There are a lot of television shows that rely on their inherent ‘gimmicks’ to drive interest in the show. In truth, the best episodes of these shows are when these devices are left to the background, and the show spends its time exploring parallels between its characters. Bored to Death is no different, and ‘The Case of the Missing Skateboard’ is the perfect example: the private detective part of the episode is much less entertaining then watching George, Jonathon, and Ray try to fill the different emotional holes in their lives.
Being a private detective of course, is part of Jonathon’s attempt at escapism; faced with writer’s block and a heartbreak, he’d rather distract himself by acting out some of his favorite literary fantasies. But in ‘The Case of the Missing Skateboard’, meeting the radical vegan mother wasn’t just there to put a face to his latest caper: Jonathon saw her as his first real chance to move away from Suzanne, and start getting his life back together. With his agent on his tail (shout out to Bebe Neuwirth) and a lonely apartment at home, he’s grasping at straws trying to find some inspiration in his life.
Of course, the pro bono case he takes on to try and persuade her affections (after a nice make out session, of course… there are perks to the job) ends up getting him in a shit pile with a skateboarding crew. The crew is an amusing little reminder of who Jonathon has been his entire life – a walk-on, and passive to a fault – and his inability to confront them shows that while he’s starting to embrace this new, risky lifestyle, he hasn’t really changed much at all to this point. That, and it gives Ames another reason for people to lift their fists into fighting positions.
George is dealing with his own emotional problems. Specifically, that he’s getting old and can’t figure out what’s hip anymore. He tries to combat it by attempting to recapture a youthful moment of lust involving a sexy armpit, but all he gets is a super young, extra hairy publicist who makes him feel super old. It’s a very simple and well-treaded story, but as always, Ted Danson makes it magical with his ability to eat up dialogue. Seriously, the guy can take a line about armpits and make it sound almost poetic. One of the best things about his scenes is the writer’s knowledge to let him do all of the talking in the scenes, because he commands the camera every time.
Finally, there’s Ray, who’s the only one of the three experiencing any success in his attempts of recapturing old emotions. His journey of masculinity is finally coming (literally) to fruition. However, what small joy he can get from fathering a lesbian couple’s child is being sucked away by his wife’s emotional reactions and the lesbians constant demands for more sperm.
Even the one guy who achieves something he sets out to do, is still miserable in the end. It’s the light-hearted cynicism at the heart of ‘The Case of the Missing Skateboard’ that makes it so fun to watch. There’s lots of great jokes, and while everybody fails in one way or another, it doesn’t try to teach lessons or suggest that things would’ve been better had they not tried. For all its laughs, Bored to Death is a pessimistic show, but it’s a shitload of fun to watch Ray, George and Jonathon interact. And we haven’t even seen the three of them in action together yet!
– yeah, the whole restaurant scene kind of sucked, but whatever. The clunky conclusion of the episode didn’t hurt my grade any: the most important part of a journey is never the ending.
– what about a beret did George think made him youthful?
– while it doesn’t matter in the end, Jonathon’s detective skills are slowly improving. He orchestrates a getaway
– I can’t pick a best line of the episode… I’m just going to give it to George’s armpit speech, because it’s fucking brilliant.
What did you think of ‘The Case of the Missing Screenplay’? Leave your thoughts/comments below!