Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Bored To Death: "The Gowanus Canal Has Gonorrhea!"

Illustration for article titled Bored To Death: "The Gowanus Canal Has Gonorrhea!"
TV ReviewsAll of our TV reviews in one convenient place.

Villains on Bored To Death are rarely evil. They let the simplest of motives derail in the interest of “nice conversation,” empathizing the shit out of Jonathan Ames. The worst tragedy that can happen on Bored To Death is something self-inflicted. It’s a buzzkill you can only blame yourself for bringing up. The call is coming from inside the house.

Tonight’s Bored To Death certainly tests this. Within the first few minutes, Jonathan finds that his and Stella’s relationship is over—the news delivered in front of a half-naked bubble girl. He’s then kidnapped by two goons (played by Jim Norton and Herc from The Wire) and taken to a concrete warehouse in Gowanus, where he’s held for ransom. Meanwhile, George revisits his affectionate-in-a-half-asleep-way doctor and learns some sad news: He has stage two prostate cancer.

Compounded with Ray’s recent heartbreak, Bored To Death is laying it on thick. But it does little to bring down the mood. The show gives much more weight to, say, Jonathan receiving multiple charley horses than it does George’s diagnosis. He certainly tells everyone about it, even when Jonathan calls him to solicit 20,000 dollars as a release fee, but no one mopes. George gets baked as all hell, Jonathan dumps the news on his captors, and Ray offers up some rare time on the phone.

I’m starting to accept Bored To Death as a fantasy. The earnestness that plagued the early part of season one is gone, replaced with a giddiness that provides levity to balance out the aforementioned seriousness. Stella doesn’t simply break up with Jonathan, she does so for her disgusting former fling Warren, whose deciding trait is that he took her virginity. George doesn’t simply receive his diagnosis, he’s lightly cradled in that doctor’s bosom, discovering a sick sort of love for the woman. The hooligans don’t simply capture Jonathan, they hang him over the Gowanus canal, where gonorrhea flows like stinky green water. George and Ray bust in to save Jonathan, fully decked out with rubber bullets, flash bombs, and body armor, but find themselves in a heap on the ground, stoned to oblivion. That’s the thing: On Bored To Death, even in the fantasy world, the characters fail. They need Jonathan’s parents to save the day.

It all works on “The Gowanus Canal Has Gonorrhea!”, an episode that demonstrates just how perfectly Bored To Death has honed its tone this season. It’s a world where every character is as fully formed as possible, no one simply serves a purpose. Take Patton Oswalt’s military salesman guy. Rather than selling the goods and exiting the episode, he sticks around and chats with Ray and George about how he lives in the shop, taking a furlough every once in a while to have a conjugal visit with his wife. That, and the action figures in the vicinity, paint a portrait of a sad man who clearly hasn’t gotten over something big in his life. And that’s just the guy at the store for one episode. Jonathan Ames the writer (as opposed to the character) has the ability to use these tiny details for huge effect, like when Jim Jarmusch rode around a loft on a tiny bicycle. That’s the Bored To Death I enjoy visiting, and the show’s currently on a deftness streak that has me optimistic for things to come.

Stray observations:

  • I had this idea the other day about a comedy set in Carroll Gardens where a kid stumbles upon the mafia and slowly works his way up the chain. Guess that's off the table. Or is it? LOST.
  • I'm in a strange mood to drive a Zipcar. Weird.