If you’re a thinking person of taste and discernment, you’ve probably come across Bored to Death in your telelvision-watching career–and equal chances are, you’ve loved it. You’ve devoured every minute of the trivial pursuits and panamorous adventures of Jonathan Ames‘ fictional self as portrayed by Jason Schwartzman, a writer moonlighting as a detective on the mad-cap streets of Fort Greene with his two equally hapless friends, Ted Danson and Zach Galifianakis. It’s the kind of addictive , cinematic, shamelessly perfect marriage of high-and-low comedy that one can’t help but love on sight. Unfortunately, it’s been axed by HBO, in the shock of the century that has every sane person crying out in pain and going through withdrawal symptoms. But enough about us–we caught up with Jonathan Ames and Jason Schwartzman to ask how they’re holding up.
BULLETT: Intelligent people are depressed right now about Bored to Death being cancelled. What point of the break-up process are you guys at?
JONATHAN AMES: First there was the rending of garments. I ripped my shirt from my body, wailing and clawing at the sky. And then the second stage was a warm bath and thumb-sucking. And the third stage was wild, mad inebriation. Aren’t those the three stages? I heard that once on Oprah.
Sounds very Greek.
AMES: Rending of clothes—a warm bath to recreate the womb, to kind of go back in time, and wild, ecstatic inebriation to lose oneself. I went through those three stages. And at the moment I’m okay with occasional sink-holes of great sadness and depression. Because for me, it’s a loss. It’s work, it’s friends, it was community. It was a gathering, Jason would come every late Winter into Spring, we were really starting to get into a rhythm of life. As someone who is kind of a perpetual academic—I like an academic schedule—someone once said to me ‘as long as you’re in school, you’re not failing.’ This was very much an academic schedule and it appealed to me. There’s a lot of loss. I think the biggest loss is that we were like a family, and I’m going to miss this beautiful family that would gather.
JASON SCHWARTZMAN: I also had the mourning process, but three seasons is so great, and Jonathan and I both feel so happy about that, each step of this has been a series of doing something and hoping, doing something and hoping—we did the pilot and we made it, making a season already felt like a bonus. Like instead of having an album with one bonus track, I felt like it was one album song with twelve bonus tracks. The whole 3 years have been awesome as far as I’m concerned, I’m happy to have had them. But in terms of my mood—it’s like, what is that thing called, that type of trap where you dig a hole and then you cover it with a blanket and put leaves on it? And then you walk over it and fall through it? That’s sort of my mood. I’ll be walking along and then I’ll see a man with a huge beard, and it’ll hurt for a second.
AMES: I like that—yes. Suddenly a wave of remorse comes over one. I like what Jason was saying like about how every step was exciting—like ‘we got to the next step!’ With a TV show it’s a little bit like cocaine—which I think is a terrible drug, I really do—but first I got hired to write the pilot script and I’m like, ‘okay, I’ll do that line!’ Then they’re like, ‘now we want to film the pilot.’ And I’m like ‘I’ll have that line!’ And then it’s a little bit like, shoot, there’s a whole, big supply of cocaine called a ‘season’. I hope I get a season! So as soon as you get one season you’re like, ‘can I have another season!’ There was always this wanting more–it was like the dessert hadn’t even been eaten and everybody wanted seconds.
AMES: In terms of other iterations of the show, I don’t know—I think it would be hard—one of the things I enjoyed each season as I kind of grew in the role was getting to push it, and making it bigger and bigger and more and more mad—and that in some ways would require more money as opposed to going smaller. Always I would hope the exchange between the three guys would be the strength and the base of the show, but I was really having fun getting more and more madcap and farcical and Pink-Panther-ish with action—so I don’t know that a smaller-budget project would have been the direction I was enjoying going in.
At one point you were talking about a novel…
AMES: I think the most feasible thing that could come from the wonderful chemistry of Jason, Ted and Zach would be, maybe in a year or two, if there’s interest, taking the ideas I had for the 4th season and making a movie. Because a novel—the rights are so tied up with HBO that the only thing that’s feasible for them is a movie.
Do you guys feel like good TV can’t survive? It’s hard not to be discouraged when you see something like Work It emerge and you’re thinking, ‘really? Are more people watching Work It than Bored to Death?
SCHWARTZMAN: What’s Work It?
It’s this horrible ABC show about two guys who dress as women to get a job.
SCHWARTZMAN: I’m the wrong person to ask because a. I’m naturally negative and b. I don’t know anything about television really—but I will say that I do feel like there’s always good stuff. I have lots of friends whose taste I respect—and they have so many shows that they love that are on. I think that anything can happen any time, and there’s always good stuff around.
AMES: I would echo Jason. Not to sound ‘Pollyanna’ but to look at the old ‘shot-glass-is-half-full’—I’m sorry to be making all these booze references—but the fact that we got three years is remarkable. There were moments of pathos that I was able to get out of the show—Jason always called it smuggling things in—and the fact that we got to have three years of that is pretty good. And from what I hear there are a lot of good shows on TV. I don’t watch that much myself—but from what I hear, people are very challenged by Breaking Bad, and Louie, and—maybe it ends there. No, Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire. So there’s lots of good stuff out there. I don’t think it’s reason to despair about television. HBO just over-committed, took a lot of shows, and they ran out of room for us. Unfortunately—the one thing is that we had much better ratings than portrayed in the press. We didn’t do great on Monday nights with the traditional live audience—but the rest of the week when we would be replayed or DVRed, we did nicely. So it wasn’t that we were cancelled because of the ratings—it’s more that HBO has purchased a lot of shows and really only has one night, unfortunately, in which to show their programs, which is Sunday. In this day and age, people just record stuff and watch it when they want.
I don’t know anyone who sits down to watch TV when it’s on.
AMES: People just record the whole season and watch it later. If we’d had better Monday-night ratings, that would have helped us maybe, but it’s mostly that HBO had so many shows and was ready to move on.
SCHWARTZMAN: For me, if I’m sad about anything it’s that I truly do believe that it was finding a groove—I think the last season was the best one—I feel like Jonathan has mostly told me the plot of what would have been season four, and it’s like ‘fudge, that would have been fun to do!’ So many great ideas that have to be saved for later.
AMES: Those little ideas,they’re like little flowers in my mind—it’s a little sad that I won’t get to see them come to fruition, or see what Jason or Zach or Ted might have done with that scene. And the weird thing is—we were talking about the stages of mourning—I don’t know that I fully can grasp that I’m not gonna get to do that. It’s like I’m sort of underwater, and all around me is water, and I don’t know that it’s fully hit me. The human brain has a hard time grasping the notion of finality. It’s like in Death of a Salesman when Willy Loman’s wife is standing by his grave, and she says something like “I can’t believe you’re gone, Willy. It’s like you’re just on another trip.” So it’s like—I don’t know that I’ll fully grasp, ‘I’m not going to be shooting Bored To Death this Spring.’ It’s hard—it’s very abstract.
SCHWARTZMAN: It’s also hard when people come up to me on the street and say “I love Bored to Death—keep it up!” And I’m like—okay. You keep it up.
But who knows, this movie could happen. And in feature-length format it could become something even better.
AMES: At the moment perhaps as a way to deal with it mentally—I have these images preserved in glass or taxidermied in my mind—images for a new season—and I have the notebooks I started filling—and I’m holding them aside, like, maybe we could make a movie. Maybe this could become our Pink Panther. This Brooklyn detective and his two mad cohorts.