Thursday, December 20, 2012

Bored to Death: The Complete Third Season Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson

Jonathan Ames (Jason Schwartzman) continues to ply his trade as an unlicensed private detective, getting caught up in increasingly risky jobs and absurd adventures around New York City with George (Ted Danson) and Ray (Zach Galifianakis), his always supportive partners in solving crime. In addition, a shocking revelation drives him to embark on one of his most important cases yet, the quest to find his biological father. As if that wasn’t enough, Jonathan’s writing career is finally starting to look up with the publication of his long-delayed second book.  Returning cast members and guest stars include Heather Burns, Allyce Beasley, Samantha Bee, Olympia Dukakis, John Hodgman, Richard Masur, Bebe Neuwirth, Patton Oswalt and Oliver Platt, as well as Dick Cavett, Chris Elliott, Halley Feiffer, Isla Fisher, Stacy Keach, David Rasche, Sarah Silverman, Mary Steenburgen, Casey Wilson and Zach Woods, among others.

Film (5 out of 5 stars) 

In the first season of Bored to Death, a young writer named Jonathan Ames (Jason Schwartzman) decided to put an ad on Craigslist advertising his non-licensed detective services when his writing career stalls and his girlfriend leaves him.  He  had published one book at that point but was unable to come up with another one.  So in the meantime, he moonlighted as a wannabe detective and actually found some success despite his ineptness at the job.  He was also occasionally assisted by his mentor George Christopher (Ted Danson) and his cartoonist friend Ray (Zach Galifianakis).
During the second season, Jonathan completed a second book but it was rejected by his publisher and he is forced to give back his advance fee.  Jonathan still worked as a detective and more of his cases involved people he actually knew in his personal life.  He was hired by George’s arch enemy Richard (Oliver Platt) who had married George’s ex-wife Priscella (Laila Robins) much to George’s dismay.  Jonathan took the case not realizing that Priscella is indeed cheating on Richard with George (who had also been told that he had prostrate cancer).  Jonathan and George also have professional obstacles since Jonathan can’t get published and his arch-enemy Lewis (John Hodgeman) kept beating him in every way possible.  Ray lost his girlfriend Leah but the emotional result of that helped his comic book to become even more popular.
For this third season, Jonathan has released another book that’s not doing as well in the market.  He attempts to improve the sales and his visibility by appearing on “The New Dick Cavett Show” but once he arrives there, he is met by his arch-enemy Lewis who is also scheduled to appear.  This season, Jonathan will also be on the search for his biological father once he learns the truth from his parents.  Ray and Leah are still together but when an argument gets Ray thrown out of the house, he finds solace in the arms of a senior citizen named Belinda (Olympia Dukakis) and this “elder love” they share will have serious ramifications for Ray and Leah. George on the other hand, has bounced back from his health scare from last season, and he has opened up his own restaurant called “George on Jane” and his new relationship with his music teacher Josephine (Mary Steenburgen) is going very well for him.  It’s not all wine and roses though, since his arch-enemy Richard has once again copied him and opened his own similarly themed restaurant to compete with George.  As if that wasn’t enough, George’s daughter Emily (Halley Feiffer) wants to marry Bernard (David Rasche) who happens to be George’s age.
Although it may not sound like it, this is a very funny show about friendship.  Jonathan, Ray, and George keep getting themselves into impossible situations that always end in hilarious trouble for them.  Ray and George are even more involved in Jonathan’s cases  and frequently comes to his rescue.  Jonathan has even more backup now because Ray’s popularity has now extended into his own “Super Ray” fan club of his fans that dress up like his comic book hero.  Despite the love that these guys have for each other, when Jonathan doesn’t watch out for Emily’s best interests in the manner that George wanted, they have a falling out but agree to see a friendship counselor (Sarah Silverman).  Ray has his own trials too such as when he accidentally picked the wrong stroller and left his own son behind while mistakenly taking someone else’s.  No matter what happens, however, no matter what happens, these guys love each other will will always be there for each other.
Season three was just as funny (if not even more funny) than the previous two seasons.  It’s a shame that the show has been canceled since it’s so unique and funny.  I do have to credit HBO for at least giving the show three seasons because it probably would have been canceled after three episodes on network tv.  All three of the main actors are great in their roles and they have terrific chemistry together.  The show continues to balance slapstick, silly and clever humor, drama, and a touch of weirdness well.  It also helps that they have so many great guest stars too and this season included: Isla Fisher, Stacy Keach, Mary Steenburgen, Patton Oswalt, Olympia Dukakis, Bebe Neuwirth, Casey Wilson, and especially John Hodgman and Oliver Platt who were hilarious together this season.  I really hope that the rumored movie will happen because I would love to see this show continue on in some fashion because it’s just that good.

Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

This 1080p (1.78:1) transfer looks very good as is customary for all HBO releases.  This is a sharp picture that allows you to see a lot of textures and details that weren't as evident from the broadcast.  The show is shot on digital video which gives it a nice clear picture with a lot of nice detail.  Unlike the second season, the nighttime scenes no longer have noise present which is a much appreciated improvement.  The black levels are suitably inky and solid which gives the show a cinematic looking style adds nicely to the show’s film-noir approach.  Colors look good in all of their hues, and flesh tones also look natural and consistent.

Audio (4 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

Bored to Death’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is also good, with a front heavy mix with clear and clean dialogue.  Last season, the rear channels weren’t used that much, but this season they are utilized more often and to better results. There’s noticeably more of an emphasis on capturing and presenting the ambiance, music, and effects, which makes this season the best sounding of the three.  Pat Irwin’s music is presented well without it being overpowered by the sound effects or dialogue.  This may not be a reference quality mix, but it’s a good one and better than the earlier ones so fans should be pleased.

Extras (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

Once again, there’s not a lot of extras here, but what is here is pretty good.  I enjoyed the commentaries the most but all of them are entertaining.
  • Audio Commentaries – There are only four commentaries available which is a shame because they are fun to listen to.  They include: “The Blonde in the Woods” with show creator/writer Jonathan Ames, director Michael Lehmann and actor Jason Schwartzman; “The Black Clock of Time” with creator/writer Jonathan Ames, director Michael Lehmann, actor Jason Schwartzman, and comedian John Hodgman; “I Keep Taking Baths Like Lady Macbeth” with creator/writer Jonathan Ames, actor Jason Schwartzman, director Tristram Shapeero,  Ted Danson, and Zach Galifianakis; and lastly “Nothing I Can’t Handle by Running Away” with creator/writer Jonathan Ames, actor Jason Schwartzman, director Adam Bernstein,  Ted Danson, and Zach Galifianakis. These are informative and funny and the cast frequently praise and tease each other and share their thoughts on being canceled too.
  • Inside the Episodes - Series creator/writer Jonathan Ames shares his thoughts about each episode which usually last around four to five minutes per episode.  He is funny and explains what he was trying to accomplish and his motivations.  All in all, these all add up to around a half an hour.
  • Outtakes – There’s almost twenty minutes of outtakes and some are funny and some can be skipped.  I’ve always enjoyed seeing outtakes and it’s always fun to see when the cast is so funny like these guys. 
  • Deleted Scenes - There deleted scenes for five different episodes.

Summary (4 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

Bored to Death may be an acquired taste for people.  I enjoy the humor and the friendship between the characters and the madcap situations they get themselves into.  The cast is very good and each of them adds quite a bit to the show.  I highly recommend the show to those of you that are looking for a comedy that’s original and quirky.
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