Friday, December 2, 2011

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

This season, Ames (Jason Schwartzman) has recently finished his second novel (which remains unpublished) and decides to augment his meager income by becoming a creative-writing teacher, while also taking on new, even more desperate clients.  With his continuing misadventures alongside his henpecked friend Ray (Zach Galifianakis) and eccentric boss George (Ted Danson), how he solves anything is a mystery.

Film (4 out of 5 stars)

In the first season of Bored to Death, a young writer named Jonathan Ames (Jason Schwartzman) decides to put an ad on Craigslist advertising his non-licensed detective services when his writing career stalls and his girlfriend leaves him.  He has published one book at that point and is unable to come up with another one.  So in the meantime, he moonlights as a wannabe detective and is actually successful despite his ineptness at the job.  He is occasionally assisted by his mentor George Christopher (Ted Danson) and his cartoonist friend Ray (Zach Galifianakis).
Now three months later in this second season, Jonathan has completed a second book but it was rejected by his publisher and he is forced to back back his advance fee.  His relationship with Stella who he met at the end of the first season has been going well until she tells him that she wants to add her old boyfriend (Josh Gad) to their relationship.  Jonathan is uncomfortable with this idea but he tries it out in an attempt to keep her which ends badly for him when she picks the old boyfriend over him.
Jonathan is still working as a detective and more of his cases this season involve people he actually knows in his personal life.  He is hired by George’s arch enemy Richard (Oliver Platt) who is the current husband to George’s ex-wife Priscella (Laila Robins) much to George’s dismay.  Richard believes that Priscella is cheating on him and he hires Jonathan to discover the identity of her lover.  Jonathan takes the case not realizing that Priscella is indeed cheating on Richard with George which presents an ethical dilemma for Jonathan.  George is out of sorts since he has been told that he has prostrate cancer but the upside is that his new doctor is an attractive woman (Jessica Hect) and he begins dating her.
Jonathan’s friend Ray is also unhappy after his girlfriend Leah (Heather Burns) left him but like George, this misfortune leads to something good when Ray channels his feelings for Leah into his comic “Super Ray” and they begin to sell very well as they grow in popularity.  The series grows popular enough that Kevin Bacon (playing an obnoxious facsimile of himself) asks to purchase the rights to make a movie based on “Super Ray” with himself as the title character.  Those plans go awry when the woman that Ray just dumped (Kristen Wiig) shows up to ruin his chances.  Both Jonathan and George also have professional obstacles since Jonathan can’t get published and his arch-enemy Lewis (John Hodgeman) keeps beating him.  George faces losing the autonomy he’s enjoyed at his magazine for decades when a new company buys it out and institutes new changes which include eliminating his column.
Although it may not sound like it, this is a very funny show about friendship.  Jonathan, Ray, and George are almost the modern day three stooges.  They keep getting themselves into impossible situations that always end in hilarious trouble for them.  This season Ray and George are more involved in Jonathan’s cases which can be a good and bad thing since they are even worse at the job than Jonathan!  For example, when Jonathan is kidnapped the two attempt a rescue which ends with George accidentally shooting Ray in the head with a rubber bullet and then having his flash-bang grenade ricochet away from the bad guys back to him and Ray.  This is a show that never would have survived on network TV because it’s too quirky and there’s a lot of nudity to go along with the humor.  It’s a perfect blend of highbrow and lowbrow comedy and if you haven’t seen it, you should give it a chance!

Video (4 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 but some of the nighttime scenes do have some noise present which gives it a film like appearance.  That 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 for the most part.

Audio (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

Bored to Death’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is also good but not as successful as the picture quality.  Don’t get me wrong – this sounds way better than the broadcast version but it could have been better.  This is a front heavy mix with clear, clean dialogue but the mix doesn’t really allow for the rear speakers to get much action.  There’s some light ambiance, music, and effects, but it could have been a lot stronger.

Special Features (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

There’s some good stuff included but it feels light for some reason and I wish more had been included.  At least they are all in high definition!
  • Audio Commentaries:  There are five commentary tracks in total for the following episodes:  “Make it Quick, Fitzgerald!” with creator Jonathan Ames, Jason Schwartzman and director Alan Taylor; “The Gowanus Canal Has Gonorrhea!” with Jonathan Ames, Jason Schwartzman, Ted Danson, and director Michael Lehmann; “I’ve Been Living Like a Demented God!” with Jonathan Ames, Jason Schwartzman, Ted Danson, and director Michael Lehmann; “The Case of the Grievous Clerical Error!” with Jonathan Ames, Jason Schwartzman, Ted Danson; and “Super Ray is Mortal!” with Jonathan Ames, Jason Schwartzman.  These commentaries are fairly low key but fun to listen to since the they all have the same good chemistry in real life that they have on the show.  Zach Galifianakis didn’t participate since he was in Thailand filming The Hangover II when this was recorded.
  • Bored to Death: Inside the Mind of Jonathan Ames – A brief look at each episode with creator Jonathan Ames who answers questions about every episode.  Ames seems very eccentric so your enjoyment of this extra will depend on your reception to him.
  • Outtakes – Outtakes from the show that predominantly feature Galifianakis.  Apparently, the actors are allowed to continue on from the script and improv from there, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.
  • Deleted Scenes – There are three deleted scenes included. Much like the outtakes, some work and some deserved to be cut.

Final Thoughts (4 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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