Jason Schwartzman, Ted Danson and more
It’s a pretty solid set and were it not for the commentaries it would feel a little light—but with half of the season given audio commentaries, it helps it feel like a more rounded collection. Overall a Recommended release to pick up when it comes down the pike in a few weeks.
Bored to Death Arrives on Blu-ray and DVD on September 21st.