Tag Archives: Bored to Death

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2012 edition: The Outcasts, Part 4

30 Jan

This is my ranking of shows that I watched in 2012 – for the rules, see the intro;  so far we’re discussing shows that made my last list but not this one.

Here are the last shows that made last year’s list that didn’t make the cut this year.

Curb Your Enthusiasm

Larry David

2011 ranking:  16

One of few shows on TV that can disappear temporarily and return at any time at the whim of the creator and star (see: Louie), Curb declined to air episodes in 2012 and may be over or may not be.  It’s a very funny show, and I’d certainly welcome it back for more.  In fact, I’d vastly prefer it if there were more episodes.  Still, there’s been eight seasons and there’s no serial plotlines that need to be wrapped up anymore, and it’s pretty much Larry David’s decision on whether to go on or not, so it’s hard to say I would be devastated if the show was over for good.  It’s a great show to just throw on an episode or leave in the background, and although it’s really awkward and somewhat uncomfortable to watch, the situations are usually ridiculously enough to avoid truly painful British The Office levels of discomfort.  It’s just Larry David and co. talking a lot, and it’s not exactly the most unpredictable or nuanced show, but it’s frequently laugh out loud funny.

Bored to Death

Watching this did not make me bored to death

2011 ranking: 11

Bored to Death is probably the show whose cancellation most frustrated me in recent years.  This is due to some combination of factors.  First, I really liked the show, thought it was as good as ever, and that it had a lot more to give.  Second, because the show had made it to its third season, it already had had some legs, and because it wasn’t past its fifth season, it didn’t seem like it was logically time to come to an ending. Third, because the show was on HBO, ratings weren’t quite as important as they would be on a network, especially because the show continued to get positive critical notice.  That basically sums up to the points that I really liked it and thought it actually had a good chance of returning, so I didn’t just accept losing it right away as I have other ill-fated shows.  Not to mention, the show ended with main character, Jonathan Ames, sleeping with someone who unbeknownst to him is probably his sister.  That has to be the strangest way a show has ever had an unplanned ending.

Terriers

Where are the Terriers?

2011 ranking:  10

Terriers aired in fall of 2010, which was covered in my last rankings, though it seems like longer ago.  Because the show wasn’t a BIG show the way Game of Thrones is or the way one year failure Terra Nova was, I think it’s been easy to forget.  There hasn’t been a big bring-back-Terriers crowd, or constant references to Terriers as a show that died before its time.  However, that’s not to say it wasn’t acclaimed; nearly everyone who saw Terriers liked it.  Of course, the problem was largely than nobody watched it.  Part of the reason for that is the name – a terrible one, which not only revealed nothing about the show, but also doesn’t intrigue the type of audience who the show is geared towards.  Part was also the fact that well, it doesn’t sound that great, if you just describe the show in brief.   There was an ongoing plot but Terriers was basically the story of two characters played by Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James who were PI partners constantly finding themselves in over their heads on cases.  Of course there’s a little more to it than that, but that’s the basic idea; there’s no huge hook or complicated premise.  Anyway, since I can’t imagine you’ll be reading more about Terriers anytime soon, let’s give the show one last fond goodbye.

The Venture Bros.

Hank and Dean

20111 ranking: 8

The Venture Bros. has come to resemble late season Sopranos, in which a season only airs every two years.  A special Halloween episode actually aired this year, but I declined to allow that special to qualify the show for entry in this year’s rankings.  It’ll finally be back in 2013 though, so it can look forward to a spot in next year’s rankings, and hopefully a high one if the quality is what I hope.   No show handles a complicated continuity better than Venture Bros, and the mixture of sophisticated comic storylines with pop culture references and wise-cracking punchlines keeps Venture great.  Not every episode is amazing, but they’re mostly solid and when they hit, they hit. Season 4 alone created some instant classics including film noir-style episode Everybody Comes to Hank’s, and Season 4 premiere, Blood of the Father, Heart of Steel, told out of chronological order, with the only marking of time being the value of a rare comic book which slowly gets destroyed over the course of the episode.  Frustratingly, wikipedia decided to remove the individual episode pages, which were incredible and useful resources about the show.

Bored to Death: Final Season Report

28 Dec

It’s a sad time to be a Bored to Death fan.  Just as the show continues to improve each year, with short, and what I would guess, but don’t know to be, relatively inexpensive seasons, it still received its walking papers from HBO in a general comedy layoff, with How to Make It In America and Hung also sent to their graves.  With Entourage over, and Curb Your Enthusiasm possibly over (which it has been after each of the last three or so seasons), only Enlightened will be back of the existing HBO half hour programs.  Bored to Death, at this point in time was the best of these shows and season three was the best season yet of Bored to Death.

As always, the strength of the show was with the wonderful, zany, interplay between the three main characters and friends Jonathan, Ray, and George, played by Jason Schwartzman, Zach Galifianakis, and Ted Danson respectively.  Favorite recurring characters, such as Jonathan’s arch-rival Lewis played by John Hodgman, and George’s arch-rival Richard (played by Oliver Platt) returned.  The familiar New York, and Brooklyn in particular, setting returned as well, with the carousel in Prospect Park hosting a major scene.  New was  George’s artisanal restaurant which bans cellular phones;  instead, for emergencies, old-fashioned land lines are connected.  In this latest season, the show got weird, there can be no denying that.  Well, that’s wrong actually.  The show got weirder.  The seeds for strangeness were planted previously, but this season outdid all previously weirdness with elder love and incest becoming major plot points, obscuring furries and George’s daughter marrying a man George’s age.

The show grew stronger when it realized that it didn’t need to have a central mystery for Jonathan to solve every episode.  Not that those mysteries were bad by any means, as some of the best moments in the show happened during those mysteries, but the show was at its finest when it could feel free to swing from a mystery to a George singing lesson to a Super Ray signing to a Jonathan night out with George’s alcoholic daughter.  The humor was often absurd, but Bored to Death turned from a show I smiled along with in the first season to one I laughed out loud at several times an episode in the third.  The show kept its film noir trappings throughout, and used them well without feeling hemmed in by them.  The cast all had great comic timing and the look of the show complimented the absurd situations.

Mostly though, it was a treat every week to spend time with the characters.  Television is populated with shows about friends but few are such unabashed paeans to friendship as Bored to Death, and few feature characters I’d like to hang out with at a bar and have a beer with, or in Jonathan’s case, a glass of white wine with, as much as these three.  The friendship was never better framed than in the fifth episode of the third season when Jonathan and George attend a counseling sessions to repair their relationship.  Both parties air their grievances, and after George is still frustrated, Jonathan decides the best way to get back in George’s good graces is to help take down George’s rival’s restaurant.  Though a series of zany adventures, he figures out the fraudulent practices of the restaurant and exposes it, which finally mends the rift between Jonathan and George, actions speaking louder than words.  I’m glad I at least have 24 episodes to relive the good times over and over.

Ranking the Shows I Watch – 11: Bored to Death

25 Oct

Bored to Death really isn’t like any other show on television, and I like that about it.  I struggled through the whole first season on how to place the show – where to group it, trying to figure out in what genre it fit.  During the second season, I just pretty much said to hell with that and just enjoyed it for what it was, and it was easier because the second season was significantly stronger than the first.

What is it?  Well… It’s a very dry comedy, as befits the Jason Schwartzman personality, and the Wes Anderson movies with which Schwartzman is often connected (or for that matter I Heart Huckabees to some degree in which he stars).  It’s incredibly New York and Brooklyn in particular, and the setting is very prominent (though certainly not a character – settings can never be characters, as I’ve argued with certain friends).  It’s absolutely a bit precious, and a bit madcap.  There’s a lot of drinking and a lot of smoking, but in a very different way than on, say, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.  Where It’s Always Sunny has a super low-brow feel, Bored to Death is very high-brow.  It’s Always Sunny cast members own an Irish pub and drink beer all day.  Bored to Death features members of the literary world who drink white wine.  If noir comedy was a genre, this would certainly fit in.

Ted Danson is wonderful as Jason Schwartzman’s editor and mentor, as part of the great Ted Danson revival of the ‘00s (featuring Bored to Death, Damages, and Curb Your Enthusiasm and now most bizarrely CSI).  John Hodgman is also wonderful as a recurring character literary critic who bashed Jason Schwartzman’s first novel, and is his rival.

The show is essentially just three characters – Schwartzman, Danson, and Zach Galifianakis, who plays Schwartzman’s best friend, who writes his own comic, Super Ray, who fights with his magically enlarged penis.  While normally a show with such a small cast feels limiting, I never get that sense in Bored to Death.   In addition, for a show that feels like it should be more of a smile and enjoy comedy like Entourage, I find myself laughing out loud frequently during episodes.

Addendum:  The first three episodes of the third season have been outstanding, even more consistent so far than the second so now’s the time to at least give the show a try – watching episodes out of order is not really a problem.

Why it’s this high:  It’s unlike any other show on television – and while I can see a lot of people not liking it, I’m probably somewhere around the perfect audience for it

Why it’s not higher:  Three character shows are always a little small for my liking

Best episode of the most recent season:  “I’ve Been Living Like a Demented God”  – this episode involves a wild goose chase in which Jason Schwartzman must track down a rare book which was pawned off by Professor F. Murray Abraham to his drug dealer – John Hodgman figures prominently, and he follows Schwartzman, who follows drug dealers, until they catch him, and the drug dealers follow them.  Hijinks ensue.

The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame: Domenick Lombardozzi

5 Oct

(The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame is where we turn the spotlight on a television actor or actress, and it is named after their patron saint, Zeljko Ivanek)

Domenick Lombardozzi has made a career out of playing a very different Italian stereotype role than last week’s honoree Lenny Venito.  Like countless actors in this Hall of Fame, Lombardozzi got his start on a Law & Order episode in 1999.  He next appeared in one episode of one season show The Beat in 2000, and in a minorly memorable role in 2 episodes of Oz in 2000, as Ralph Galino, an Italian American contractor who ended up in Emerald City after a building he contracted killed two people.  Galino, a generally law-abiding citizen, didn’t fit in prison, brought a cell phone into the prison, and was killed by The Bikers relatively soon after.  He played Yankee Moose Skowron in the HBO movie 61* in 2001 and appeared in episodes of Third Watch and NYPD Blue the same year.

In 2002, he began his most memorable role as Thomas “Hurc” Hauk in The Wire.  Hurc appeared in every episode of the show, often alongside his buddy Ellis Carver, who both start as competent but disgruntled narcotics officers, and provide comic relief.  Hurc is herded into the Barksdale detail, but gets into trouble when he and Carver make a late-night raid into the housing projects and get bottles thrown at them.  Herc and Carver steal some money later on a drug bust and return to the detail in the second season.  In the third, he works in the Western District and is responsible for leaking the Hamsterdam project to the media.  In the fourth season, Herc sees the mayor receiving oral sex and uses that information to leverage his way to sergeant, but later gets fired after arrested an African-American minister on bad information.  In the fifth season, he works as an investigator for the lawyer Levy but helps out Carver by providing him with Marlo Stanfield’s phone number.

In Entourage, he played incredibly irritating character Dom, an old high school buddy of the gang who came back from prison to try to integrate into their lives, but just didn’t fit anymore.  After disappearing, he got a chance to redeem himself in a later episode where he had mostly turned his life around.  In 2009, he appeared in a Law & Order: Criminal Intent.  In 2010, he appeared in the third hour of the last season of 24, as a New York City police officer who finds a colleague dead and upon seeing Jack Bauer, thinks he is responsible.  Lombardozzi beats up Jack as his partner, who disagrees with this violence, watches, but eventually Jack escapes.  He appeared in a second season episode of Bored to Death and is one of a pair who kidnap Jonathan and demand ransom.

Currently, Lombardozzi stars as Ray Zancanelli on Breakout Kings, an A&E original program, in which, in Mod Squad fashion, a group of criminals are commissioned to help find other criminals in exchange for a reduced sentence.  Zancanelli is a former US Marshal who was fired after he was discovered to have stolen money from a crime season.  He is currently on parole, and unlike the other convicts, is allowed to carry a weapon.

The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame: Lenny Venito

28 Sep

Venito has made a career largely of playing an Italian stereotype, both in drama and in comedies.  At the beginning of his career, television appearances came infrequently.  In 1988, he appeared in an episode of The Equalizer, in 1992 in an episode of Here and Now, in 1995 in an episode of The Cosby Mysteries and in 1996 in an episode of New York Undercover.  He appeared in the TV movie Witness to the Mob about Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, who was played by Nicholas Turturro.

He next appeared as a regular in extremely short-lived sitcom Living in Captivity on Fox in 1998.  The show was about the ins and outs of a gated community inCalifornia.  Venito starred as Carmine Santucci, an auto parts mogul.  He next appeared on a 2002 episode of short-lived Dennis Leary show The Job and in six episodes of NYPD Blue as Julian Pisano.  He appeared in a Third Watch, a Hack, and as two different characters in two early 2000s Law & Order episodes, one of them as a mobster in Everybody Loves Raimondo’s, an episode I think I’ve seen half a dozen times.  He started to work more regularly in the 2000s, showing up in a The Practice, and in two The Jurys in 2004, and in two episodes of Blind Justice in 2005, one as his NYPD Blue character.

In 2006, he started a nine episode run in Sopranos as James “Murmur” Zancone.  Murmur was a friend and sponsor of Christopher and helps kidnap screenwriter J.T. Dolan.  He’s perhaps best remembered for helping to stealHollywoodgift baskets, wrestling them away from actors Ben Kingsley and Lauren Bacall.  In 2006, he also appeared in three episodes of more successful Dennis Leary show Rescue Me and in the pilot of The Black Donnellys.  In 2007, he was in two episodes of Queens Supreme and co-starred in the nine episodes aired of Knights of Prosperity, an ABC sitcom in which the title friends were plotting to rob Mick Jagger (the original title was Let’s Rob Mick Jagger.  Venito portrayed Francis “Squatch” Squacieri, next to Donal Logue and Sofia Vergara.  He was also in a Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in the same year and in an episode of Flight of the Conchords as John, an incompetent mugger who later befriends Jemaine, both of whom were abandoned by their partners.

In 2008, Venito was in single episodes of Life on Mars and Ugly Betty.  In 2009 he reprised his Flight on the Conchords mugger role in another episode.  In 2010 he appeared in a Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and showed up in two episodes of Bored to Death as a mounted policeman who hires Jonathan to steal back some incriminating photos of him before the police raid an S&M club.  He most recently appeared in two episodes of short-lived but well-reviewed FX show Lights Out and in an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm as the not-otherwise-named one armed man.  He evades Larry several times during the episode, as no one else believes in his existence.