‘Bored to Death’ Season 3 in Review

The Set

Last night, HBO aired what was certainly the Season 3 finale of "Bored to Death," and what might be the series finale, given that the network has yet to pick up the show for a fourth season. Has the world seen enough of writer/unlicensed PI Jonathan Ames (Jason Schwartzman) and his best friends, magazine editor-turned-restaurateur George Christopher (Ted Danson) and phallus-focused cartoonist Ray Hueston (Zach Galifianakis)? I think maybe I have.

That's not to say that the show is bad, by any means, or that I haven't enjoyed this season. Though I am not precisely in its target demographic, in that I don't live in Brooklyn, I do enjoy making fun of Brooklyn — and the whole series plays out as an affectionate joke on the borough, and the idiosyncrasies of its residents. It just may be that the show has already told as many stories as it needs to.

Like many pay-cable "sitcoms," "Bored to Death" has generally been less hilarious than interesting or poignant, and one of the things it has accomplished has been the portrayal of the three leads' friendship. Since "Sex & the City," there have been attempts by various series to bring the truth of men's relationships with one another to bawdy, buzzy life in the way "Sex" did for women (at least at first, before it turned into an unbearable cartoon). But what shows like "Mind of the Married Man" and "Entourage" and "Man Up!" have in common is the way the male characters all seem to be closer to one another because they hate the women in their lives. Certainly, Jonathan, Ray, and George — though they are all ending the season (and/or series) in relationships with women — have never been closer to any of their dates than they are with one another. But the characters' attitude is generally that, even if they are confused about women's behavior or motives, it manifests as a respectful awe. All three characters — even George — would have come of age in a post-"Ms." culture; the circles they run in — George in the world of elite publishing, Jonathan and Ray in the feminist Utopia of Park Slope — do not tolerate the sort of frattishness that can sour lesser bro shows. Though this sounds like a contradiction, even when Jonathan's neurotic sensitivity is played for laughs, it's never treated as a joke. So as a subtle experiment in male storytelling from a feminist perspective, I would call it a success.

If it does turn out that three seasons of "Bored" is all we get, creator Jonathan Ames — who also wrote last night's finale — has satisfactorily wrapped up all of the season's overarching storylines. Ray continues to enjoy a relationship with his biological son, Spencer; the limited contact afforded by Spencer's custodial parent actually proves to be a boon here, given Ray's limited capacity for behaving responsibly. Although Ray's proposal of marriage to Leah (Heather Burns) was very kindly refused, their amicable parting has freed him to pursue his new interest in elder love. George has reconnected with his daughter Emily (Halley Feiffer), and accepted both her sobriety (which goes against all of George's core beliefs) and her much older husband, Bernard (David Rasche).

Which brings us to our protagonist. Jonathan has enjoyed more success in his literary career in the show's third season than ever before: The triumph of promoting his latest book on Dick Cavett's talk show was twinned with his takedown of his arch-rival, Louis Greene (John Hodgman). And his ongoing investigation into the burned-down sperm bank that provided his life's origin led him to Rose Hiney (Isla Fisher), another sperm bank baby and the latest lovely, quirky young woman to be beguiled by Jonathan's quirks. And though it turned out that the sperm bank had but one donor — the so-called Harrison Bergeron (Stacy Keach) — in the end, Jonathan couldn't bring himself to tell her. Only on this show could a tender kiss between the two half-siblings seem so warmly accepted. "Well, we all have our thing," says Ray, clutching his geriatric girlfriend closer on the dance floor. (On the other hand, treating Jonathan and Rose's incestuous relationship as a non-issue would suggest that producers might be done with the show, too: If there is no fourth season, Rose and Jonathan will never have to deal with the truth about their conception.) Instead, our last image for the show will be of our complicated hero, contented against all odds, and we'll never have to worry about any ugly reality breaking the spell.