And so it ends, not with a cliffhanger, but with whimpering magazine moguls, a long–sexually frustrated cartoonist (possibly) getting some, and a writer delivering a literary blow to his No. 1 critic. But not before a long windup, which begins with a New Yorker writer (Sarah Vowell) interviewing the brawlers for a “Talk of the Town” piece. Jonathan thwarts a blackmailer (played by Todd Barry) who demands that Jonathan “take a dive” in the match, lest he reveal George’s Viagra habit. George, meanwhile, has Viagra-free sex with his ex-wife, whose idea of pillow talk is to beg him not to knock out her current husband. Jonathan finally hits his writerly stride, but is interrupted by Stella, the hippie-temptress co-op volunteer, who brings over some medical-grade marijuana. They eventually fall into bed after massive tokes from a pot-vaporizer. Stella’s pillow talk inspires Jonathan to write about his double life as a private investigator. Ray’s controlling girlfriend gives him a ringside promise of sex if he stops the fight. The Slate critic attempts to take Jonathan down with insults to his first novel, but falls after Jonathan informs him that the New York Times said Ames’s prose was “lucid.” George ultimately does take a dive. The victorious writer and his sad-sack editor take one last playful spin in the ring, where George offers a quasi-Bueller-esque moral to the ambiguously concluded story: It’s good to stay in the dark about things; it keeps life interesting.
Ding! We have a winner
• Todd Barry masterfully pulls off the creepy boxing blackmailer, who lives in a dank, bottom-floor apartment that’s decorated with Salvation Army–esque furniture and piles of takeout containers. Bonus points for the yellow telephone with a curly cord, circa 1985. Plus 3.
• Stella picks up an Alice Munro short-story collection from Jonathan’s many piles of unshelved books. Ames has said he’s a fan of the Canadian short-story writer, whose work really should be on every aspiring writer’s shelf (or floor pile). Plus 4.
• The amateur boxing match is held in Fort Greene’s Masonic Temple, which originally seemed like a strange choice of location until we looked it up. The place really is host to many a bout. Plus 2.
• The hero’s muse, Stella, cheers him on in a very Brooklyn-girl red, cotton dress that’s straight off the Beacon’s Closet-via-Urban-Outfitters rack. Plus 1.
Down for the Count
• During their training sessions, Jonathan is shown wearing a series of ironic T-shirts, which, apart from being a dated Brooklyn reference, aren’t really the typically corduroy-clad Ames’s steez. Minus 2.
• The critic, played by John Hodgman, prepares for the fight by listening to Ames’s book on white iPod headphones. But everyone knows he’s a PC! Minus 1.
• In the final training scene, George, Ray, and Jonathan are seen speed-walking through Brooklyn Bridge Park. It’s a little far from Fort Greene to be believable, sure, but the real head-scratcher comes when Ray looks upon the glorious landmark and says “Is that a bridge?” He’s a quirky dude, for sure, but he’s also a proud Brooklyner. Minus 1.
• George’s lavish art collection includes a Giacometti statue, and what looks like a Jeff Koons piece, but he’s sleeping in a full-size bed? Not even a queen? This guy wouldn’t put his 3,000-thread-count sheets on anything less than a king-size mattress. Minus 2.
And the believable details win by 5 points! This bodes well for the second season. Even if we’re not exactly biting our nails to find out what happens with these three white dudes and their first-world relationship problems, the love letters to Brooklyn alone are worth the price of HBO.
Pot-lover lovers Stella and Jonathan show some real chemistry (and not just the THC kind). Like the Creative Loafing blog, we think Stella’s urinary tract infection bodes well for their future (it’s also known as “newlyweds disease”).
Onion AV Club commenter “ebbv” gets all meta and suggests that the show would’ve benefited by taking a page from McSweeney’s (whatever that means) and actually having George win the fight. We don’t see the value of George sacrificing another shot at his “highly orgasmic” ex-wife just to beat his rival in an ultimately meaningless boxing match.
Though things were solidifying by this finale, Bored to Death doesn’t know what kind of show it wants to be, as TV Squad points out. It looks like it’s deviating from the conceit of being a noirish detective show, which means less awkward shoehorning of Jonathan Ames into the old gumshoes.