The central conceit of Jonathan Ames’s Bored to Death — that a struggling, pot-addled Brooklyn writer would be driven to moonlighting as a neo-noirish private detective by the show’s titular ennui — is pure fantasy, even if the “cases” that Jonathan Ames (the character) takes on generally stay grounded in reality. The second-season premiere injects even more ripped-from-today’s-headlines truthiness into the proceedings without ever feeling like a procedural: George Christopher is finally losing his carte-blanche expense account.
Ted Danson’s posh, libertine character always seemed to be living in a New York that doesn’t quite exist anymore, with long, martini-soaked meetings at Elaine’s and an office filled with paintings worth more than most print titles still alive and wheezing. The fact that the takeover of Edition (by a right-wing Christian company, no less) means no more lunches at The Four Seasons and no more Orangina is a wake-up call the show could use. “George,” says the corporate fixer played by Mary Kay Place, “you don’t engage in that kind of journalism anymore.”
When we first see Jonathan (meaning Jason Schwartzman, not, like, the actual Jonathan Ames), he’s fleeing from another busted cheating husband and straight for his first night teaching a fiction workshop. His second novel, which he spent most of last season not really writing, has been rejected, and he’s having trouble getting his head around the notion of helping students toward a career that will doubtlessly lead to failure and misery. What was his lark of a side career is quickly in danger of becoming his primary one, the thin blue line that’s keeping him from moving back in with his parents.
A mounted policeman with a thing for forced femininization needs Jonathan’s help erasing his name from the database of an S&M dungeon currently under investigation. Jonathan makes an appointment with Mistress Florence (Third Rock From the Sun’s very tall Kristen Johnston) just so he can fry the receptionist’s computer with a USB drive in two seconds — okay, that’s maybe not a totally realistic way of avoiding police scrutiny — and winds up in a full leather bondage outfit, including a locked-on gimp mask, and is assigned the safe word “eunuch.” When the police raid the club, Jonathan has to escape in that getup, without his wallet or phone, running frantically uptown like a superhero with serious mommy issues, allowing Schwartzman to play manic in a way he doesn’t often get to on the show.
Ray is no help — he’s just been dumped by Leah and is feeling very lachrymose on a Prospect Park bench. And this probably wouldn’t be a good time to reach out to stoner food co-op manager Stella (ex-SNL cast member Jenny Slate), whom Jonathan considers the best thing in his life. So he gets past security at Edition and bangs on the window of the conference room, just as the new board is kicking off their first meeting with the Lord’s Prayer. Ever loyal, George excuses himself and helps his friend unlock his bondage mask. Come to think of it, maybe this isn’t all that realistic, either. But it’s pretty funny.