Oh, HBO, how you giveth and taketh away. In 2009 you brought us the hilariously quirky detective comedy 'Bored to Death,' and now, after just three seasons, you're prematurely taking it away. While I'm clearly still hung up about the show's untimely cancellation, I can at least take some solace in the fact that the series got to go out on a high note. An unfinished high note still full of potential, but a high note all the same. Featuring a great cast of endearing characters and some of the wittiest writing on TV, the third season matches the high bar set by its predecessor.
Picking up where season two left off, 'Bored to Death: The Complete Third Season' continues to follow the misadventures of writer/amateur private detective Jonathan Ames (Jason Schwartzman) and his two best friends, George (Ted Danson) and Ray (Zack Galifianakis). Having just released a new book, things are looking up for Jonathan, but when he finds out that his dad isn't actually his biological father, he is suddenly filled with doubt. Being framed for murder also doesn't help matters much either. Meanwhile, George has to deal with his daughter's recent engagement to a much older man, and Ray continues to try and salvage his relationship with Leah (Heather Burns). As the trio juggles their various issues, they continue to take on new cases, adding even more drama and hilarity to the mix.
The eight episodes that make up the third season see Jonathan take on an eclectic assortment of cases that get him into quite a bit of trouble (and a wonderful collection of disguises!) Scenarios focus on everything from a murdered jockey to a stolen necklace, and one particularly amusing case even involves the star tracking down an imposter Jonathan Ames (who only speaks in hardboiled clichés). A fencing duel, supermarket showdown, stadium shootout, and a hilarious attempt to escape danger by jumping on a rotating carousel, are all highlights, and the series once again tackles various film noir tropes and clichés with a sly wink (most of the cases involve some type of insurance fraud). In addition to these episodic bits, a season long arc deals with Jonathan's search for his biological father, and the subsequent payoff is wonderful.
Once again, what really makes 'Bored to Death' so special is the combination of creator Jonathan Ames unique comedic voice, and the wonderful chemistry between the show's three leads. Ames injects the series with an absurd mixture of goofy charm, obscure references, self deprecating humor, slightly exaggerated situations, and a plethora of quotable, witty dialogue. While a lot of the bigger gags are fantastic, little asides (George feeling left out right in the thick of a dangerous case), character nuances (as pointed out in the commentary, Ray has a tendency to suddenly bark out lines), and quick bits of physical comedy (like a waiter randomly tripping over a phone line) end up getting some of the biggest laughs.
Like I mentioned in my season two review, the series effortlessly balances low brow and high brow comedy, coming away with one of the most intelligent and simultaneously silly sitcoms on TV. One minute characters will be making funny references to Shakespeare, and the next they'll be running naked throughout the streets of Brooklyn. It's a seemingly odd blend, but it works brilliantly. Dialogue centric scenes sizzle with humorous observations and distinct characterizations, and the cases Jonathan takes on lead to some truly goofy set pieces. Though the character is much more confident and competent this season, the fish-out-of-water aspect is still present, and watching Jonathan, Ray, and George bumble their way through their cases is hilarious.
Schwartzman, Danson, and Galifianakis make for one of the most unlikely trios on television, but somehow they fit together perfectly. Their friendship reaches new heights this year, and their deep bond together is not only genuinely sweet, but very funny (a sleepover between the three is absurd but endearing). They're willing to drop everything just to help each other out, and the scenes they all share together are some of the show's best. While season three is sadly Kevin Bacon free, supporting characters and guest stars are still top-notch, with memorable appearances by Olympia Dukakis, Isla Fisher, Mary Steenburgen, Patton Oswalt, Stacy Keach, and the great Dick Cavett. Also returning as Jonathan and George's nemeses are Oliver Platt and John Hodgeman. The two make a despicable and devilish pair of enemies, and the actors play off their heroic counterparts beautifully.
In slight contrast to previous seasons, a heavier focus is placed on the characters' personal lives and relationships. While this material is all strong in its own right, some episodes don't really have as much detective work as I would have liked. The cases are usually the most entertaining part of the series, and though the relationship comedy is fun (there's even trouble in paradise for the seemingly inseparable trio), they are a few stretches where I just wanted them to get over their hang-ups so they could go do some sleuthing. With that said, it's hard not to like scenes that involve Jonathan and George in couples therapy, or George scratching Ray's back while he takes a bath. Damn, I'm really going to miss this show.
Re-watching the third season of 'Bored to Death' for this review has been a very bittersweet experience. On the one hand, I got to enjoy these hilarious episodes again, and on the other hand, I was reminded just how upset I am that there won't be any more. This really was one of the best comedies on TV, and its unique voice will be greatly missed. I know it wasn't a ratings hit, but the show really deserved to continue, and this is one of those rare cases where HBO really made a bad call. Though it was cut too short, the series did have three great seasons, and while it's far from a proper conclusion, the final scene offers a fitting conclusion in its own way. And by own way, I mean there are still loose plotlines and clear room to develop more hilarious stories. Damn it, HBO! Oh well, I've got my fingers crossed for a movie, but something tells me not to hold my breath.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
HBO presents 'Bored to Death: The Complete Third Season' on two BD-50 discs housed in a foldout case that comes packaged in a cardboard slipcase. After a fast forwardable (but not skippable) promo for HBO, the disc transitions to a standard menu.
The show is provided with a series of 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfers in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Beautifully detailed and filled with bold, rich colors, the series looks absolutely stellar in high definition.
The digital source is very clean with only some minor noise visible in a few scenes. Clarity is fantastic, revealing fine details in clothing, faces, objects, and various textures (one can make out every strand of Galifianakis' thick beard). The various Brooklyn locations sparkle with life, character, and dimension, oscillating between the humorously ordinary and the genuinely exciting. Detours to numerous alleyways, restaurants, and hotels are bolstered by stop-offs at an aquarium, carousel, stadium, and botanical gardens, spicing up the screen with variety. Colors are extremely rich (the red and yellow Super Ray costume pops from the screen) but still natural, avoiding blinding oversaturation. While the scope of the series is comparatively modest, the narrative has bursts of film noir influenced silliness, leading to a few exaggerated and appropriately hilarious visual set pieces. Contrast is well balanced with bright whites and inky blacks. Thankfully, the very minor purple fringing I noticed on the season two set is nowhere to be found here.
Sharp, colorful, full of depth, and nearly immaculate, 'Bored to Death: The Complete Third Season' comes to Blu-ray with a reference quality transfer. The hard-boiled comedy lends itself to some pretty goofy situations, and all of the silly shenanigans are rendered beautifully. This is another top-tier video presentation from HBO.
The episodes are presented with a series of English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixes, French DTS 5.1 mixes, and Spanish DTS 2.0 mixes with optional English SHD, French, and Spanish subtitles. While a slight step up from season two's fairly underwhelming audio, these tracks are still a bit uneven.
Speech is crisp and clean throughout, giving a nice full-bodied quality to all of the characters' hilarious references and quips. From the moment the first episode began, I was slightly taken aback, as the soundfield was surprisingly aggressive and spacious. Unfortunately, after the initial scene (featuring knives being thrown at Jonathan) the mix becomes much more subdued. Indeed, the entire presentation is very inconsistent, with long stretches featuring virtually no surround activity, only to be interrupted by more lively jolts during key moments (usually involving lots of running). This makes sense, as a lot of the show is dialogue centric, but the switch can be a little jarring. Thankfully, even when the rears are quiet, activity remains nicely separated across the front three speakers, and the show's fun score comes through wonderfully with strong fidelity and solid bass response. Dynamic range is wide and full with no distortion, but again, the balance between quieter scenes and louder moments is unrefined.
The audio is an improvement over the second season, with wider range and bursts of immersion. Unfortunately, the sound design is a tad uneven, and some of the livelier jolts can be jarring. Still, the tracks are free of any technical issues and they complement the show's unique tone and blend of genres well.
HBO has put together a nice collection of special features, including commentaries, outtakes, and deleted scenes. All of the supplements are presented in 1080p with DTS 2.0 sound and the same subtitle options as the show.
'Bored to Death: The Complete Third Season' offers another great batch of episodes from the unique series. A hilarious blend of awkward humor and physical comedy, the show presents an inventive and unique comedic spin on classic film noir sensibilities. The video transfer is reference quality, and while a little uneven the audio is good. Supplements are informative and entertaining, with some amusing commentaries and deleted scenes. I'm still very upset that HBO decided to cancel this wonderful show, but I'm glad the cast and crew got to go out at their best.