HBO’s “Bored to Death” panel wins the award for Most Likely To Make Me Want To Watch My Advance Screener When I Get Home, but, then again, it’s already a testimony to how freaking busy I was before I left for California that I couldn’t find the time to check out a series that features a triple-threat cast of Jason Schwartzman, Ted Danson, and Zach Galifianakis. When the panel kicked off with this trailer, however, I knew that, even though much of my pre-TCA time was spent trying to help my wife put together our daughter’s 4th birthday, I’d clearly spent that time poorly.
By the way, that was obviously a joke about spending my time poorly (the party was a huge success), but I’m completely serious about wanting to watch the screener as soon as I get home. In addition to the trailer, though, every single person on the panel was hilarious…even Schwartzman, who appeared via satellite due to filming commitments on “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.”
HBO’s nutshell synopsis of the series…or, at least, the opening paragraph of the press release for the show, which generally tends to be about the same thing…reads as follows: “Jonathan Ames, a young Brooklyn writer, is feeling lost. Heʼs just gone through a painful break-up, thanks in part to his drinking, canʼt write his second novel, and carouses too much with his magazine editor. Rather than face reality, Jonathan turns instead to his fantasies – moonlighting as a private detective – because he wants to be a hero and a man of action.” The idea of Schwartzman as a man of action is funny enough in and of itself, but then you’ve got Danson as the aforementioned magazine editor, Galifianakis as Ames’s eccentric best friend, and a premise (and cast) which lends itself to high-profile guest stars. Basically, if this show isn’t a hit, then it’s at least destined to be remembered as one of the greatest cult sitcoms of all time.
Oh, and did I mention that Jonathan Ames is actually a real person? True story. He’s apparently a rather prolific author, in fact. (My apologies: I wasn’t familiar with him before this.) Having listened to him chat during the panel for “Bored to Death,” I think it’s fair to say that the stars of the shows are going to be in good comedic hands. Personally, I was convinced of this when he was asked to explain why the show – which would appear on the surface to be anything but boring – was given a name which so readily offers journalists a chance to fire back with snarky punchlines.
“It’s a risky title,” admitted Ames. “I had once called one of my books ‘What’s Not to Love,’ fully anticipating them saying, ‘Plenty.’ I also subtitled it ‘The Adventures of a Mild Perverted Young Writer.’ And for the next ten years it was, ‘Perverted Writer Jonathan Ames.’ I’m, like, ‘Oh, God, why wasn’t I like Dave Eggers and put the word ‘genius’ in the title. But ‘Bored to Death,’ the original short story that I wrote, there were dead bodies and the guy was bored, and I thought it was a nice play on the detective story to say ‘Bored to Death,’ to imply the things that were going to happen. And it carried over to the show. What’s interesting is that the lead character is infinitely curious and open to the world, and he’s so curious that he doesn’t have a chance to be bored. But it’s a fun title. And so I hope that the reviewers won’t be like, ‘‘Bored to Death’? We certainly were.’ But I don’t want to write your sentences for you, so just erase that from your mind.”
Throughout the panel, Galifianakis kept everyone laughing, offering up one-liners which only serve to confirm that his current rush of popularity is totally warranted. There were so many, in fact, that I can actually offer you a list of my top ten favorite moments:
10. When asked about building chemistry between himself and Schwartzman, he replied, “Well, it’s always difficult because Jason’s always on satellite.”
9. When he and Schwartzman were jointly asked about committing to a series as their movie careers were thriving, he looked down at his phone, then said to Schartzman, “I just got your text about how you were going to announce that you and I were not coming back to the show.”
8. When a critic wondered if he was feeling the heat from “The Hangover,” he first asked, “From the movie, or from last night?”
7. On why he chose to do “Bored to Death”: “You do a show and you like doing it, and you’re fortunate enough to be working, and that’s the way I see it. If this were a ‘Reba’ sitcom, then maybe it would be an easier decision, but this is something you would want to be part of, so I’m very, very happy.”
6. When it was suggested that he’d appeared in just about every film this year “except that movie about the homicidal orphan,” he snapped, “I did props on that.”
5. On his sudden success: “If I were 26 and this was happening, it would be all great, and I would probably buy like 17 Dodge Vipers. But right now it’s just a major inconvenience.”
4. When asked how many Dodge Vipers he did buy, he first replied, “17,” then recanted and admitted, “I haven’t bought any. They don’t make them in station wagon form.”
3. On the matter of losing time for his stand-up because of his film career, he sighed, “I’m going to really miss the Uncle Chuckles in Tampa.”
2. “I think as soon as I’m a wash-up in a couple of years, I will return to stand-up.”
1. When Ted Danson was asked a question about working predominantly on cable television in recent years rather than on a broadcast network, he went for the joke and said, “For Jason and Zach’s sakes, I was on a show called ‘Cheers.'” Galifianakis promptly one-upped him and replied, “I know, I know, I know! You tell me every five minutes! If it isn’t ‘Cheers,’ it’s fucking ‘Becker‘!”
By the way, after the considerable burst of laughter died down, Danson did get around to answering the question, though he still tried again to score with a joke…and, this time, Zach let him.
“In this show, I play a character who’s struggling with relevance, and I’m finding it really fun and easy to play,” Danson replied. “The good news/bad news is, I think, on cable you’re playing to a smaller audience. You tend to be able to be exactly who you are without trying to water it down and accommodate a committee, so I think the writing seems to be a little more authentic, but the truth is you can find good writing everywhere if you’re lucky. I mean, ‘The Office’ is an amazing show, and that’s on network.”
In conclusion, it should be noted that Schwartzman got the panel’s final laugh: as everyone here in Pasadena said,” Thank you,” he said the same, then reached for his microphone and asked the folks in Toronto, “Am I off with these assholes?”
“Bored to Death” premieres on Sept. 20th on HBO.