I’m not always thrilled when Bored To Death does an episode without a mystery. It’s not like this half-hour comedy has really in-depth, fascinating Sherlock Holmes shit going on, but this is a show that needs some structure. I don’t enjoy it as much when it’s just “let’s see what these three crazy guys are up to!” I’m sure the opposite is true for some fans, as the mystery plots can be a little rote, but I’ve always found Bored To Death is aimless enough as it is.
So I was initially a little bummed out that we were back to the same plot territory as the first episode of the season. The only mystery is Jonathan’s ongoing search for his biological dad, which advances slightly this week with something about a sperm bank burning down in the 1980s. Meanwhile, George is dealing with his daughter and Bernard again and Ray is having trouble being a Brooklyn parent again. The first half of the episode came close to feeling like a repeat, what with Bernard getting a dog collar from Emily, and the idea that Jonathan was going on The Dick Cavett Show left me baffled. Dick Cavett still has a show?
But once Jonathan showed up at the Cavett studio everything tightened up. The Cavett concept remained a little vague (I guess in the Bored To Death universe, he’s starting a new show—maybe he wants to do the same in the real world) but Schwartzman’s chemistry with him was strong enough that it didn’t matter. Plus, we got the latest chapter in Jonathan’s ongoing rivalry with Louis Green (John Hodgman) which is always a good well for the show to draw from. I’m sure Hodgman is a nice man, but he’s so delectably mean on this show, to the point where you admire how upfront he is—“Your most recent publication was unwarranted and undeserved, did you know that?” is how he greets Jonathan here.
A little surprisingly, the show gave Louis quite an epic comeuppance this week. Usually he always seems to get away with his nefariousness, but Jonathan’s compelling personal story on Cavett gets Louis bumped from the show, and his Sideshow Bob-esque attempt at curtain-dropping revenge ends up making Jonathan a hero, puts Cavett in a stretcher, and lands Louis in jail, where it seems he quickly finds a new friend (in what was not the cleverest gag of the night). I was surprised at just how satisfying I found Louis’ fall from grace, which is a testament to what an effective villain he is.
Jonathan’s own antics were a little less noteworthy—his brief attempts to channel Robert Mitchum were more awkward than funny. George’s obsession with Mitchum was spot-on, though, and his halting attempt to say “Hi” to Cavett was a nice reminder of his increasing irrelevance. “We had lunch together in 1979 with Norman Mailer!” “Whatever,” Cavett replies.
Similarly, Ted Danson is doing a great job with his tiresome daughter plot because of how well it reflects on his own insecurities. He tells her not to marry Bernard, who’s his age, because “he’ll be dead in 20 years,” before backtracking and revising that number up to 30. Danson did an even better job in season two of balancing the seriousness of his cancer plot with George’s general advancing fears of getting older. Bernard running around with a hemp dog collar is a little broader than that, so it hits a little less, but that look of fear on George’s face is the same.
The same semi-serious approach with Ray fails to land, though. His escapade with Spencer was a bit of a dud and the baby-switching conclusion felt like the oldest joke in the book, and not a very good one (the mothers’ horror at his penis cartoons did make me giggle, though). Galifianakis is good at playing Ray all melancholy and I felt for him losing visiting rights to Spencer, but mostly I was relieved that the baby was gonna be off the table for the next few episodes. Does that make me a terrible person?
As much complaining as I’m doing, “The Black Clock Of Time” still left me pretty satisfied. Maybe it was all those “big black cock” jokes (I made the same error when I got the screener for this episode and read the title) or maybe it filled a subconscious need I have for cerebral talk shows that I didn’t know existed. But maybe next week we can hop back on the adventure train.
- “I’d hate for Spencer to think of me as a urine cup filled with jizz.” “Wow, you can fill a whole urine cup?” “Yeah, I eat a lot of sunflower seeds.”
- Emily likes her engagement ring. “It came from the Earth’s mantle!”
- “Like Rashomon!” “That’s not the Rashomon I remember.” Ah, but The Simpsons already did it.
- Emily thinks Bernard is like Woody Allen. George objects. “Don’t use Woody Allen, that’s worse than the Twinkie defense!”
- Louis practices his bon mots in the green room. “I think we could make penicillin out of American culture, look at Jonathan Ames. I’m glad your audience found that so amusing.”
- A cop is on the missing baby case. “Can you describe the penises?” “Big.”
- Louis can’t be manhandled. “Easy, easy, I had the Chicken Kiev at the Russian tea room”