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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

November 4, 2010 at 10:45 AM

Hooked on “Bored to Death”

Perhaps you’ve noticed that Zach Galifianakis is everywhere these days: in the movies (the disappointing “Due Date” opening tomorrow; “It’s Kind of a Funny Story”), on talk shows, and where I like him best — on the HBO series “Bored to Death.” Anyone else watching this? It’s one of those shows that sneaks up on you; at first I was mildly irritated by the show’s tone of hipster cuteness and then realized, a few episodes in, that I loved it. “Bored to Death” is a sort of noir-ish comedy about a young failed novelist (Jason Schwartzman, playing Jonathan Ames, the real-life non-failed novelist who created and writes the series) who, after his girlfriend dumps him and takes the furniture from their apartment, fills his empty days as an amateur detective. He’s not very good, but he’s trying, and that’s part of the charm.
And the show is also, unexpectedly, a tribute to friendship; a sort of Three-Musketeers-in-Brooklyn tale. Galifianakis plays Jonathan’s best friend Ray, an illustrator/comic book writer/slacker who’s created a superhero alter ego best left undescribed here (but very funny). And, in a master stroke of casting, Ted Danson plays magazine editor George, who admires Jonathan’s work and has befriended the young writer. (It’s as if Sam Malone, from “Cheers,” went gray, developed a patina of wealth and sophistication, and never raised his voice above a purr.) These three very different performers blend together perfectly; it’s a kick to watch them playing with the show’s smart dialogue. (On a recent show, Ray asked the name of a sultry woman at a bar. “I’m Trouble,” she deadpanned. “That was my mother’s name,” he shoots back.)
Here’s a minute from Season 1 (the show’s currently midway through its second season). Watch how Galifianakis’s Ray is constantly and hilariously on his guard against being insulted, and how the barista (played by Antonique Smith, and would someone please give this woman a recurring role, or maybe her own show?) has their number from the first second of the conversation — which is usually what happens to Jonathan and Ray. (“If you don’t know where they live, how do you know they’re missing?”) And, if I’m remembering correctly, the capper happens after this clip cuts out but before the scene ends: Ray, defensively, returns to toss a few coins — clearly small ones — into the tip jar. Which doesn’t help.

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