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Ted Danson (#110 of 6)

Curb Your Enthusiasm Recap Season 9, Episode 2, “The Pickle Gambit”

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Curb Your Enthusiasm Recap: Season 9, Episode 2, “The Pickle Gambit”

HBO

Curb Your Enthusiasm Recap: Season 9, Episode 2, “The Pickle Gambit”

“You're doing too much,” Leon (J.B. Smoove) says in “The Pickle Gambit,” tonight's episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. He's speaking to Kenny Funkhouser (Niall Cunningham), nephew of Marty (Bob Einstein), straight-A student, all-American pitcher, and “jewel of the Funkhouser family tree.” If his SAT performance goes well, Marty gloats, he'll be off to Stanford with a full scholarship. Kenny may have a lot on his plate, but his hard work seems to be serving him well—even if he hasn't, Leon presumes, “ever seen a titty.”

Bored to Death: Season Two

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<em>Bored to Death</em>: Season Two
<em>Bored to Death</em>: Season Two

There are 2.5 million people in Brooklyn; 1.1 million people nationwide tuned in to season one of Bored to Death, but it’s hard not to suspect most of them were in the show’s heartland. With those built-in numbers (there’s nothing a particular kind of white twenty/thirtysomething Brooklynite loves more than celebrating themselves in the ostensible name of community), there’s no reason Bored couldn’t have rolled along for a good long time pandering solely to the interests of a small coterie of people who think jokes about brownstones are funny.

Bored wasn’t anyone’s idea of a great show; the conceit of a struggling writer turned private eye didn’t go anywhere in particular, and Jonathan Ames has zero range or insight. But that proved to be zero problem. Instead, Jason Schwartzman, Ted Danson and Zach Galifianakis sat around in various configurations and talked shit, which is all you really need if you like those actors. Schwartzman basically revisited I Heart Huckabees (all nervous twitches and sexual fear), Galifianakis glowered through his beard to compensate for his insecurities and Danson—finally freed from the constraints of network television and able to let his not-so-inner misanthrope loose—walked around saying things like “Men face reality, women don’t. That’s why men need to drink.” It was all highly enjoyable.

Review: Bored to Death

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Review: <em>Bored to Death</em>
Review: <em>Bored to Death</em>

Bored to Death is not a very good show unless you can’t get enough of the cast, in which case it’s more than good enough. HBO’s new half-hour comedy coasts on the comic talents of Jason Schwartzman, Ted Danson and Zach Galifianakis, which is a great thing that should’ve happened a long time ago. The bad news is that Bored to Death is ostensibly a slacker’s comic piss-take on noir, but it’s no such thing. I don’t have any particularly strong opinions about the work of creator Jonathan Ames; I’ve read some of his essays in passing, and he appears overly fixated on outré sexual shenanigans, which is his problem. As a scenarist, though, he’s clearly not so hot. (How in the world he wrote a novel-length homage to P.G. Wodehouse—who wrote some of the most rigorously structured farces in literary history—baffles me.) Ostensibly, the show’s “Jonathan Ames” (Schwartzman) is a novelist struggling to come up with his second novel and dealing with his girlfriend’s (Olivia Thirlby) exit from his life. To cope, he posts a Craigslist ad offering his services as an unlicensed private eye and proves surprisingly competent at retrieving stolen skateboards, figuring out if someone is cheating on their partner, etc. Even at the accurately banal level of private eye work, though, it’s slack and predictable. The best scenes are basically irrelevant to the plot; some episodes are only twenty minutes long and strain to fill out the plot regardless.

But hey, Jason Schwartzman.

T.V. on TV: Damages

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T.V. on TV: <em>Damages</em>
T.V. on TV: <em>Damages</em>

Damages is a fairly typical FX show. It’s got the look of quality television down, and it has the ambiguous characters most other quality shows have. It’s got a strong central performance from Glenn Close, and the plotting is so comprehensive and tight that it leaves you little room to breathe. But, at the same time, it feels a little shallow, as though there’s nothing more going on in its head than being riotously entertaining and keeping the plot moving along. It’s been compared to movie thrillers simply because of its labyrinthine plot, but if this were a movie, we would sigh at its convolutions and just long for something more straightforward, about real human beings. In short, Damages feels like a show that you should like more than you actually do.