HBO's new series Bored to Death has a self-referential hero, tons of inside New Yorker jokes, and heaps of self-conscious cool. But it's also a mystery series. Just who is going to watch Miss Marple meets Arcade Fire?
Trying to give genre fare an ironic tweak is a hallmark of the hipster creative ethos, but usually delivered with a stink-face detachment that jokes at the genre's expense or calls attention to the falsity of its own conventions. Jonatham Ames, the wunderkind of literary post-post-modernism who created the show and provides the name for the hero (played by Jason Schwartzman) clearly loves detective novels in a real way. Sincerity is not something that the struggling artistic types depicted in this show do well, or connect with in their pop cultural fare. We can see a Williamsburg production of Murder She Wrote: The Musical, but never a straight up noir set on the Lower East Side.
The major problem is that Hollywood always tries to bottle the lightning of cool into some sort of simulacrum that is too watered down and false for those who inspired it, and too esoteric and elitist for those outside of it. Throw in some mystery stories and the formula for this show is two degrees away from what the mumblecore aficionados would consider in good taste. The thing that scenesters hate the most is anyone trying to lay claim to the label of the scenester or, blasphemy of blasphemies, spread its message outside of the barely gentrified ghettos where it is born.
A show has to walk a very careful line with hipsters, as Flight of the Conchords did brilliantly, of playing at story but not really acknowledging any world existing outside of its precious snow bubble.
But with Wes Anderson alumni Schwartzman, man of the moment Zach Galifianakis, and Ted Danson (and his hair system) playing a randy, drugged-out downtown scene fixture (that Ames said is based on George Plimpton) how can the hoodie and Converse set resist this pedigree? And they really shouldn't. The premiere episode was good for a few chuckles and shows promise for things to come. The action moved quickly and the characters well-drawn characters, even if they are a bit of caricatures of the Brooklyn types you'd find at a magazine launch party (if they still had those). Which poses another serious dilemma, will the cognoscenti have enough of a sense of humor to laugh at themselves?
We predict that, rather than ignoring the show altogether, those in the know will tune in rapturously, and then bitch about how horrible and unrealistic it is over PBRs. After all, the only thing hipper than liking something that's super cool, is hating something when everyone else thinks it is.