To go along with their serious dramas, HBO also has several lighthearted dramadies in their scheduling. The third (and seemingly last) season of “Bored to Death” revolves around the lives of three Brooklynites, in particular, continuing with the life of struggling writer turned wanna-be private eye Jonathan Ames (Jason Schwartzman).
From the get-go the focus is on the relationship between Jonathan, his friends Ray (Zach Galifianakis) and his former boss, George Christopher (Ted Danson). The noirish plot has welcoming style. It touches upon all the traditional tropes: there are late night dalliances, arch nemesis’s, stolen identities, dames, gunplay and mystery. Most of it gets solved on a per episode basis however this is not the main focus. The throwback structure of the show resembles late 70’s, early 80’s series like Three’s Company. Each individual episode has simple situations that have easy resolutions but the characters take the most awkward route to get there. However, the true core of the show is the relationship between the three friends. There is the main character, which is named after the show’s writer and creator Jonathan Ames. He has a neurotic disposition that has him saying things like “Platonic is my default sexual setting”and has massive amounts of prescribed medicinal marijuana. He longs to be a tough guy detective but always comes off as diminutive and rather ineffective. Only with the help of his two best friends does he ever accomplish his episodic goals. This role fits perfectly with Schwartzman’s knack of confident self-deprecation. Ames has finished his book and is now focusing more on being a detective which is constantly keeping his life interesting.
Danson’s George Christopher has a gentle, patrirchal-type persona in this show that is full of wisdom and sincere advice. He is honest with everyone he talks too. Not in a brutal way either, but with matter-fact obtuseness. While in his sixties, his youthfulness is almost on parallel with Jonathan and Ray. You can almost see a hint of Sam Malone in George. Danson, even when he’s playing adolescent or foolish (even going back to Cheers) he still comes off with an alpha male charisma that makes him extremely likable. Since he has quit his job, George has opened a new artisanal restaurant that specializes in not allowing cell phones to be used inside the establishment. HE believes people should bond and communicate over meals. During this third season, he also reunites with his extremely quirky daughter and her much older boyfriend.
Ray (Zach Galifianakis) is the funniest yet most frustrating character of the three. He doesn’t seem to have much consistency. He’ll have a scene with where he displays a tender side and then a scene later he says or does something completely juvenile. However, it’s Galifianakis’s acting that holds him together. He’ll start to say something asinine and he keeps going with it until it eventually becomes hilarious. It also doesn’t hurt that he looks like a living teddy bear. Season three introduces his infant son into the mix which creates some challenges for Ray.
There is a classy intelligence to the show displayed foremost by George (Danson) but also exhibited by Jonathan and Ray. They are a close-knit trio who genuinely love each other and treat one another like family. If any one of them is in trouble, they know they can count on the other two to help them out. Not only to the help but they get excited about it and try to make the tenuous situation fun. Much of the time during their stakeouts or spying on people through a monocular is used to help each other with their problems. There are many great moments shared between the three. When Jonathan is wanted by the police, he hides out at Georges place and for comfort they all sleep in the same bed wearing identical pajamas. Another great moment is when George gets excited about a stakeout and hopes they can wear outfits, ending with all them dressed like longshoremen for no apparent reason. Even though these characters are silly they at least are not incompetent. The job always gets done.
Pot also plays a prominent role in the show. It seems to be the go-to cure-all for whenever they have a stressful day. But again, their use of it almost comes off as sophisticated and completely normal. There is a psychological approach to the show that has a hippy-ish vibe. Everyone seems to have thoughtful advice for everyone else, whether it’s George consoling Ray after he’s been kicked out of his house or Jonathan talking to anyone for the various supporting characters he comes across. The characters are strangely relatable because they have human, albeit severe, flaws. You don’t pity them (though they do openly refer to each other as their only friends) and you don’t fully understand them at the same time. These are good people trying to lead good lives even though they always end up in bungled situations.
Juxtaposing the sweet, gentle moments are jarring moments of juvenile and explicit sexual humor and that’s where the show can get confusing. It has a certain schizophrenia to it that makes hard to become completely comfortable. There will be a quasi serious scene that you think will end with a joke but then it just cuts to something else. It is not an overly violent show but they are definitely dealing with adult situations, like when they are spying on people having plushy sex (think animal costumes). “Bored to Death” is ultimately happy with having slightly dramatic storylines without being too weighty or serious. There is a full plot arch to the season and the last minutes wrap up the season as best it could. If there is no season 4 then there are a couple of loose strings but also leaves you with bittersweet satisfaction.
The blu-ray of “Bored to Death: Season 3” is presented in 1080p with a 16:9 Aspect ratio and looks terrific. There is plenty of clarity and depth to the picture. I did not notice any aliasing of macro blocking during the many dark scenes. Colors are realistic and vibrant. This is another top of the line presentation from HBO.
The main soundtrack is given a 5.1 English DTS-HD Master soundtrack that work beautifully for the show that it is. There isn’t a terrible amount of surround sound activity but that is due to the talky nature of the show. The few actions scenes that do crop up bring the surround sound activity with them. There are also French 5.1 and Spanish 2.0 soundtracks.
The extras are light yet interesting. There are four audio commentaries: Schwartzman, Danson and Galifianakis are easily the most entertaining to listen to while the others (Jonathan Ames and Michael Lehmann) are informative but rather dry. The best extra on the discs by far are the little three minute “Inside the Episodes” that has the real Jonathan Ames explaining why he made certain plot choices for each episode. Lastly there are several outtakes for a couple of episodes. As usual, HBO makes it season to get caught up on previous episodes and seasons with recaps of each.
“Bored to Death” (Season 3) is a quirky show that shifts between moments of hilarity, wackiness and genuine scenes of affection. The three main characters create a sublime trifecta within their own universe. They love each other despite all of their flaws and depend on each other immensely. It’s a lovable bunch even if you don’t love everything they do. HBO’s presentation is on a par with their other releases, leaving me with no complaints. Recommended for fans or anyone else who wants to laugh at enjoyable characters.