HBO cancels Jonathan Ames’ ‘Bored to Death’


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After three seasons, HBO has canceled ‘Bored to Death,’ the series starring Jason Schwartzman, Zach Galifianakis and Ted Danson. The show began with a story by Jonathan Ames, a novelist and memoirist; Ames served as the show’s creator and executive producer.

Earlier this year, Ames told L.A. Times television critic Robert Lloyd how the show came about:


I wrote this ‘Bored to Death’ short story and sent it to a bunch of people in Hollywood and nobody responded. Even the magazine I wrote it for actually rejected it; I’d been hired by Esquire to write it. It was supposed to be 5,000 words but I went nuts and wrote 11,000. And I sent it to McSweeney’s, Dave Eggers’ magazine. I was just going to wait and hope that somebody out here might spot it, like Sauron in ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ that the eye, the Hollywood eye, might drift on my short story. But before it was published, someone at HBO wanted to meet me — I had kind of given up on meetings too, because I would come out here, get a little rental car and drive all over, and I would go to these meetings and talk about books and nothing would happen. I didn’t know why I was being sent on all these meetings; it seemed it was just to keep people busy. But then I got a call: ‘There’s a meeting in New York.’ I’m, like, ‘In New York? I thought this was a meeting-free city.’ But the producer, who is now an executive producer on my show, Sarah Condon, had just moved to New York and was looking to meet writers. She said, ‘What have you been working on lately?’ And I said, ‘Well I wrote this short story that I think would make a good movie,’ and she was intrigued by the premise. I sent her the story and she said, ‘Let’s try to work on this. Can you come up with friends for him? And a world?’ And I think her inclination and my inclination immediately was let’s move this toward comedy.

While the cancelation has to be disappointing, it seems remarkable that a show with its quirky sensibility found an audience in the first place. Maybe the key is that, as Lloyd points out, a sense of goodness pervades the show. A similar undercurrent appears in Ames’ books.

Will he return to writing novels, now that show has been canceled? Maybe, or maybe not. ‘It’s hard for me to think of writing a novel,’ Ames told Lloyd, ‘because it takes so long. I produce so many words for each season, beginning with that initial document, then I write a capsule for every episode and then an outline for every episode. And I tend to overwrite all these things — I burn myself out before I even get to the scripts. It’s like I’m producing almost a novel every year... But, you know, I can get Ted to say, ‘I’ve been living like a demented god,’ and that one line is almost worth three chapters in a novel.’


Good news for Jonathan Ames

Book review: Jonathan Ames’ ‘The Double Life Is Twice as Good’

Ted Danson: ‘ ‘Bored to Death’ Is Pretty Much My Favorite Thing in Life’


-- Carolyn Kellogg