Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Bored To Death: “Gumball!”

Illustration for article titled Bored To Death: “Gumball!”

Thank you, Bored to Death, for answering all my complaints about last week’s episode with a rip-roaring good time in “Gumball,” which wraps up last week’s murder mystery with a rather perfunctory explanation but has a hell of a good time doing it. I know these things were shot months ago, but I’m happy to see all my whining listened to. “Enough with the family melodrama! I want my three stars running around together!” Well, I got what I wished for.

It’s great how incidental the plot was to my enjoyment, though. Bored to Death never has in-depth mysteries, but this one really felt half-assed, especially for a two-parter. Maybe it’s my personal lack of observation, but I didn’t even know the murder victim was a jockey until they started talking about it this week. So it turns out the guy that shook Jonathan’s hand set the whole thing up with the blonde lady, who briefly convinced everyone that she was coerced into the whole thing, but it’s obvious that was a lie.

Who cares? It’s all wrapped up nicely by the end of the episode, with Jonathan’s one friend on the force (Officer Drake, played by Lenny Venito, from the sex dungeon episodes last year) clearing everything up for him. No, the fun stuff happens once Jonathan and Ray get to George’s insane pad, tell their tale, and turn on the vaporizer to calm down. There’s just something so sweet about these well-meaning but adorably immature men trying to make sense of a situation by getting blazed and cuddling up in bed together.

All the little details, like their blue pajamas, or Ray’s insistence on having a wheelie bag with his pilot uniform, or George being upset that he didn’t get to see Howard (Patton Oswalt, making a welcome return appearance), all those childish touches to the gang’s personality are what make the show for me. Mixed in with all the pot smoking and Ray’s insistence on knowing whether Jonathan was anally violated and all the shooting and murder, of course. It’s a fine balance that Bored To Death usually has no problem striking.

This was also a hell of an energetic half-hour. Jonathan, hanging off the clock tower, is saved quickly by Ray, but not before Ray confesses to a cop that he’s always fantasized about plucking their pistols from their holsters, something that’s certainly crossed my mind. “It just protrudes…” From there, we’re off to the races, first hiding out at George’s place, then in his dumbwaiter, then our encounter with Howard, and then off to beautiful Ditmas Park and the Prospect Park carousel.

The humor is woven in nicely with the mad dashing around, though. Ray and Howard butted heads nicely in their scene together, with Ray requesting his own pilot uniform, and Howard retorting, “I can have a fat pilot outfit here in 20 minutes.” “No, this is for me, not for you,” Ray snipes back. It had me yearning for some kind of buddy movie starring Oswalt and Galifanakis, those two comedians of comedy.


George’s encounter with Bernard was nice and quick. I can handle all the family stuff so long as it doesn’t take over the show. Similarly, Jonathan’s phone call with his parents was to the point, the point being a couple of good Jewish mother jokes (“He says he’s innocent. He went to Princeton, he wouldn’t lie.” “The tuition there’s very expensive”). George’s high-as-a-kite, paranoid meandering down to the carousel (“it’s a very nice Ferris Wheel”) was a great showcase for Danson, although the revelation that all the government employees he thought were tailing him actually were was maybe a little obvious.

I declare myself satisfied; the first episode was less of a wobble and just suffered from most of the draggy material that a double episode of a half-hour comedy usually has. By the end of this episode, a season arc of sorts is set: Jonathan will look for his real father. I’m sure it’ll just get teased out until episode eight, but that’s fine by me.


Stray observations:

  • Jonathan won't go to the cops. “I've got a lot of blog interviews to do for my book!”
  • Ray needs to spoon someone to get to sleep; Jonathan later reveals he was hurt that he wasn’t involved in Ray and George’s cuddling.
  • The title refers to Ray’s dream about a gumball machine, which keeps coming back up, but as far as I can tell is never resolved.
  • Jonathan doesn’t like his nose in his police sketch. “This is a Shylockian fishhook!” He complains that it grew two years faster than his penis. “Can we have one conversation that doesn't involve your peen?” Ray asks.
  • “You shouldn't throw a gun; they're like scissors.”
  • “I can’t afford to die, Jonathan. I don’t have health insurance.”