Bored to Death

TV review by
Will Wade, Common Sense Media
Bored to Death TV Poster Image
Lots of drinking and drug use in quirky cable comedy.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Jonathan is hoping to reinvent himself -- and perhaps cure his writer’s block -- by becoming a private detective. He gets credit for trying something unconventional and for stepping into potentially dangerous or embarrassing situations, but the circumstances are often cringe-worthy.

Positive Role Models & Representations

None of the main characters is much of a role model. Jonathan chooses liquor over his girlfriend when she gives him an ultimatum and then obsessively mopes about their breakup. His friend George seems to be interested in getting high and meeting women -- in that order. And his other friend, Ray, whines constantly about his sex life.


Some fistfights and arguments. The main character is anything but a bruiser, and the fight scenes typically involve few blows and end quickly, with him on the losing side.


Frequent references to sex, but no real on-screen action. One woman appears in a bra and bound to a bed, but not for any explicitly sexual reasons.


A fair bit of swearing. It’s not excessive but does include unbleeped use of “s--t,” “a--hole,” and “f--k.”


Not too many references to specific products. The main exception is the online classified service Craigslist, which plays an important role in the series.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Plenty of drinking and drugs. The main character is a borderline alcoholic, and his beverage of choice is white wine, though he sometimes drinks other things. He also smokes pot regularly, and one of his friends is constantly asking him to come over and bring him a joint or three.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 3 and 8-year-old Written byAnother Dad January 22, 2018

Pilot is appalling

This show's pilot is about three male characters who have horrible views of women. It's not just that they say sexist things and display sexist attitu... Continue reading
Adult Written byhamstergurl09 August 11, 2012


As far as TV shows go, this is top-notch. It's very original and creative, really quirky, and to top it all off, hilarious. The ways that Jonathan solves c... Continue reading

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

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?

TV details

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.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate