Jonathan Ames, the 30-year-old novelist and lead character of HBO’s slacker-meets-small-crime comedy series Bored to Death, stumbles upon the Raymond Chandler novel Farewell, My Lovely after a defeating breakup. Now inspired, the devout white wine drinker impulsively places a Craigslist ad as an unlicensed private detective in a wishful attempt to reinforce his masculinity sans girlfriend. His heroic pursuits usually end in misunderstanding (in the premiere episode, he finds a missing college student tied up in a harmless sexual act with her loser bartender boyfriend) and with a punch in the gut. Still, he is plucky and persistent, answering calls about cheating lovers while juggling requests from his clingy magazine editor, played by a nutty Ted Danson.
Philip Marlowe, the seminal figure of Chandler’s hard-boiled, oft-adapted crime novels, exuded a rough-edged bravado and debonair style. Ames, on the other than hand, is a gawky, neurotic amateur, and Schwartzman inhabits this soul-searching writer moonlighting as a private eye with the familiar zany and mercurial charisma he has employed since his Rushmore days. The show’s premise undoubtedly suits Schwartzman’s odd, if grating, sensibilities, but even with the always amusing Zach Galifianakis on board as Ames’s best friend, the show’s storylines are often just plain ridiculous (getting colonics to impress a girlfriend?), and the initial investigations are far too simple and routine, not pushing the scenarios to their fullest absurd potential.
As the season continues, Bored will hopefully trade in the hipster drabness of Schwartzman and Galifianakis’s go-nowhere conversations for a more taut yet witty variation on the Chandler vernacular, or even something along the lines of Martin Scorsese’s fantastical sticky-situation comedy After Hours. But in its current attempt to capture the meandering lifestyle and mindset of thirtysomething losers, Bored squanders its noir framework and aesthetic prospects, consequently inducing yawns.