The male consciousness, in all its neurotic, demanding, self-deluding glory, runs amok in Bored to Death, an unusual and charming sitcom from HBO. Jonathan Ames (Jason Schwartzman, Rushmore) is supposed to be working on his second novel, but instead he places an ad on the Internet, offering his services as an unlicensed detective. The promise of reasonable rates draws in cases: a kidnapped sister; an unfaithful boyfriend; a blackmailing one-night stand; a stolen skateboard; a long-lost love. His investigations are sometimes helped, sometimes hindered by his best friend Ray (Zach Galifianakis, The Hangover), a sexually frustrated cartoonist, and his boss George (Ted Danson, Cheers), a successful editor who's questioning the value of his career. Bored to Death is steeped in literary slacker quirkiness--hardly surprising, given that it's created by comic writer Jonathan Ames (whose novel The Extra Man is being turned into a movie), who's named the main character after himself. But while the show has a bit of a shaggy dog quality, it's more endearing than arty or precious. Schwartzman's nebbishy intelligence fits his role perfectly, and both Galifianakis and Danson have a field day with the contrasting narcissisms of their characters. The female characters aren't so well drawn, despite the presence of such engaging actresses as Olivia Thirlby, Kristen Wiig, Parker Posey, Bebe Neuwirth, and others. (Male guest stars include Patton Oswalt and Jim Jarmusch, which is about as hip and New York as you can get.) While male self-obsession can be intolerable in real life, as a subject for comedy it's rich material. --Bret FetzerExpires Sep 14, 2011

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