A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this quirky HBO comedy about a nebbishy novelist who decides to moonlight as a private detective is aimed at adults but is likely to interest teens thanks to stars Zach Galifianakis and Jason Schwartzman. The cases are unexceptional, but the job frequently forces the meek writer into new (and often entertaining) situations. His two best friends are a comic book artist who complains constantly about his sex life and a magazine editor who craves pot. Expect plenty of drinking (the main character is a borderline alcoholic) and marijuana use, a good bit of unbleeped swearing (including "f--k" and "s--t)", and lots of talk about sex, though there's not much on-screen action.
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What's the story?
Jonathan Ames (Jason Schwartzman) is stuck. He can’t write his second novel, he can’t cut back on his drinking habit (white wine, preferably), and he’s in a serious funk because his girlfriend just moved out. Looking for a way to curb his ennui and jump-start his creativity, he starts advertising himself as a private detective (an “unlicensed” one, just to make sure everything is above board). For moral support, he turns to his narcissistic best friends, Ray (Zach Galifianakis), a comic book artist who constantly whines about his sex life, and George (Ted Danson), a dashing magazine editor who really, really likes to smoke pot.
Is it any good?
The joke in BORED TO DEATH is that Jonathan is hardly what you'd expect in a private eye -- short, nebbishy, and physically unimposing, he’s easy to overlook and hard to take seriously. The cases he lands in this offbeat comedy are standard fare -- a missing sister, a possibly cheating boyfriend -- but its Schwartzman’s efforts to insert himself into one weird situation after another that make it work. It’s not so much that his investigations lead him to strange places; it’s his attempts to be not so dorky that are priceless. He’s read plenty of Raymond Chandler, so he knows the moves, but that doesn’t mean that he can pull them off (just watch him try to bribe a bartender while choking on a whiskey, for example).
Danson and Galifianakis are ideal companions for a show about people trying to reinvent themselves -- though perhaps not the best of friends. Both are completely self-obsessed and seem oblivious to Jonathan's new identity. Danson’s George is particularly entertaining in his single-minded devotion to getting high and meeting women, probably in that order. But this show is all Schwartzman, and his meek wannabe detective is a worthy addition to the pantheon of TV gumshoes.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about addiction. Do you think Jonathan is an alcoholic? How does he justify his need to drink? Does he seem like a “typical” alcoholic? Is there such a thing? Does George seem like a drug addict?
How does this show compare to other pay-cable comedies? What makes these series different from network sitcoms?
What does a real P.I. actually do? Movies have made it seem like a glamorous, exciting profession, but this show paints a different picture. Which do you think is closer to reality?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love quirky characters
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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