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Bored to Death: Sex, Misleading Characterizations, and Video Tape

Our detective and his sidekick Ray decamp from their home turf to meet a client in New Jersey. (Or, more accurately, Queens. But we'll get to that later.) The client, a sad-sack, math-teacher type, turned to Craigslist after an e-mail–order mistress turned out to be a blackmailer (or "sextortionist," as George brilliantly describes her). She filmed their affair and is threatening to show the videos to his wife. Because Jonathan finally came clean to George about his second life as an investigator, George forgoes a Gay Talese party in favor of tagging along on the job. While Ray and George hang back in the getaway Subaru for a weed session, Jonathan meets the sextortionist — and he, too, falls prey to her womanly wiles. Afterward, she of course tries to work her blackmail magic on him (and her pimplike brother busts into the room and threatens to kill Jonathan if he doesn't pony up some dough). The girl eventually turns over the tapes — and then they plow right into a cop car. George is thoroughly entertained, and commissions Ray and Jonathan to collaborate on a comic about the caper. Oh, and he'll also get them out of the police-cruiser mess: The magazine's lawyer will take care of everything.

On the plus side ...
Edition, the magazine that Jonathan writes for, looks like a carbon copy of a certain New York magazine (ahem). Crazy George might not be the kind of editor this fine magazine would ever employ, but props to the art department for nailing the design. Plus 2.

• A spy-store clerk would be creepier than the adorable and witty Patton Oswalt, but it doesn't matter because he so accurately and hilariously nicknames Jonathan "Sunday Styles." Plus 3.

• George's assignment to Jonathan and Ray — "comics are hot," he says — makes sense. As does his rejection of the one depicting Ray's siring of the lesbians' baby ("too spermy"). Plus 3.

• Through some remarkably rapid Googling, the sexploiting siren learns a lot about Jonathan, including that the Amazon.com rank of his first novel, I Pass Like Night, is 447,000. The real rank is 46,000. We're going to assume she mistakenly added a digit. Plus 2.

Negative!
• That alleged New Jersey diner where Jonathan meets his client? It's reminiscent of the one in the final scene of The Sopranos, and it was apparently used for a Goodfellas shoot, but it's not in Jersey: It's the Clinton Diner in Maspeth, Queens. Minus 3.

• Jonathan swings by the Edition office to pick up "the new Paul Auster book" George has asked him to review. The sad truth for Auster is that his new book, Invisible (which is out tomorrow), has gone unseen on most prominent book-review pages. Minus 2.

• The editor's sprawling office is minimally decorated, save for a Chuck Close–esque portrait of George. The replica is pretty awesome, but George's self-loathing would never allow for such a thing. Minus 1.

• In their brief time in the motel, Jonathan manages to deliver two orgasms to the blackmailing sexpot. The guy who portrayed pipsqueak Max Fischer is all grown up, but the bumbling writer he portrays wouldn't be so smooth with this criminal. Minus 1.

Esquire was going to pay Ray $5,000 for his sperm-donor comic. Not likely in this climate. Minus 3.

Edition has a criminal lawyer on retainer? Not likely in this climate. Minus 3.

So, thanks to the skewed portrayal of the publishing industry and New Jersey, we end up three points on the negative side of reality. If humor were the gauge, though, this amusing episode would have us sold — finally.

Photo: Paul Schiraldi/HBO