BORED TO DEATH Premiere: Indulging in White W(h)ine

Check out his sleuthing jacket.
Check out his sleuthing jacket.

Episode 101, “Stockholm Syndrome” Air Date 9/20/09

In case you’re wondering whether the title of this post is a dig or a burn, I really liked this show. “Too much white wine” is a line that the main character says to describe why his girlfriend left him, and if you change wine to “whine” (which I kept doing accidentally as I typed this up), it’s very appropriate. He’s very neurotic. Er, “noir-otic.” Heh.

First of all, the opening credits are really cool. The words on the pages of a book give way to moving pictures. It reminds me of a Kindle, if the words and pictures on a Kindle moved around. (If you’ve ever seen a Kindle, they have an Etch-a-Sketch appeal.) And later we’ll find out that Zach Galifianakis’ character is a comic book artist, so it all ties in.

Jason Schwartzman is playing Jonathan Ames, which is also the name of the guy who created this show, and wrote the book that this show is based on. Just so you know.

Jonathan’s girlfriend Suzanne (Olivia Thirlby) is moving out, and she takes the bed. But she leaves a framed picture of a tree, after she thinks about taking it. As soon as the moving truck is packed up, they kiss and he tries to talk her out of leaving. It’s too little, too late.

Suzanne: I told you months ago that if we were gonna make this work, you had to stop drinking and smoking pot, and you didn’t. That was our deal.

Ugh, I feel her pain. Guys: If a girl tells you what the deal breaker is, and then later breaks up with you over it… don’t act so shocked. You were warned!

Jonathan follows Suzanne to the truck, where she climbs in with the Israeli movers. They watch Jonathan grovel.

Jonathan: I can’t help it. I still like the way pot makes me think. Maybe it’s healthy!

Suzanne: Pot is not healthy

Jonathan: They give it to cancer patients!

Suzanne: You don’t have cancer.

Jonathan: Not yet.

Wow, Jonathan and I can be the founding members of the League of Morbid Thinkers. He chases after the moving truck, to no avail. Jonathan’s neighbor (and maybe landlady) tells him, “You gotta rebound fast, that’s the best cure. Just go on Craigslist.” Woof. Not the best idea.

Jonathan tries to talk about his feelings, but the neighbor’s kid starts hitting things with a baseball bat, and she leaves him alone on the stairwell. Poor Jonathan. Well, I’m not that sad for him. But it’s sad in a human condition, people-don’t-talk-to-each-other kind of way.

Back in the apartment, Jonathan knocks over a stack of books and finds a paperback: “Farewell My Lovely” by Raymond Chandler. There’s a detective on the cover. He lies on the floor with a pillow between his legs, reading it.

Jonathan is one of those well-dressed hipsters, and reminds me so much of a few Silver Lake types I’ve known in my day. But I’m guessing he’s a Williamsburg type, since this is Brooklyn. Although… is there a new Williamsburg? Long Island City or something? I don’t know, I’m not in the Brooklyn loop. I wish.

He also drinks white wine (ha, I wrote “whine” first, which is almost more appropriate) out of a coffee mug. How Prohibition Era of him. Before the opening credits end, he opens his laptop, goes to Craigslist, and posts a listing: “Detective for Hire.”

Now, I have a little bit of an issue with this, because it feels like the whole deciding-to-be-a-detective thing happened really fast. It seems like Jonathan took action really quickly, when his girlfriend just said that he never takes action? But maybe that’s the point? I don’t know, I just thought that there would be more of a journey to the moment when he decides to be a detective, and a little bit more of a “why.” But I’m still on board. Just sayin’.

Literally the moment that he posts the ad, he gets a call. But it’s not a potential client. It’s his friend Ray. AKA Zach Galifianakis! I’m excited! And they meet at a coffee shop and sit at a counter that’s up against a window. Ugh, New York City is cool. I mean, counters up against windows exist in other cities, but I’m totally infatuated with NYC. You’ll have to forgive me.

Ray compares a bad breakup to being in a “falcon hood,” where all you can see “is complete darkness.” He asks why Jonathan didn’t tell him about what was going on.

Jonathan: I didn’t think she would actually move out. And then out of nowhere these super-efficient Israeli mover guys show. All of a sudden it’s like the Raid on Entebbe in my own apartment.

Ray: Let me, let me get my computer. What is the Raid on Entebbe?

Jonathan: It was the Israeli tactical, uh… group of people… ah, fuck it, I don’t know. You used the word “falcon hood.”

Ray: I know what a falcon hood is. Everybody knows what a falcon hood is.

Jonathan: Really?

(You guys, I’m listening to an internet radio show, and they just played a Coconut Records song. That’s Jason Schwartzman’s band. And NOW they’re plugging “Bored to Death.” Crazy.) (Not that crazy.)

Jonathan and Ray are both struggling artists. Jonathan’s working on his second novel, and Ray draws comic books. Ray is sure that his girlfriend, Leah, is about to break up with him. She told him that he should get a job teaching art at public school. “Those girls were into us because we’re artists,” Ray says. “And then reality hits.”

Ray shows Jonathan that he made him a character in his web comic: A therapist.

Jonathan: I wish you’d made me something more heroic.

Ray: You are heroic. Therapists are heroic. They’re the heroes of listening.

True that!

We see that in the comic, Ray is a superhero. His superhero self (in costume) is curled up on the therapist’s couch, sucking his thumb. The speech bubble says, “I don’t feel like anybody really knows me.” The therapist’s bubble says, “I understand.” It’s precious.

And I found a picture of it! I am so happy to be able to show this to you:

"Therapists are the superheroes of listening."
"Therapists are heroic. They’re the heroes of listening."

Jonathan gets a call from a girl who saw the Craigslist ad (at first he doesn’t even remember the ad). Her sister (an NYU student) is missing. Jonathan manages to field the call and continue to play his computer game, which is… something that beeps and has a green background. I don’t know computer games. Other than Tetris.

One F train later, Jonathan meets up with the concerned sister, Rachel. She’s really thin. It’s making me feel uncomfortable. And she’s wearing a purple dress and a red sweater. AND she says she uses Craigslist for everything. She’s freaking me out to the max!

On the spot, Jonathan says that his rate is $100/day. He asks to see a picture of the sister, Lisa, and the picture includes Lisa’s “gross boyfriend, Vincent.” What’s gross about him, Jonathan wants to know. Rachel enumerates: He has a neck tattoo, and he’s English, and he’s a bartender. “And he’s old, like thirty.” “That’s not old,” Jonathan counters. “I’m thirty.” It’s awkward and delightful.

Thirty-year-olds are really defensive about not being old.

Rachel: My sister says even though Vincent’s a total jerk, they have amazing sex. Guys who are assholes are always the best at sex. It sucks. I don’t know why the world is like that.

Jonathan: Nice guys can be good too, you know. Thoughtful, attentive, just… loving.

He sort of points at himself when he says “loving.” It’s fairly hilarious. Also… the most effeminate delivery possible.

Rachel interrupts and adds that Vincent is likely a meth-head, and that he might have “gone homicidal on her.” “Break-ups can be hard on a guy,” Jonathan says mournfully.

Rachel starts to question whether Jonathan is a real detective, so he uses some detective talk. “Find him, and we find her. ‘Cherchez l’homme.'” The girl doesn’t know that it’s a play on a famous quote, and gets really confused. She’s taking Spanish in school, so…

Jonathan and Rachel print up several copies of the picture of Vincent and Lisa (technology!), and we find out that Vincent works at the Parkside Lounge. They don’t card NYU students! Jonathan gets a call from George (Ted Danson) reminding him that he has to work for George tonight. Jonathan hangs up and says, “Another case closed!” Not so much.

Jonathan promises to find the sister, and sends his client home (to Philadelphia) in a cab. Um, maybe he shouldn’t have promised. This is his first case, after all.

Also, an ambulance goes by in the background, and we hear it, and it was probably not a planned thing, and good job sound people!

Big fancy art gallery party. Jonathan shows up and greets a beautiful woman named Niko.

Niko: Where have you been? George is pissed.

Jonathan: He’s drunk already?

Niko: Don’t pull that Anglophile bullshit, okay? He’s pissed as in, angry at you.

Anglophile bullshit? Such a thirtysomething neo-hipster artist thing to do. Jonathan was supposed to get celebrity quotes for “the party page,” but only D-listers are left. So George runs a newspaper?

Niko and her boyfriend broke up, too, and Jonathan seems to be angling for some sort of rebound action with her. But… he’s effeminate and neurotic, and she’s… stunning. But Niko isn’t biting.

Niko: Actually, I’m happier alone. The only reason to be with somebody is to have sex, and I don’t need sex. I mean, when you’re doing it it’s okay, but when you’re not it’s like, What’s the point?

Jonathan: Yeah… I guess.

This is a fundamental difference between men and women. Or, men and a certain type of woman. It’s also a really funny moment, because Jonathan’s face is saying, “What?”

The bottom line is that Niko is taller than Jonathan.

Luckily Jonathan is saved by George, who is not mad. He wants pot! And Jonathan has pot.

They’re together in a bathroom stall. Sexual. Jonathan is pretty judgmental about George’s pot-smoking, all things considered. He dips the end of a cigarette into a prescription bottle filled with pot. George is very pleased with that.

But the medicine bottle is an old Viagra bottle with George’s name on it. Oops. George is NOT happy about that.

Jonathan: You gave me that bottle months ago. There were two pills left in it, you told me I should try them, now I’m putting my pot in it.

George: Are you insane? What if you got arrested for marijuana possession? Page Six would have a field day.

Okay, Ted Danson is looking a lot like Tim Gunn in this scene.

George thinks that he hears someone come into the bathroom. He looks over the stall (he’s tall) and says, “Hello? Hello?” in a kind of sing-songy way.

But the reason George is mad isn’t necessarily what you’d think: He doesn’t seem to care about being connected to a pot possession rap. He just doesn’t want the world to know that he takes Viagra. Jonathan questions whether George really needs Viagra, and George blames in on the a-a-a-a-a-alcohol (Jamie Foxx style). And the heart medicine.

Speaking of, I find it surprising that Jonathan doesn’t have any pill bottles of his own. Being a novelist, and all. Issues!

George sits on top of the toilet and lights up the pot-dipped cigarette.

George: I’m not who I once was, but I accept that. It’s called humility.

Jonathan: Then why are you back on pot?

George: Because I’m bored. I’m bored. Death by a thousand dull conversations.

There you go. Bored to death. I really love this scene, and also the ennui of this show. I’m making fun of the hipster-ness, but hey, I’m an aspiring writer dwelling in the Silver Lake area. I only joke because I love.

Jonathan: Do you think we drink too much?

George: No, we don’t drink too much. Men face reality, women don’t. That’s why men need to drink.

Jonathan: That’s a line from my novel.

George: Yeah, well you stole it from me.

Well, whoever said it… I don’t think it’s true. Jonathan tells George that Suzanne moved out because he drank too much, and George says that he isn’t surprised.

George: You’re like me, Jonathan. We enthrall and then we disappoint. It used to take me several years, now it’s a couple of weeks. If I’m with a woman longer than that, then there’s something wrong with her.

Aw, that’s sad. And once again: I really like this scene.

Jonathan asks why this is true, and George says that he doesn’t lie as well as he used to. “Well, that means you’re more honest,” Jonathan says optimistically. George laughs and says, “No.”

Back in the gallery, Jonathan calls the Parkside Lounge and asks if Vincent Ellis is working tonight. In a very cool exterior shot, we see Jonathan walking to the Parkside Lounge in the red glow emitted from its neon sign. It looks great partly because the streets are wet, which… it’s a Hollywood (as in, film industry) convention to water down the streets for a night shoot. With a big truck. For reasons such as these.

At first Jonathan orders white wine, but the Parkside Lounge isn’t really a white wine type of place, so he orders, “Whisky, no ice.” I’m guessing that’s a Raymond Chandler thing. But it obviously burns, because he makes terrible faces while he drinks it. And coughs. Very funny.

Turns out that Vincent isn’t working after all. He called in just before his shift started. Jonathan tries to question the bartender/maybe owner. He lays a twenty dollar bill down on the bar… old timey bribe!

Bartender: I’ll tell you one thing. He’s not home.

Jonathan: Can you tell me another thing, like where he’s at?

Vincent’s at the Velma Hotel. It came up on the bar’s caller ID.

Jonathan finishes his whiskey before he leaves, sputtering and choking. “Been laying off the whiskey,” he yells to the bartender. “Been on a white wine regimen. Trying to save the relationship.” Nice cover? “Good for you,” the bartender deadpans.

Now it’s raining? Okay, it’s very noir. Jonathan is outside the hotel, and still coughing. He is really not equipped to be manly.

Of course, the hotel manager behind the glass answers every question with, “Fuck you.” “Come on man, you don’t have to curse so much,” Jonathan says. He has to rent a room if he even wants to sit in the lobby: $60 for three hours, $90 for the night. “Do people use their real names in this place?” Jonathan asks. He checks in as Raymond Chandler.

In case you’ve been keeping track: At this point, he’s making negative money. So much for $100/day.

Jonathan sits in the lobby, waiting for Vincent to come out and smoke. He reads his novel, he dances, he watches odd couples come and go (my favorite: A middle-aged white man in business attire and a young male Asian punk). Eventually Jonathan falls asleep. When he wakes up, he finds out that Vincent went out and came back. “With beer.” Alone.

After some more bribing, Jonathan gets Vincent’s room number: 313. Roomie wonders why Jonathan didn’t just ask for that in the first place, but I think the innkeeper wanted to milk him for more money than that. And maybe some sort of strange trust was built, as Jonathan waited and danced.

I really like the music on this show. There was maybe-flamenco playing as Jonathan waited, and now some kind of crazy synth score. Maybe a Casiotone.

Jonathan bangs on Vincent’s door and calls his name (maybe not the smoothest way to do things, if you don’t want someone to think you’re a cop and/or kill you?), until a prostitute opens the next door over. “What the hell is going on out here?” “Nothing, I’m sorry,” Jonathan says.

The prostitute offers him a date, because she just had a client cancel. “You know, I can’t right now,” he says. “But thank you.” He’s obviously afraid of the prostitute, because she is very tall and has a lot of attitude. Maybe she’s really a man. Who knows.

Vincent flings his door open, and scares the crap out of Jonathan. The prostitute, spooked, goes back into her room.

Jonathan busts into Vincent’s room. Vincent is wearing black briefs, a white wife beater, and a leather jacket. The sister is… tied to the bedposts, and has a washcloth in her mouth. Jonathan reassures her that he’s here to help.

And then Vincent pulls out his… weapon? It’s a lighter, like the long type that you use to light a grill. It’s really not scary at all, but it freaks Jonathan. He runs into the bathroom, and locks himself in. His phone starts to ring. (And the same time, MY phone started to ring. It was weird.)

“Who the fuck is calling you?” Vincent yells on the other side of the door. The sister (Lisa) rolls her eyes.

“Can you wait one second, please?” Jonathan calls. “It’s my boss calling, I’m gonna answer it. He hates if I don’t answer it.” George is kneeling on his bed in a silk robe. He’s craving marijuana. Can Jonathan come over?

George: Don’t be a milquetoast. Where are you, Brooklyn? Hop in a car service. I’ll pay.

Hahahs, milquetoast is an amazing word. And it’s a pretty accurate description of Jonathan. (The tagline calls him a noir-otic, which is also good.)

Just as a refresher: The sister who hired Jonathan is Rachel Klein, and the girl in the bed is Lisa. Jewish girls gone wild!

Through the door, Jonathan explains that he’s not a licensed detective. “I’m a writer.” Suddenly, Vincent is intrigued. “What kind of writer?” Jonathan says that he’s struggling with his second novel, which is traditionally the hardest novel to write (his words). Vincent is a writer too. He writes songs. “It’s really what I want to do with my life.”

Lisa broke up with Vincent, and he’s trying to put things back together. “Really?” Jonathan says. “My girlfriend broke up with me. She moved out today. I’m pretty upset.” On the bed, Lisa is looking incredibly WTF about all this.

“You just let her go?” Vincent asks. “That’s not cool. You have to be a man when that happens.” Jonathan’s problem is that he’s not particularly manly. And Vincent’s problem is that he’s heating up a meth pipe as he doles out this advice.

“Yeah, I let her go,” Jonathan says. “I mean, why is Lisa tied to the bed? I don’t like the looks of THAT.” HA.

Vincent says that they’re role-playing, and that he wants Lisa to get Stockholm Syndrome. “That’s why we’re in this sleazy room, to make it authentic.”

Jonathan: I’ve always been intrigued by Stockholm Syndrome. Makes me think of my childhood.

Ooch. Interesting. I want to hear more about his background.

Vincent: She’s supposed to fall in love with her captor. Or in this case, fall back in love.

Jonathan: I should have tried that… Can I come out now?

Um, let’s take a vote: Does Jonathan have Stockholm Syndrome right now? He just totally bonded with Vincent while… being held captive in Vincent’s bathroom.

Jonathan comes out of the bathroom, and Vincent continues to point the lighter at him (from across the room) as if it’s a gun. Jonathan sniffs the air: “What’s that smell?” It’s meth.

Jonathan: Oh come on, man. You can’t smoke meth. It’s all chemicals. I have pot. It’s natural, it’s better for you.

Jonathan wants to take the washcloth out of Lisa’s mouth, but Vincent says that they have to maintain their role-playing roles. Jonathan seems to have totally forgotten his purpose, because he doesn’t argue the point. Jonathan and Vincent, now very chummy, smoke some pot together. The reversals in this whole situation are hilarious.

Jonathan: My girlfriend broke up with me because she says I smoke too much pot and drink too much wine. But she’s right. How can you love someone if you’re in a fog the whole time?

That last line is beautiful. In my opinion. (And the first line is kind of… on the nosey? And too specific? I mean, I think it’s his deluded excuse for why she broke up with him, but still.) (And did he ONLY drink white wine? Why not just say, “I drink too much”?)

Vincent offers Jonathan a hit of meth, and Jonathan is intrigued. My co-worker maintains that Jonathan totally would have tried it, but luckily…

At that moment the police come knocking with the prostitute, because she heard a fight. Vincent throws all of the drugs out the bathroom window. Jonathan lets the police in, acting as if he’s inviting them into a totally normal situation.

The police finally take the washcloth out of Lisa’s mouth. She says that she’s fine, and identifies Vincent as her ex. “But I don’t even know who that guy is,” she says, indicating Jonathan. “I think there’s something wrong with him.” Ha.

“I was just trying to help,” Jonathan says as the officers lead him into the hallway. “I’m a writer.”

Jonathan sits in the station, talking to an officer (a detective?) at a desk. He explains that he wasn’t in his right mind, after his breakup. Jonathan says that he actually lost money, because he forgot to tell the little sister about expenses, which is something that the detectives in books always take into consideration. The officer tells Jonathan that he didn’t actually break any laws, and Vincent and Lisa aren’t filing a complaint, after all. HA.

So… Jonathan was just trying to help, but now he’s the criminal element in this situation.

Jonathan sees Vincent and Lisa walking out. “And you had better get that tattoo changed,” she’s saying. “I’m sick of seeing the name ‘Lisa’ tattooed on your belly.” “But that’s your name!” Vincent protests. “But that’s the other Lisa!” she replies. HA.

Jonathan tells Lisa to call her sister. “I already called her, asshole,” Lisa says. Ouch, no good deed goes unpunished. But when your boyfriend’s a meth-head (and maybe you are, too), the last thing you want is to have to deal with the police. “Thanks for not pressing charges!” Jonathan calls as they exit.

The officer is not happy Jonathan, to say the least. “If you go back on that Craigslist, and impersonate an investigator, you’re gonna end up in Riker’s. And I don’t see you thriving in that environment.” HA. He’s totally be somebody’s girlfriend.

I guess Jonathan spent the night at the station, because he exits a subway station into the light of day, in Brooklyn. As he walks, we hear a lovely song: “Being alone it can be quite romantic. Like Jacques Cousteau underneath the Atlantic.” (It’s “Lull,” by Andrew Bird. Thanks, Google.)

Jonathan and Ray meet up outside their coffee house, because the interior of the shop has been invaded by yoga mommies. Ray wants to talk first. He tells a story about his girlfriend, Leah, and how they didn’t have sex last night like they were supposed to because she fell asleep, but how she got really angry when he didn’t stay the night. Also: Leah has kids. Plural.

Ray: I want to be put to sleep. I want to be tucked in. I want to be the only child of a woman’s life.

Ray has mommy issues. Before Jonathan can tell his story, Ray sees Leah riding up on a bike. With a child’s seat on the back.

Ray gets up and walks away, but Leah catches him.

Leah: How dare you leave me in the middle of the night like a one-night stand.

Ray: One-night stand? I wish it was.

Leah: You should have stayed and held me.

Ray: What am I? A hot water bottle. I’m a man, I have needs. You call this monogamy? I call it celibacy.

Leah: Oh, those are big words for you. Did you read them in one of your comic books?

Ray: I read them in my diary.

Might I remind you that Ray is Zach Galifianakis? This scene is amazing. Ray starts to cry, and Leah gets off her bike and holds him. It’s really sweet. And Ray is such a man-baby. He should have held Leah last night. In that one conversation, you see that they have issues, but they also need each other. (Or at least, Ray needs Leah.) Also: Leah is really pretty, in a doesn’t-wear-makeup way.

Jonathan gets up and walks away, tripping over a stroller. He goes home and hangs up his brown corduroy detective jacket. But then he gets an email asking for his investigative help. It’s from a woman. He calls her up. “I believe I can help you.”

Next week: Is the woman Kristin Wiig? Jason talks to Olivia (his ex). Ted gets herpes of the mouth. Zach gets a colonic. I mean, Jonathan, Suzanne, George, Ray. Character names. I need to learn them.

Okay, so I really enjoyed that. I think the theme of being aspiring or struggling artists and trying to sustain relationships and… all the rest… it’s right up my alley.

So… you’ll be hearing about this show again. And if you have HBO, check it out. Great lines, great deliveries.

xoxo…

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