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Series / Bored to Death

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George Christopher: This all very insane and illegal, isn't it?
Ray Hueston: It's very illegal. And insane.
George Christopher: I like insane.

An HBO Sitcom created by Jonathan Ames that first began airing in September 2009. It stars Jason Schwartzman as Jonathan Ames, a non-licensed private detective who believes he can help people. After breaking up with his girlfriend Suzanne and discovering that she was the only thing he had, Jonathan puts an ad on Craigslist hiring himself out as an investigator. He attempts to juggle this life with working for a magazine run by George Christopher (Ted Danson), a middle-aged man who is actively attempting to recapture his youth through drugs and sex. Jonathan's best friend, Ray Hueston (Zach Galifianakis), is a comic-book artist with relationship issues who begrudgingly helps Jonathan in his exploits any way he can.

The series was cancelled in 2011 after its third season. Now has a work-in-progress character page.

This series contains examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: In the season two finale, Jonathan is trying to decide if Nina should move in with him. She is never mentioned again in the third season.
  • Accidental Aiming Skills: "I wasn't aiming for the boss." "What?" "Never mind."
  • Affably Evil: Jonathan starts a friendly conversation with the man who's taken hostage the woman Jonathan's been hired to find in the pilot. They end up smoking pot together before the cops bust in.
  • Affectionate Parody: Of film noir. Jonathan wants to be a Hardboiled Detective but is so meek and mild (not to mention The Stoner) that he isn't very good at it.
  • All Lesbians Want Kids: A lesbian couple hit up Ray for sperm in a coffee shop. When he obliges, they turn around and sell his sperm on the black market to all the other lesbians in the neighborhood, all of whom are also desperate to reproduce. They also lie horribly about Ray's qualifications to get more money out of their recipients.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: Jonathan, Ray and George escape a violent thug accidentally when they crash into the back of a police car.While high.
  • Amateur Sleuth: Jonathan becoming one of these is the premise for the show. Played with as he tries to make money doing it but isn't very successful.
  • And This Is for...: "That's because of you, big nose!"
  • Arc Words: "I believe I can help people."
  • Arrested for Heroism: The end of the first episode, subverted as Jonathan gets off with a warning.
  • As Himself: Jim Jarmusch and Kevin Bacon. Also Dick Cavett in season 3.
  • Author Avatar: Jonathan Ames is the name of both the creator and the main character.
  • Badass Bookworm: Jonathan becomes one of these for all of thirty seconds when he uses a few Groin Attacks and a large tree branch to save Louis Green from some drug dealers.
  • Blackmail: In one episode, Jonathan is hired to get back a sex tape from a woman who serially seduces men and blackmails them with the evidence. In another, Jonathan is blackmailed into throwing his boxing match against Louis Green when someone finds George's Viagra bottle.
  • Bourgeois Bohemian: George runs an upper-class magazine similar to The New Yorker and is an Erudite Stoner. A major plot line involves him adjusting to the fact that his magazine is bought by a conservative company.
  • The Boxing Episode: The first season finale, "Take a Dive", is a fight between GQ and Edition with Richard Antrem versus George Christopher plus Louise Greene versus Jonathan Ames. Ray ends up fighting their cartoonist for verisimilitude.
  • Breather Episode: "Escape From the Castle!" after most of the darker season 2 threads are resolved.
  • British Brevity: The show ran for three seasons of eight episodes each.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Season 3 ends with Jonathan embarking on a relationship with Rose and deciding to not tell her that he has discovered she is his half-sister.
  • Casting Gag:
    • Ted Danson's character dating a woman played by Mary Steenburgen. The two are married in real life.
    • Stacy Keech, most famous for playing detective Mike Hammer, is revealed to be Jonathan's father. Also Rose's.
  • Catchphrase: George saying "This is wonderful!"
  • Chekhov's Gunman: In the first episode of season two, Jonathan helps a cop by breaking into an S&M club and erasing its member database before a police raid (Said cop is on the member database.). In the season finale, the same cop returns and helps Jonathan solve a case.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander:
    • Jim Jarmusch, full stop. His apartment is completely bare so he can ride laps on his bike in it.
    • Jonathan's mother really has her head in the clouds.
  • Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: Lewis, when he sprains his ankle and loses his glasses, leading to Jonathan rescuing him from the drug dealers.
  • Cool Old Guy: George wants to be this. Desperately.
  • Creator Cameo: The real Jonathan Ames guest stars in the second season as Leah's jealous ex-boyfriend Irwin who has a full frontal nude scene and stabs Ray with an X-Acto knife.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Jonathan isn't exactly incompetent as a private detective but it’s very hard to see at first. Him bribing people also helps.
  • Darker and Edgier: Season 2 has George getting prostate cancer and coping with awful new management at Edition, Jonathan failing as a writer, and Leah leaving Ray.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Ray does not win Leah back after he cheats on her with Belinda.
  • Disguised in Drag: Jonathan at the spa.
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: Jason Schwartzman sings the show's theme song.
  • Drugs Are Good: It's probably easier to count the number of episodes in which the main characters are not smoking pot. Sometimes the character may become an Erudite Stoner while under the influence.
    Jonathan: I still like the way pot makes me think - maybe it's healthy.
    Suzanne: Pot is not healthy.
    Jonathan: They give it to cancer patients.
    Suzanne: You don't have cancer.
    Jonathan: Not yet...
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Up until "The Case of the Beautiful Blackmailer", George has nothing to do with any of Jonathan's cases.
  • Exact Words: "When I'm in this office, I'm a psychiatrist. But when I step out that door, I'm a father."
  • Foreshadowing: Some.
    • Jonathan says he fenced in college in "The Case of the Beautiful Blackmailer". He uses this skill in "Two Large Pearls and a Bar of Gold"
    • Ray casual brings up that someone has been sending him hate mail in "Escape From the Castle", which is the main plotline in "Super Ray is Mortal!"
    • After quitting his job at Edition in "Super Ray is Mortal" George suggests that he might open up a restaurant, and also reminisces about a beautiful place he had on Jane Street. In season 3 he opens a restaurant on, and moves to, Jane Street.
    • Jonathan mentions that he is going to appear on the Dick Cavett show in "Gumball!"
  • Gag Penis: Super-ray, Ray's comic book alter-ego, not to mention several other characters in "Make It Quick Fitzgerald!".
  • Gag Nose: The size of Jonathan's nose is frequently the butt of jokes.
  • Gone Horribly Right: George sent Jonathan out to have a great youthful time so that she would realize that she wouldn’t marry her sixty year old fiance. Unfortunately Jonathan did exactly that.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: The three main characters are close friends and always backing the others up.
  • Hidden Depths: Even though it was too late, Jonathan’s biological father did come back for him.
  • Hit Me, Dammit!: The GQ cartoonist that Ray boxes with in "Take a Dive" is eager to try S&M. Unfortunately, he knocks out Ray so fast that he's not even hurt.
  • Humiliation Conga: Louis Green in season 3 has crippling debt, is bumped from the Dick Cavett show which he has spent his entire life wanting to appear on, gets arrested, and winds up working a menial job for Richard, who constantly berates him.
  • I Always Wanted to Say That: Jonathan's real father has always wanted to say "The prodigal son return."
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: An interesting case. In the first season, all the episodes are "The Case of the [Blank]" or "The [Blank] Case" except for "Take a Dive" and "Stockholm Syndrome". For the rest of the series, all the episode titles are lines from the episode (with an exclamation point in the second season), with the exception of "Escape From the Dungeon!" and the final three episodes of season 2.
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten!: Some drug dealers who abduct Jonathan and Louis try to force them to snort cocaine to prove they're not cops.
  • Insane Troll Logic:
    • Ray calls out that Jonathan becoming a private detective is this as the latter isn't even able to articulate why he's doing it.
    • Edition demands George go to rehab, even though (supposedly) he was smoking because he had cancer. Even though he (again, supposedly) thought it was being used strictly medically, they are going to force him to go to rehab anyways just because the charts got mixed up and he was wrong.
    • The man who was impersonating Jonathan's reason for becoming a private detective.
    Jonathan: Jesus! That hardly qualifies you.
  • Insufferable Genius: Louis is a pompous author with literary pretensions. He later became a Small Name, Big Ego after his Humiliation Conga in Season Three.
  • Irrational Hatred: It’s never explained why Louis hates Jonathan so much.
  • Jewish and Nerdy: Jonathan is called out on this multiple times throughout the show being a shy, introverted, and easily pushed around Jewish man.
  • Karma Houdini: The kidnappers in "The Gowanus Canal Has Gonorrhea!" get away with $2,000 and suffer no consequences other than having to deal with the protagonist for the night.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Louis's segment in The New Dick Cavett Show was canceled in favor of Jonathan's. The revelation caused him to go through serious Sanity Slippage.
  • Lighter and Softer: The overarching plot lines in season 3 are much more lighthearted than the ones in season 2. At least, until the end.
  • Literal-Minded: Ray says that the all male changing rooms in the spa are an "Asian Sausage Factory" and George marvels at how a spa also produces Asian sausage and notes that he would like to try one some time.
    Ray: Are you sure you're the editor of a magazine?
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Deconstructed by Stella, Jonathan's love interest in season two. While she's an incredibly fun stoner chick trying to get him out of his comfort zone, Jonathan is frequently left miserable due to her oddball ideas like polyamory and flighty response.
  • May–December Romance: Ray and Belinda, given Zach Galifianakis and Olympia Dukakis' age gap.
    • Bernard and Emily
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Though, while Jonathan is a novelist, Ray is a webcomic writer, and George is Jonathan's boss at a publishing company, writing isn't much of a plot point until season one's final two episodes where they get into a boxing match between GQ and Edition.
  • Nature Versus Nurture: Also qualifies as Rewatch Bonus as anyone watching will notice that Jonathan and Rose are ridiculously similar to each other. Though Averted as well given the fact that neither of them are anything like their father however.
  • Never Bring a Cock To a Gun Fight: As the League of Rays found out.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: In "The Case of the Stolen Skateboard", after going through all that trouble to return a child's skateboard to win favor with his single mom, it turns out not only is the mom is uninterested, but Jonathan costs George a shot at romance and the ending strongly implies that Jonathan has the shit beaten out of him by skater punks.
  • Not-So-Badass Longcoat: Jonathan tries, but he can't really pull off a Badass Longcoat.
  • One-Hit Wonder: In-universe example, Jonathan's first and only novel makes him one of these. The second season highlighted his anxiety about his sophomore attempt, which gets rejected. But by the third season, he's promoting a published work, which seems to be getting acclaim in the publishing world.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Jonathan once tried to break into a spa using towels as fake boobs, butt and to cover his face. It doesn't work.
  • Parental Substitute: George to Jonathan. In "The Case of the Grievous Clerical Error!" as George goes into surgery.
    Nurse: Is this your son?
    George: Yes.
  • Promotion to Opening Titles: Heather Burns, who plays Leah, Ray's girlfriend in season one and ex in season two got this halfway through the second season. She doesn't get her own little animation bit, though, they snuck her name into the top-right corner of the screen during Ted Danson's bit.
  • Properly Paranoid: Richard Antrem has very little reason to believe that his wife Priscilla is having an affair when he hires Jonathan. She is having one, and with George—who is also Antrem's nemesis and publishing rival—to boot.
    • After Jonathan was framed for murdering George while high, he noticed that everyone around him was giving him a death glare and surmised that he was being followed. Ray and Jonathan shrugged it off as a drug induced illusion. It turns out he was right.
  • Refuge in Audacity: The entire premise of the show is that Jonathan attempting to be a Hardboiled Detective despite being a mild mannered pot smoking writer.
  • The Reveal: Rose is Jonathan's half-sister.
    Ray: In a ridicules situation you must always stay positive
  • Shout-Out: Frequently made to great authors and books. Jonathan is particularly a fan of Raymond Chandler.
  • Sickly Neurotic Geek: Jon.
  • Sitcom Archnemesis:
    • Petty, pretentious and unbearably smug Louis Green (John Hodgman), a literary critic who panned Jonathan's first novel and never passes up an opportunity to belittle him or insult him.
    • George has a rival in the form Richard Antrem (Oliver Platt), editor of GQ magazine. Cranked up to eleven when after George leaves his post as editor of Edition to focus on his restaurant. A few episodes later, Richard opens his own restaurant specifically to try and drive George's out of business.
    • Subverted in Take a Dive with Ray and the GQ cartoonist. While Ray gives the cartoonist a perpetual Death Glare whenever they're together, the latter turns out to be a fan of the former and is overjoyed to share a friendly match with him.
  • The Shrink: A Flavor One in "The Case of the Missing Screenplay" sends Ray into an extremely short-lived bout of self-awareness, which in turn causes depression. Said shrink goes on to "solve" all of Jonathan's issues in under five minutes, although it might've been because he knew Jonathan wasn't there for advice and wanted him to cut to the chase.
  • Skewed Priorities: After finding out that Jonathan was clinging to life while dangling from a clock, Ray decided to have sex instead.
  • Smug Snake: Louis Green is Jonathan Aimes' Sitcom Archnemesis. He is a pretentious book critic who eviscerated Jonathan's first novel and considers him an Archenemy.
  • Spoiler Title: "The Case of the Grievous Clerical Error!" title all but tells you George never had cancer.
  • The Stoner: All three main characters are almost constantly stoned, usually while in risky situations. They alternate between this and Erudite Stoner, depending on the circumstance.
  • Stoners Are Funny: Played mostly straight. Much of the show's humor derives from the fact that the protagonists are avid stoners, and while it sometimes gets them in trouble, it's still funny.
  • Surprise Incest: Jonathan finds out that he and his girlfriend are half-siblings. However, it was Left Hanging due to the show being cancelled.
  • This Loser Is You: Much of the series is Cringe Comedy about how Jonathan is a constantly put upon Nice Guy who fails at most of what he tries to do. Played With as he also is with a variety of beautiful women and a semi-succesful author as well as journalist.
  • Throwing the Fight: George does this in the appropriately named episode "Take A Dive".
  • Too Dumb to Live: Louis Green Jerkass nature makes him this as he doesn’t seem to realize that it's not the perfect time to insult someone when you’re surrounded by deranged drug dealers with guns pointed at your face.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Surprisingly, Jonathan's cases go from things like recovering a missing skateboard to dealing with blackmailers and drug dealers. He's also surprisingly good at detective work once he gains some confidence.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: After Jonathan saved his life, Green wrote an insulting story about him to the New York Times and later tried to steal his job.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Ray is a selfish Manchild with an infantile obsession Regarding his penis (basically the centerpiece of his web comic), who mooches off his girlfriend, cheats on her with an older woman at one point and is often intoxicated when he is supposed to be watching her children or his infant son.
  • Villain Decay: Louis Green goes from snob to sad-sack in the third season after his arrest on the Dick Cavett show.
  • Wham Episode: "The Case of the Grievous Clerical Error!"
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: A frequent occurrence with love interests.
    • Suzanne, Jonathan's ex in the pilot, drops out of the show after four episodes despite being Jonathan's primary motivation.
    • Nina is never mentioned in the third season after the climax of the second season is them moving in together.
  • Will Talk for a Price: Jonathan frequently bribes people in order to gain information regarding a case.
  • Wet Blanket Wife:
    • Suzanne, Jonathan's season one love interest, is always trying to get him to stop drinking as well as smoking pot.
    • Leah is determined to improve Ray and make him a better person despite the fact Ray has no interest in being one.
  • Women Are Wiser:
    • Rose is a better detective and more competent person overall than Jonathan despite their similarities due to being his sister.
    • Averted in all other places as even Leah is just as emotionally needy as Ray, she's just more adult oriented about it.
  • Wunza Plot: A failing novelist, a comic-book artist, and a wealthy magazine editor, all of whom are stoners.