Tag Archives: Ted Danson

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.

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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.

Power Rankings: Cheers

5 Sep

(Power Rankings sum up:  Each week, we’ll pick a television show and rank the actors/actresses/contestants/correspondents/etc. based on what they’ve done after the series ended (unless we’re ranking a current series, in which case we’ll have to bend the rules).  Preference will be given to more recent work, but if the work was a long time ago, but much more important/relevant, that will be factored in as well)

RIP Nicholas Colasanto.  That said, let’s go.

9. George Wendt (as Norm Peterson) – Wendt, along with Rhea Pearlman and Ted Danson, was one of the only three actors to appear in every single episode of Cheers.  It’s a good thing, because it’s been a pretty brutal stretch afterwards.  He got his own starring vehicle in the George Wendt Show in 1995 where he was a mechanic with a radio show, but after its failure, he didn’t get much else, except occasional TV movies and guest appearances.  He showed up in a couple of episodes of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.

8.  Rhea Pearlman (as Carla Tortelli) – she appeared in the film adaptation of Matilda, a 1996 short-lived sitcom called Pearl where she starred a middle-aged woman going back to college, and another failed series called Kate Brasher, starring Mary Stuart Masterson in 2001.  She most recently appeared in a few episodes of Hung and an episode of Wilfred.

7.    Shelley Long (as Diane Chambers) – after leaving almost halfway through Cheers’ run, Long didn’t really take full advantage.  She appeared in Troop Beverly Hills, Frozen Assets, and a couple of Brady Bunch movies.  She showed up in Dr. T and the Women, and most recently featured as Ed O’Neill’s ex-wife in Modern Family.

6.  Bebe Neuwirth (as Lilith Sternin) – Neuwirth, outside of Cheers, may best be known for her theater work, most notably Chicago, where she originated the role of Velma Kelly in the mid-90s revival, and won a Tony (with a couple of Emmys for Cheers, she’s halfway to the EGOT).  She co-starred in Oliver Platt one season series Deadline in 2001, and showed up in a few episodes of David Morse series Hack.  She also starred in attempted Law & Order spin-off Trial by Jury, which lasted a season, and appeared in a dozen episodes of Frasier.  Amusingly, her wikipedia also contains the sentence, “ She is not easy in groups, and the thought of a cocktail party where she must meet a lot of new people strikes terror in her soul.” which is clearly a case of “citation needed”.

5.  John Ratzenberger (as Cliff Clavin) – Ratzenberger’s main claim to fame post-Cheers is his appearance in every single Pixar film, sometimes in bigger roles than others.  His bigger roles include Hamm, the piggy bank, in the Toy Story films, and Mack the Truck in the Cars movies.  He appeared in Dancing with the Stars, Season 4.  He also appeared in a few episodes of 8 Simple Rules.

4.  Kirstie Alley (as Rebecca Howe) – Alley had the unenviable task of replacing Shelley Long in Cheers, but performed admirably for six seasons, winning an Emmy.  In the mid-90s, she appeared in some lackluster movies, including Village of the Damned, It Takes Two, and For Richer or Poorer, along with being part of the ensemble in Woody Allen’s Deconstructing Harry.  In 1997, she started the first of three seasons as the star of Veronica’s Closet, in which she portrayed the head of a lingerie company.  The series met with middling reviews and ratings, but earned her an Emmy nomination.  She appeared in one season of sitcom Fat Actress in 2005, and now is starring in her own reality show, Kirstie Alley’s Big Life, about her attempts at weight loss.  She also appeared in Season 12 of Dancing With the Stars in 2011.

3.  Kelsey Grammar (as Frasier Crane) – this is mostly predicated on one role, in fact, the same role that he played for 9 seasons on Cheers, that of Frasier Crane.  Frasier, his spin-off, in which his character moved back to Seattle, lasted for 11 seasons and was a critical and commercial success, earning Grammer four Lead Actor in a Comedy Emmys for his work.  Since Frasier, his career has suffered a bit, as his two attempts at new sitcoms, 2007’s Back to You with Patricia Heaton and 2009’s Hank both failed quite miserably.  His second most famous role is probably an animated one – the villainous Sideshow Bob from The Simpsons. Grammer has appeared 12 times as Sideshow Bob in such classic episodes as Cape Feare and Sideshow Bob Roberts and he won an Emmy for the role in 2006.  He also appeared as Beast in X-Men: The Last Stand, and as himself in a 30 Rock.

2.  Woody Harrelson (as “Woody” Boyd) – the only Cheers cast member to become a bona fide film star, Harrselson is continuing to bank major film roles.  Immediately after Cheers, he starred in White Men Can’t Jump, Indecent Proposal and Natural Born Killers, cementing his status as a movie lead.  He followed these with Money Train, Farrelly brothers comedy Kingpin, and The People vs. Larry Flynt, for which he gained serious critical acclaim, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.  He played supporting roles in Wag the Dog and EDtv, closing out a very successful 1990s.  The first half of the ‘00s was a bit slow for Harerlson, as he took no films roles until 2003, though he appeared in a few episodes of Will & Grace.  After taking these couple of years off, he had supporting roles in Anger Management and After the Sunset.  In 2007, he had a small but important role in No Country for Old Men, and in 2009, he earned another Academy Award nomination, this time for Best Supporting Actor for The Messenger.  He most recently starred in Zombieland, and appeared in Friends with Benefits.  He’ll be in a Zombieland sequel and in teen book adaptation Hunger Games.

1.  Ten Danson (as Sam Malone) – His first attempt at a sitcom after Cheers was the unsuccessful Ink with his wife Mary Steenburgen.  He then starred in an acclaimed adaptation of Gulliver’s Travels, in minseries form.  For a remarkable six seasons, he starred in Becker, featuring him as a pain-in-the-ass doctor who cares deep down inside.  After another failed sitcom called Help Me Help You, Ted Danson began a string of successes which hasn’t abated yet.  He started appearing in Curb Your Enthusiasm as himself, and has appeared in a number of episodes.  He became a regular in the first season of Damages, playing the villainous Ken Lay clone Arthur Frobisher, who appeared in several episodes of the second and third seasons as well.  In addition to that, he appears  in HBO’s Bored to Death as magazine editor George Christopher, a serial womanizer and pot-smoker.  Although the entire show is great, Danson may be the highlight.  If all this weren’t enough, Danson will be starring in CBS procedural giant CSI in this upcoming season.