Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Graphically Speaking: Bored to Death

Words: Christopher Irving . Picture: Seth Kushner

Bored to Death, the new HBO series from writer Jonathan Ames, is anything but, as Ames puts an avatar of himself in the driver’s seat as the main character. Jason Schwartzman plays Ames, down on his luck the day his girlfriend leaves him and between novels. Distraught and aimless, Ames (the character) stumbles upon his frayed paperback copy of Raymond Chandler's novel Farewell, My Lovely and is inspired to become an unlicensed private investigator.

Bored’s comic book connection isn’t only through Ames, who wrote the semi-autobiographical/semi-fictional memoir The Alcoholic for Vertigo, but also through Brooklyn’s own Dean Haspiel, who not only provides the art for the animated title sequence (and had drawn The Alcoholic prior), but serves as the basis for Ames’ friend Ray Hueston (played by The Hangover’s Zack Galifianakis). Ray, like Dean, has a gruff all-knowing exterior that, when you get down to it, conceals a sensitive soul. To know Dean is to love Ray, as Galifianakis does a commendable job getting Dino down pat without being a caricature.

Along with Ted Danson, Schwartzman and Galifianakis create a trinity of characters likeable in their all-too human weaknesses: Ames works through the first episode in a haze that’s a combination of self-pity and reinvention; Danson’s George is a troubled editor who loves his booze and weed; while Ray’s need for sex from his single Mom girlfriend is more about the nurturing than the sex. Seeing Ames struggle to be a tough guy detective like Phillip Marlowe while making several mistakes on the way, makes him a more sympathetic character than if he had been entirely successful on his first case.

The pilot episode is up for free streaming at Amazon. Check it out here.