Bored to Death Series Premiere: Novel Detective

By
Photo: Paul Schiraldi/HBO
Episode Title
Stockhold Syndrome
Season
1
Episode
1

A Bored to Death game where you drink at each reference to an actual New York person, place, or thing would make for a drunken occasion indeed. Conceived of and written by New York author Jonathan Ames (a.k.a. the Coy Exibitionist), the show follows the exploits of the fictional New York author Jonathan Ames (Jason Schwartzmann!). Fictional Ames is an enigma wrapped in a mystery show.

We open with the New Yorkiest of moving companies, Moishe’s, loading up half the contents of Jonathan’s Brooklyn brownstone apartment — his girlfriend’s leaving him because he won’t give up pot and white wine. The buff Israeli movers ask if he’s “one of those self-hating New York Jews”; Ames assents. All that’s left inside is his white Mac laptop, a few wire hangers, and piles of books — including Raymond Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely. From there it’s hardly a hop, skip, and a jump to the posting of a Craiglist “services offered” ad as an unlicensed private investigator.

Cue the lovable sidekick. At a boho Brooklyn coffehouse, Jonathan meets up with Ray (Zach Galifianakis), a comic-book artist with troubles of his own: His girlfriend fell in love with him because he’s an artist, but since that’s not paying the bills, she wants him to get a day job as a public-school art teacher. But how can he take a job like that when he wakes up at 11 a.m.? (If only he would stumble across a graphic novel about a glamorous, early-rising instructor.)

Back to the action! Jonathan’s playing backgammon online when his first client calls: a Valley Girl by way of Philadelphia, whose NYU-student sister has gone missing. Jonathan dons his tweed jacket, slips the Chandler novel in his pocket, and hops onto a Manhattan-bound F train. At what appears to be Veselka (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist got there first, by the way), the teen tells Jonathan about her sister’s boyfriend, a real hipster villain — he bartends at the Parkside Lounge and sports a neck tattoo.

Real life intervenes! As part of his duties as a sometime journalist, Jonathan must visit a cookie-cutter Chelsea gallery opening populated by a few D-list celebrities. His wacky editor, George Christopher — Ted Danson! — establishes his M.O. by demanding that Jonathan smoke him out in the bathroom. He returns the favor by delivering the show’s guiding concept of a certain brand of New York ennui: “I’m bored to death by a thousand dull conversations. I don’t know what’s going on, but everyone has bad wine breath — it’s like Chernobyl out there.”

Back to the action! Unfortunately. Jonathan finds the hipster villain at a by-the-hour motel, smoking meth and begging his ex — the missing woman — to take him back (she’s tied to the bed and has a washcloth stuffed in her mouth). The hooker next door calls the cops, who break up the fiasco and send everyone home.

The next day, Jonathan meets Ray outside their coffeehouse, where the sidewalk’s littered with strollers. “Some early postnatal-yoga class exploded,” Ray explains. “It’s like a nursery in there.” If you were wondering when they’d get to the Brooklyn breeders gag, that’s one mystery solved.