- The Washington Times - Friday, September 18, 2009

‘Bored’ never boring

“Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Flight of the Conchords” are no longer HBO’s only quirky comedies. Combine “Curb’s” wandering-artist protagonist with “Conchords’ ” New York hipster appeal, and you have “Bored to Death,” a promising new series premiering at 9:30 p.m. Sunday, right after the seventh-season premiere of “Curb.”

Created by novelist and raconteur Jonathan Ames, “Bored” stars “Rushmore’s” Jason Schwartzman as a fictional novelist named Jonathan Ames. The first episode opens when Jonathan’s longtime girlfriend, Suzanne (Olivia Thirlby, of whom we hope to see more) moves out of their apartment.

“I think Suzanne was starting to think I’m a loser because I’m struggling to write,” he tells his friend Ray (“The Hangover’s” Zach Galifianakis). Ray, a comic-book illustrator, says his partner wants him to get a real job: “Those women were into us because we were artists. Then reality sets in.”

Jonathan decides to become the kind of manly man Suzanne would appreciate. A copy of Raymond Chandler’s noir novel “Farewell, My Lovely” is inspiration - he puts an ad on Craigslist advertising himself as an (unlicensed) private eye. Whether a jacket-and-tie-wearing, white-wine-swilling writer can handle heavies is the topic of this witty comedy.

There are a few in-jokes here - a suffocating collection of strollers outside a Brooklyn coffeehouse is probably funny only to those on the East Coast. But the bumbling Jonathan’s self-improvement mania provides universal laughs - though this series and its concerns will appeal more to the underserved intelligent under-40 set. It’s a pleasure to watch the thoughtful Mr. Schwartzman and the riotous Mr. Galifianakis on-screen.

The title is provided by a character played by a TV vet well-versed in comedy - including on HBO’s “Curb.” “Death by a thousand dull conversations” is how Jonathan’s editor, George (Ted Danson) describes his New York. Thankfully, that’s not the Big Apple we see here.

Lee, De Niro to team

Quintessential New York filmmakers Spike Lee and Robert De Niro have teamed with Showtime to develop a drama series about Manhattan’s Alphabet City, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The project, titled “Alpha ville,” is an ensemble drama chronicling Alphabet City’s gritty and tumultuous past before it became the gentrified East Village.

Set during the 1980s, the show will re-create the neighborhood’s eclectic mix of struggling artists and musicians living alongside Puerto Rican and black families.

“Alphaville” will be written by John Ridley, with Mr. Lee onboard to direct the potential pilot. It is executive produced by Mr. Ridley; Mr. Lee; Mr. De Niro; and Mr. De Niro’s producing partner, Jane Rosenthal, whose Tribeca Productions is onboard to produce.

Dirty jobs

Some of the most thankless professions are being showcased in “All Worked Up,” a new docu-reality series for TruTV, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The RDF USA-produced series, which has received a six-episode order from the network, tells the first-person stories of several people working jobs that get them yelled at, spit on and sometimes assaulted.

The cast of recurring characters on the show includes a couple who repossess vehicles in Wendell, N.C.; a process server in New York; the head of security at an amusement park in Allentown, Pa.; a code enforcer in a housing community in Fort Myers, Fla.; a head of security for professional wrestling; and two tow-truck drivers in Las Vegas.

The show, executive produced by RDF USA’s Chris Coelen and Lauren Gellert, is slated to premiere Oct. 19.

Rock on

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has lined up many of its members for a blowout concert celebrating its 25th anniversary, Associated Press reports.

Bruce Springsteen, U2, Stevie Wonder, Metallica and Aretha Franklin are among the performers. The concert will take place over two nights next month at New York’s Madison Square Garden, with highlights shown on HBO over Thanksgiving weekend.

HBO executive Nancy Geller describes it as “the biggest collection of rock and roll talent at one time ever.”

Other performers include Eric Clapton; Crosby, Stills & Nash; Paul Simon with and without Art Garfunkel; Jackson Browne; Chuck Berry; Van Morrison; Jerry Lee Lewis; Sting; and James Taylor. They’ll play some of their own songs as well as music that inspired them.

Weekend watch

Friday:

• Guiding Light (3 p.m., CBS) - After 72 years on radio and television, the show named in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest-running television drama is going dark. Tune in to see how - or if - the soap wraps up the tangled stories of the Spaulding, Cooper and Bauer families.

Saturday:

• Patrick Swayze tribute (4 p.m., Encore) - The cable channel celebrates the just-deceased actor by airing three of his lesser-known films. In “City of Joy” (4 p.m.), he’s a disillusioned doctor introduced to the Calcutta slums when he’s mugged just after moving to the city. “Youngblood” (6:15) stars Mr. Swayze and Rob Lowe as NHL wannabes. In “Point Break” (8:10), the actor leads a group of surfers investigated by FBI agent Keanu Reeves.

Sunday:

• 61st Primetime Emmy Awards (8 p.m., CBS) - Neil Patrick Harris hosts the show - and hopes to take home a statue of his own; he’s nominated for best supporting actor in a comedy series for “How I Met Your Mother.” Last year’s winner for best comedy, NBC’s “30 Rock,” led this year’s field with 22 nominations, while last year’s winner for best drama, AMC’s “Mad Men,” earned 16 nods.

Written and compiled by Kelly Jane Torrance and Dianne Lash from staff, Web and wire reports

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