Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Bored to Death 1.1 'Stockholm Syndrome'

“Can we at least take the wash cloth out of her mouth?” – Ames

I’ve been waiting nearly two years to see Bored to Death and now thanks to Sky Atlantic it’s finally happened, better late than never as they say.

Without ever having actually seen an episode I knew in my bones that this was a show I was going to enjoy. It had all the right ingredients for something I would savour, even with Jason Schwartzman – who I’ve never really ‘got’ – in the lead role; with Zach Galifianakis and Ted Danson on board though to me this was a dynamite lead short of dream casting. Coming from HBO as well is usually a good omen so Bored had quite a big upside and purely from an ignorant standpoint not a lot of a downside to me.

After finally having seen an episode now though I can say that what I expected and what I saw last night are widely different but not necessarily in the bad way that some people have obviously seen things.

No, Bored to Death is not as funny as I and clearly some others would have expected/hoped, but there are enough wry giggles and occasional belly laughs for this to still be considered a ‘comedy’. The show makes no bones about being a noir and that is where many people seem to have got the wrong end of the stick with Bored, it isn’t meant to be a modern spin on the noir or some sort of spoof, it is a homage to the Raymond Chandlers of the world, and in that sense Bored is a soaring triumph.

Schwartzman plays struggling writer Jonathan Ames, addicted to pot and white wine and recently dumped by his live-in girlfriend, his life is a mirror image of the title.

That all changes though in a Chandler and white wine induced haze as he inexplicably puts an ad on Craigslist as a private investigator. Within a day he has his first case and quickly sets about solving it in the most useless way possible; although to be fair to him he does actually solve the case, if there even is a case to be solved at all.

‘Stockholm Syndrome’ revolved around a missing girl whose sister suspected had been abducted or worse by her meth-head bartender boyfriend. Ames didn’t need to do much investigating on this one as the sister sent him straight to the boyfriend’s place of work, where a quick bribe found him at the hotel where the boyfriend had the missing sister tied to the bed and gagged with a flannel.

After nearly being burned with a fire lighter, Ames managed to strike up a bit of a bond with the British boyfriend over their mutual lack of success with their respective women. Before they could share some narcotics though they were interrupted by the cops and so ended Ames’s first case and his career as a P.I. or so it seemed, because come the end credits Ames was back in the game taking on his second case. Let’s just hope his “reasonable rates” include expenses this time.

Like Ames, Stockholm syndrome as a concept has always fascinated me but unfortunately the actual syndrome itself wasn’t really prevalent here, it was only referenced vaguely by the boyfriend as the reason he had tied his estranged lady to the bed, hoping she would fall in love, again, with her captor. A ridiculous case for a show that will no doubt be full of them, the joke is that Ames’ life as a P.I. will be far less glamorous than the lives of those depicted in Chandler’s novels; I get the sense that this is lost on some people who seem to be expecting the unlicensed inexperienced Ames to be taking down big companies and CEOs.

I enjoyed the vibe of this opening episode and I’ll definitely be back for more as the show hopefully grows as it develops and finds its feet more but my one gripe was the lack of Danson and Galifianakis.

The thirty minute HBO shows always feel to short to me, I find this a common problem with Entourage – just as you’re really getting in to things, the episode finishes. The same can be said here of Bored to Death, by the time they’d finished introducing all the characters there was little to no time left for the case itself which is ultimately why Ames’s first venture into private dickery seemed so low key. This timing issue is also why the supporting players were featured so little, hopefully though as the weeks progress we will see Danson and Galifianakis more involved with the case of the week.

Danson in particular I’m really looking forward to seeing playing against his usual type as a sex, drugs and alcohol abusing city slicker who really should know better. Galifianakis on the other hand felt a little wasted here, but maybe that’s because I’ve become used to seeing him in the man-child roles he’s become known for on the big screen rather than the tamer by comparison cartoonist he plays here.

One big character I enjoyed in this opener though was New York City. As a big New York lover I always enjoy watching shows set in the Big Apple, even more so if they are filmed on location as this and the excellent Blue Bloods are at present. I get a kick out of spotting all the locations and seeing if I’ve actually frequented any of the same spots on one of my jaunts.

Bored is by no means going to be a ratings-winner for the surprisingly under-performing Sky Atlantic but it is a fun way to spend half an hour; pilot episodes aren’t meant to be polished works of genius but I’m confident Bored to Death has the right weapons in its arsenal to develop into a really great little show.

Bored to Death continues on Sky Atlantic next Monday @ 10.20pm


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