Thrilled To Be "Bored" Again

News that "Bored to Death" is returning as an HBO movie marks another win for quirky TV comedy.

By Jere Hester
|  Wednesday, Jan 23, 2013  |  Updated 6:18 PM EDT
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Ted Danson and Jason Schwartzman go for a spin during season three of "Bored To Death."

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Being a fan of oddball TV comedies that straddle the ever-shifting line of commercial success and cult following necessitates a willingness to accept disappointment along with the laughter. In the last couple years, we’ve lost to cancellation or other dubious decisions the likes of “The Sarah Silverman Program,” “The Life and Times of Tim” and “The Flight of the Conchords,” to name a few funny favorites. 

So forgive us if we get our hopes up at the news that HBO is developing a feature-length version of "Bored to Death,” the canceled neurotic nouveau-noir sitcom starring Jason Schwartzman, Zach Galifianakis and Ted Danson as unlikely pals who smoke pot, solve crimes and struggle with Oedipal issues.
 
The possible return of the three eccentric losers, if even for just 90-or-so more minutes of silly-smart angst and slapstick, marks a victory for fans – and another modest win for quirky TV comedy.

The “Bored” revival reports come as we're awaiting the return of "Arrested Development" on Netflix, seven years after Fox put the bickering Bluth family out of their misery and started ours. Meanwhile, we're losing the reliably madcap "30 Rock" next week after a seven-season run, but are set to head back to the school of the surreal with the long-awaited return of "Community" on NBC Feb. 7. Edgy navel-gazer Louis C.K. is taking a year off from FX’s "Louie," but at least we can occupy ourselves with the self-obsessed denizens of IFC’s “Portlandia.”

While “Bored to Death” is decidedly an acquired taste, its cancellation in late 2011 after three seasons and two dozens episodes proved hard to swallow. For the uninitiated, Schwartzman’s Jonathan is a lovelorn novelist who tries to break his writer’s block and soothe his heartbreak by advertising his services as a private detective on Craigslist. Galifianakis’ Ray is an artist whose comic book alter ego – an, um, ultra-potent superhero named Super Ray – can’t mask his own crippling feelings of powerlessness. Danson’s George is an aging, outwardly suave former big-time magazine editor whose era has passed, leaving him a shadow in a $2,000 suit.

 
They lose themselves in a haze of pot and mystery-driven misadventures that take them through Brooklyn and its environs to S&M dungeons, on lost dogs hunts and to battles against the mob and literary rivals, armed with little more than snappy comebacks.
 
There’s an underlying earnestness and sweetness amid the whimsical weirdness concocted by writer Jonathan Ames. Daddy issues filled the show’s final season, which ended on a cliffhanger of sorts: Ray began to embrace his role as a father – aided by an octogenarian new girlfriend. George reunited with his estranged daughter, who married a man old enough to be George’s brother. Jonathan cracked the biggest case of his life, discovering the identity of his biological father – who also happens to be the secret dad of his new soul mate. Not that Jonathan’s told her yet…
 
As we've noted, to our minds Jonathan, Ray and George represent the funniest TV comedy male trio since “Seinfeld,” which enjoyed a satisfying reunion of sorts in 2009 on HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm," the current cranky king of TV quirk.
 
The influence of “Seinfeld,” which found laughs in low-stakes nothingness, courses through “Bored” and some of our favorites comedies of recent years. Unfortunately, too many of the sons and daughters of “Seinfeld” don’t attract the large audiences Jerry and pals did when they left on top in 1998, in what seems like a distant media era.
 
But we’ll take our victories where we can get them – just like the “Bored” crew, whose shared fantasy world allows them the occasional win. We don’t expect all loose ends tied up in a reunion movie, though some final laughs would be welcome. And there’s nothing boring about that.

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.

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