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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Bored To Death 1x01

When you write your own show entitled 'Untitled Jonathan Ames Project', you've only yourself to blame if you're 'Bored To Death'.

Am I right?!  ...Right?  Heh.  *sigh*

What we have here is a 37 page script written by Jonathan Ames and dated 04/14/08 (download here).  This being a show for cable and all, there are no acts, tags or teasers.  I've no idea what version of the script it is as it's not marked anywhere.

So, the burning question is, of course:  Was I 'Bored To Death'?  (Kids, this is what happens when you grasp at the low-hanging fruit.  Aim higher, reach for them... uh... stars).

No, not bored to death.  Not terribly excited though either, unfortunately.

Actually... to be honest, I didn't much care for it.

Essentially:

Jonathan, a sad-sack borderline alcoholic, pot smoking, self-loathing, New York Jewish boy, decides to cope with his girlfriend ditching him ('cause he's too much of a sad-sack to change to accommodate her rather reasonable demands) by pretending to be a Private Eye straight out of the Philip Marlowe books he reads by the stack.

Now, like I said, I'm not sure what draft this is -- heck, it could be a first draft for all I know -- but for my 30-ish minutes spent reading this script and taking notes, I basically made one observation:

'Why?'

I'm not sure if this, like Flight of the Conchords, is one of those shows written with a specific actor in mind or if it's just a case of the show not being funny on the page (which happens and is totally normal)... but I simply didn't laugh.  I didn't understand why I should care about this guy -- he's having a relationship meltdown, so he... wants to be a PI?

Add in the fact that I didn't like the main character (who he was as a person) at all and, well, that didn't help things.

The dude's supposed to have this remarkably hot girlfriend, one who's taken all of his shit for an extended amount of time (even caring about him enough to tell him exactly what she wants from him: give up the booze and pot), but he refuses to do anything.  So she gets fed up and leaves him.

And then he spends all this time moping about his 'bad breakup' -- his entirely avoidable breakup -- until he finally throws (lurches) himself into this side job of his.  (Literally, he throws up an ad on Craigslist).

This is a guy we're going to want to tune into every week?

NOTE: This point, for some reason, actually pissed me off.  I was like 'Dude! You're letting her get away?!'   (Yes, I never knew I had issues with lazy, selfish slackers -- considering I used to be one... oooh! Internal drama!)

Jonathan spends an inordinate amount of time talking to two people, his friends Ray and George.  Both are incredibly different and yet neither of them really offer nothing to this script or the story at large... the conversations don't seem to mean anything (let alone move things forward).

Jonathan then goes on to tell pretty much anyone who'll listen that his girlfriend dumped him. And, I mean, yes, I get that he's 'upset' and 'heartbroken' (the dude does not seem even remotely upset... more like 'oh well, yeah, that happened') but as I read on I just kept waiting for something interesting to happen.

Okay, that's not entirely true.  See, on page 5 he puts his 'Private Eye' ad up on Craigslist... and then he goes off to hang out with his friend Ray for 3-ish pages... where the only 'new/interesting' information we find out is that Ray may or may not have Herpes.  Then on page 9 he's back home and he gets a call about his ad.

'Alright!,' I think to myself, things are going to get going.  He meets the client, finds out about the case, hops in a cab -- and goes to an Art Gallery opening that he was supposed to be working (as a Journalist) but forgot about.

From pages 15 to 19 he flirts with Suki, a Korean-American girl/friend, (whom he informs that he's now single) and gets high with his other friend George (who's some sort of big name)... and they talk about: drinking and getting high.

Half the script in now and almost nothing of any importance has happened.  This bothered me.  Like actually bothered me.

And then it hit me.

See, the more I read into the script the more it felt like there should be some dude in the background yelling: 'Whoa! We managed to get a show on the air where the main character's a pothead!?!'

'Cause this sad, lonely Jewish boy sure does love his weed.  Like, seriously, at least five times in this script he helps himself to a hit.

And that, essentially, sums up this show's main draw in this script.  You get to watch a low-motivation alcoholic/pothead ramble aimlessly with his buddies then stumble around and try to solve a mystery. 


 To be clear, for all my bitching about what essentially boils down to the 'concept', the real problem for me here is the execution.  That and my own expectations.  For some reason I came to this script and as I read it, I started to expect one thing... but the script veered, did a U-Turn and rode the Cloverleaf for a while. 

All-in-all I guess I just didn't 'get it' -- or didn't like what I got... I'm not entirely sure which yet.  Probably both.

As a side note to other poor writers who've had their scripts torn up or never quite understood the notes that find their way back (did they even read this thing?!):  You never know what your reader's bringing to the table -- be that baggage, or umbrage or a completely different understanding of the word 'vagina'.  There's no way to prepare for it.  Most aren't even aware of it themselves.

Hell, until this script I never would've realized that I've got an issue with lazy, selfish, slacker protagonists.  (DUDE! You just let her get away!?  Idiot!)

Either way, shake your head, call them a swear (or swear-lite substitute) behind their backs and move on -- 'cause sometimes that's just the way of the world.

Anyways, that brings us to the end of this... whatever the hell this thing turned out to be, tomorrow I'm checking out Falling Skies 1x01 - Awakening.

Until then,
Cheers!
Brandon

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