Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Bored to Death: Brotherhood of the Traveling Coat

In Marcel Proust's masterpiece, In Search of Lost Time, a madeleine cookie triggers a wave of involuntary nostalgia in the narrator.  For me, it was the coat Jason Schwartzman wore in a recent episode of the entertaining new HBO series, Bored to Death.

I was transported to my time after college, when I lived and worked in Washington, DC.  It was the kind of group living situation that's so common in the District.  A random assortment of strangers -- besides me, there was the professional juggler, his girlfriend the trapeze artist, Ralph Nader's beleaguered administrative assistant, and the private investigator -- all sharing an enormous row house in Adams Morgan.

We threw the best parties with kegs of good beer, food the PI made from scratch, and plenty of room to dance.  After one of these fetes, someone left behind a corduroy coat identical to the one Schwartzman's wearing in the picture.  It sat in our closet for a month or two, while we waited for the owner to retrieve it.  When nobody did, I claimed the coat over the objections of the AA, who coveted it himself but was just too short to wear it well.  Or so I insisted.

I took the coat when I moved to Cambridge, MA, where it completed my daily ensemble of blue jeans, black turtleneck, and Vasque boots.  I can still remember the reassuringly large buttons.  The tricky pocket with a hole that allowed small objects like pens and change to fall into the lining like vents in a car.  The compliments it elicited -- one woman (sadly, not Olivia Thirlby) said I looked like a sexy acoustic rocker in that coat.

My ownership ended some time after moving to New York, NY.  I remember losing several of the buttons and finally trading the coat in for something sleeker and blacker -- this was, after all, New York. Beyond that, I can't recall its final disposition.  But I'd like to think someone else -- maybe even Schwartzman himself -- recognized the coat's hipster appeal and rescued it for Bored to Death.

Speaking of which, I should probably say a word about the show.  The highlight for me thus far is clearly the chemistry between Schwartzman and Ted Danson.  Schwartzman, who can sometimes be too smarmy and precocious, strikes the right notes here as a struggling writer turned detective with a weakness for white wine and pot.  And Danson is flat out brilliant as his bored rich boss who keeps finding excuses to make Schwartzman come over and smoke him out. 

The adorable Thirlby, who plays Schwartzman's ex, has yet to be given much to do.  Same with scruffy Zach Galifianakis, who plays Schwartzman's best friend.  Still, the show is well written with a nucleus of talented actors and some inspired guest stars (e.g., director Jim Jarmusch).  Plus, Schwartzman's a brother of the traveling coat.  Will Bored to Death be a success?  Like a magic eight-ball, I say all signs point to yes.

As always, you're welcome to post anonymously, but please identify yourself somehow, so I can distinguish between anonymous posters. Thanks!


Aaron said...

Man, I've seen just one episode (the one with Kristen Wiig), and I thought I was watching a show that was in trouble. I've never been a huge Schwartzman fan, dating back to "Rushmore" (I fall in the Tanenbaums-is-Wes-Anderson's-best-movie camp), but the real trouble for me was there were only a few funny lines and even Zach G. wasn't that funny. I'll have to check it out a couple more times though. I've been wrong many times before.