HBO’s new series is the resurrection of television. The show is a classy reminder of the golden age of television and follows the antics of an accidental Sherlock Holmes in modern times. Basically, it’s a detective show with absolutely no forensics.
However, the series is still clever and you feel smarter watching it. The storyline is an expanded version of one of producer, creator and writer Jonathan Ames’s short stories. The show follows a young novelist as he wanders Brooklyn dealing with heartache and writers’ block while wearing a trench coat.
Visually, the series is a combination of and a Wes Anderson film. The true gold of the series is its script. Filmmaker Jim Jarmusch has a cameo in one episode and says to the main character, “You must really suffer from the terrifying clarity of your vision.” This script is all clarity of vision, but none of the suffering.
Jason Schwartzman (, , ) plays the main character, conveniently named Jonathan Ames. Ladies, if you don’t have a huge crush on him after the pilot there can only be one explanation, you’ve fallen for silver fox Ted Danson () instead. Danson plays Jonathan’s boss, George Christopher, a hilarious over-the-hill but in his sexual prime magazine editor. Don’t worry gentlemen, there is plenty for you too, plenty of Zach Galifianakis that is. If his role in the summer hit didn’t do it for you, this certainly will.
The story is relatively simple and easy to follow. Jonathan Ames is dumped by his girlfriend Suzanne in the first episode for drinking too much alcohol and smoking too much pot. Unable to write his second novel, he deals with his grief by posting an ad for himself on Craigslist as an unlicensed private investigator.
He finds himself “solving cases” within the hour. His two confidants are his boss, George Christopher, and his best friend, Ray Hueston (Galifianakis). George is tall, sophisticated and is always wanting to be doing something, be that a colonoscopy or a night out at a Russian bar.
He is single handedly keeping Jonathon in to drugs and truly believes that the cure for Jonathan’s broken heart is sex. Also, George has a different sexual partner and sexual fixation in every episode. For example, in episode four, “The Case of the Stolen Skateboard,” he has a thing for golden, undulating armpit hairs.
Ray, on the other hand, is short, fat and hairy. He is a struggling cartoonist, often drawing superhero versions of himself in which he is tall, buff but still hairy. He doesn’t like what Jonathan is doing, or what anyone is doing (or not doing in the case of his girlfriend).
However, he is always there to help Jonathan on his missions, as a getaway driver or as a decoy. Conversely, George is always on the other end of the telephone whenever Jonathan is in a tricky spot, either needing advice or proposing some new grand scheme. He is the aye to Ray’s nay in Ames’s internal moral debate. So far in the series, there have been no more major developments. That’s the best thing about new shows: they aren’t going anywhere just yet; all they have to do is explain how they got here.
Watching the characters unfold without dreading impending plot twists is so relaxing and undemanding that there is time to enjoy the finer things in the series, like the dialogue. One could argue that the dialogue is too scripted, that no one really talks like that. This is true, and personally, I love it; it’s like I’m reading a novel. For example, I learned more about Jungian psychoanalysis in episode three, “The Case of the Missing Screenplay,” than I ever did in a psychology class. But sadly it does make the characters come off as slightly awkward, especially Jonathan.
Schwartzman delivers the role like you would expect him to, with limited outward emotion. This works in his movies where the art of withholding can be fully appreciated, but in one hour episodes once a week, it only serves to alienate.
On the upside, it looks like the show is hitting its stride as the characters and actors mesh. Reviews have been getting stronger and stronger by the episode. With only three episodes left in the first season, HBO has decided to keep it for a second.
People should watch this show, especially college-aged people. There is heart ache and marijuana, aversions to hard work and a lack of sex in the life of the nerd – things most Tech students will find familiar.
Not to be forgotten, there is good old-fashioned detective fun. This isn’t a show about forensic science or crime scene investigation; this is a show about a guy with a notepad. Best of all, there are no singing cheerleaders, magical islands or moody vampires.