Although HBO has been widely praised (and rightly so) for their ability to cultivate hour-long, original dramas that strike a cultural chord, they haven’t had quite the same record in developing half-hour comedies. For every bold success like Curb Your Enthusiasm or Eastbound & Down, there have been scads of shows like Lucky Louie, Little Britain USA or Summer Heights High that have been rightfully shuffled off to early graves. Which is why when Bored To Death first launched in September of this year, we initially approached novelist Jonathan Ames’s first stab at a television series with a bit of trepidation.
However, over the course of the first season’s eight episodes, your friendly Vulture editors (and even New York television critic Emily Nussbaum) have warmed to the show’s many inherent charms. So we made our way over to the Paley Center for Media in midtown Manhattan last night for a sold-out panel discussion entitled “From Raymond Chandler To Craigslist: HBO’s Bored To Death,” which featured stars Jason Schwartzman and Ted Danson alongside the aforementioned Ames and was moderated by John Hodgman. After the show, Vulture sat down with the gang to get their thoughts about whether not smoking ginseng can get you high, what they think of their Emmy chances, and if the red-hot Zach Galifianakis would return for the show’s second season.
On what drew the cast to forego movie roles and network sitcom riches in order to be a part of Bored To Death:
Jason Schwartzman: “Most of the novelists I love are dead, and Jonathan Ames is alive.”
Jonathan Ames: “HBO suggested Ted and, to be honest, I hadn’t thought of him. I hadn’t imagined the role to be that big.”
Ted Danson: “They did? That’s so cool! […] I think Curb kind of sprung me loose in my head, and maybe in others’s, from the sitcom kind of mold. Part of me really wanted to not have to take a job just to make X amount of money because I felt like, where they were able to pay me the most amount of money is if I do a half-hour network sitcom. It’s tempting. Do I go chase the money, or do I chase something different? I like comedy that comes from sadness, and I love drama that has humor in it. And I love this, this definitely has a layer of complicated, sad, full of foibles. And that to me is really fun.”
Jonathan Ames: “[Ted was good in the pilot that he] immediately killed off two other characters that were in the pilot, because they were ephemeral. Initially, I had imagined the ensemble to be larger.”
On the role that marijuana plays on the show:
Jonathan Ames: “I think it can be a lovely drug, from my memory of it. But it’s definitely not a third character, though the characters do enjoy it. I think there might be something going on in the country with the legalization of it that we’re tapping into. It doesn’t have to be this scary thing, it can be medicinal, and dreamy. I will say one thing. Something arrived in the mail today. This company that makes vaporizers sent me a handheld one that looks like a cell phone.”
Ted Danson: [deadpans] “That was Woody [Harrelson] … But really, just smoke ginseng. Inhale it. Do the pipe. Hold it in, then say something stupid, and you’ll be higher than a kite.”
On whether or not they think that the show will be nominated for any Emmy awards next year:
Ted Danson: “Awards are very complicated. It’s a no-win situation. It draws the worst of your ego to the forefront of your brain. So, I’ve been nominated for awards maybe 14 or 15 times and lost the vast majority of them. So I try not to think about it until the day of, if it happens.”
Jonathan Ames: “Can we have a Major League Baseball All-Star selection instead? I wouldn’t mind us getting nominated for an Emmy because I’d like to go to one of those parties.”
On whether or not Zach Galifianakis will be involved next season:
Ted Danson: “So long as he doesn’t come back with a big head!”
Jonathan Ames: “He’s definitely a part of it. And he wants to be. I think he really enjoys acting with Jason and Ted.”