Creator's Blog

Oct 25, 2010

INTERIOR: Building-On-Bond Café – Day

My winter ennui is setting in early this year, though I doubt it has anything to do with light-deprivation. Most likely, that's just an excuse. I think the human brain latches onto bogus hypochondriacal information, like a mental virus, in order to create illness. And we want to be ill so as not to deal with our emotions. But which emotions? Off the top of my head, I'd say - sadness, anger, regret, self-loathing, free-floating anxiety, loneliness, and fear of death.

I don't think all of those things quite qualify as emotions, but I do know that I feel all of them, like hours on a clock, each of them having their moment, sometimes all at once. 

Anyway, now that I've vented my spleen a little and have whined like a middle-aged baby, I'll proceed with this blog and try to be a little more cheery for you as I analyze 'Forty-two Down!'

As I mentioned in an earlier installment, last year I was very much into crossword puzzles and so wanted to incorporate this fascination into the show, hoping, I guess, to appeal to all the other crossword people out there and because I fill the show, like a person collecting antiques, with the things that interest me. But why do I do this? Well, I guess I'm making some kind of mosaic of ideas and images. A mosaic, which I hope, when viewed at a distance, like all mosaics, will appear to be a cohesive, whole entity, and an interesting and entertaining one at that. 

Anyway, I set the opening scene at Building-on-Bond café, because it's the café up the street from me and I like its look and feel. Also, I've written a good deal of 'Bored to Death' on its coffee. In fact, I have one right next to me at this moment. 

I wanted a stroller scene in season 2, since in season 1 people seemed to get such a kick out of Ray's interactions with strollers, which, as anyone who's been to Brooklyn knows, absolutely abound. There are so many babies here you would think it's a third-world country, but it must just be that New York is a walking city and so all the infants aren't hidden in cars. What's actually more surprising to me than the number of babies is how many people must be in quasi-stable enough relationships to have children. I mean, how do they do it? Perhaps I think this way because, as I have Ray say in season 1, "I want to be the only child in a woman's life."

EXTERIOR: Building-on-Bond – Day

I hope people notice that as Ray says, "I hate women," he checks out a woman's backside. I don't know if this lessens the blow of his rude - not serious - remark, or if it makes it worse. I hesitated having him say something that was possibly this offensive, but I wanted to show his frustration with what has just gone down in the café and to play up the curmudgeonly aspect of his character.

INTERIOR: Milon Restaurant – Day

I chose this restaurant because I lived right near it in the late nineties, and I used to take my son there when he visited me, since he got such a kick out of the lights. I also thought the lights would make for a good visual for the show, and we actually had a rather elaborate night shot of Jonathan approaching Milon and its neighboring restaurant, which is also festooned madly with chili-pepper lights, but we had to cut that scene, though it will be available on the season 2 DVD.

Something else that got cut is this brief exchange between Jonathan and his client, Lakshmi:

Jonathan: Can I ask you an unrelated question?

Lakshmi: Yes.

Jonathan: Why the beautiful lights? Is it like Chinese restaurants with fish for feng shui? I've studied Eastern religions a little. It's why I think all of life is an illusion.

Lakshmi: Chinese food?!? The lights are for tourists. Business was bad until we put them up. Then my brother next door copied me and we no longer speak. I cut him off.

(Lakshmi then makes a severe chopping motion with her hand. Jonathan's eyes widen.)

This exchange came at the end of the scene and will be on the DVD, but had to be cut for a number of reasons. Nevertheless, I was fond of it, mostly for Jonathan's statement that he sees all of life as an illusion. Jason's performance of this line was very funny and I hope people enjoy it, should they get the DVD. I wrote that line, I guess not so much because I do think that all of life is an illusion, but, rather, that it feels that way, at least to me. It's like I'm sleepwalking through some strange dream that is my life, though I keep expecting to wake up and have clarity. I also feel very aware of how we're all sharing this world, this life, this confusing dream, and yet we all see it and experience it so differently. It's why I have George say to Jonathan in season 1, episode 2, "I'm in your movie and you're in mine. Two different films, really. We just make a guess at knowing each other." 

(I think that's the line. I'm so disorganized that I don't have my old scripts on this computer or anywhere handy, but I think that's pretty close...)

EXTERIOR: Greek Diner – Day

Jonathan's method for following a mark is an homage to Jean-Pierre Léaud's private-detective-following technique used in the Truffaut film, 'Stolen Kisses.' This film is very important to Jason - it's why he wanted to play a private detective in 'Bored to Death' - and before we shot the pilot, Jason had me watch it. I subsequently fell in love with the picture and especially loved the way the character Antoine Doinel (Léaud) follows people. Jason and I then discussed, early in season 1, that he should mimic Doinel's approach, though Jason adds his own inimitable, physical-comedy flair.

INTERIOR: Brooklyn Inn – Day

I have Ray quote Bob Dylan because this friend of mine always brings up that lyric - "It ain't me, babe" - when explaining why he has to leave a woman, though I don't think he's ever been crazy enough to directly quote it to a woman, as Ray does. 

I initially wanted there to be an extended riff on "it's not you, it's me," since, on some level, I do believe that to be a workable maxim for the reason why things dissolve in relationships. For example, even though Jennifer drinks a lot, other men might not mind, but Ray does, therefore, it's Ray issue, not Jennifer's, and so "it's not you, it's me," does apply.

Anyway, we didn't do an extended riff, and the shortened version of Ray screwing it up by saying, "it's not me, it's you," was funnier and more succinct.

INTERIOR: Classroom – Night

When Nina refers to the premature ejaculation in the virginity scene in Jonathan's novel this is direct reference to my first novel, 'I Pass Like Night,' in which there was a premature release, of sorts, when the narrator's virginity is taken. I especially love the look on Jason's face when Nina says this, how smitten he is, which just seems wonderfully absurd to me. 

Zoe Kazan is quite fantastic as Nina, and the flirty, curious look on her face when George is referred to as Jonathan's mentor is great. She's just revealed that she has a thing for teachers and so to meet her teacher's teacher, his mentor, well, this lights her up...

INTERIOR: Classroom – Night

George's lecture on the state of publishing to Jonathan's class is part of an ongoing theme this season regarding what's happening to the world of print, and especially as it relates to George. What will become of a man who has devoted his life to magazines? It's all rather dark, which is why I have George ominously pronounce, "Print is dead." 

I'm not sure that it is, but it certainly seems to be on the way out. Books, magazines and newspapers will become increasingly rare. It doesn't mean that the written word will die, but I do think people's patience for extended prose will lessen significantly if everything is read on computers and electronic devices. I'm sure the next generation of books - and it's already happening - will incorporate clickable videos, music, and graphics, to the point where the word itself will be less and less important. Personally, I keep waiting for the next great writer, the next Tolstoy, to be some young person who designs some kind of transcendent video game.

INTERIOR: Bar – Night

Kevin Bacon was a delight to work with and we were so lucky that he wanted to be in the show. In fact, he kept pushing me to make this fictional version of himself nuttier and nuttier, and so I kept adjusting the dialogue, adding, for example, the bit about needing to wear Ray's clothing as part of his "method." And when Jennifer Gladwell (Kristen Wiig) says, "I don't know if Ray has made love to you," Kevin jumped in with the improvised line, "No, not yet," which speaks to how happy he was to play a loony version of his own self.

The crew really loved it when the bartender says to Ray, "An STD?!? You're outta here!" He spoke the line with the rhythm and style of a baseball umpire, and for days afterward, I would hear crew-members say to each other, "An STD?!? You're outta here!"


My idea behind the Greek diner was to recreate, somewhat, the famous painting, "Nighthawks," by Edward Hopper. I know that this image is often imitated, but it has such a noir feeling to it that I wanted us to give it a shot, and the diner we found in Williamsburg was perfect for this.

And the way we shot Vikram standing up with his gun was a direct homage, naturally, to the famous restaurant hold-up scene at the start of 'Pulp Fiction.'

Ajai Naidu is marvelous as Vikram and my favorite moment is when his face disassembles with incredulity as he says to George, "Dry-cleaning...???"

I have Vikram say that he sees all of life as a prison, because I've been obsessed with imprisonment of one kind or another (usually the emotional and psychological prisons that we create for ourselves) for most of my writing career. The epigraph to my first novel were these lines from William Wordsworth's "Ode: Intimations of Immortality": Heaven lies about us in our infancy!/ Shades of the prison-house begin to close/Upon the growing boy.

I think all my life I have felt like that growing boy. But, really, I have it good, and I know it. I've been a well-fed member of the middle-class all my life, and it's been a great luxury and privilege to be as neurotic and anxious as I have been. When you're starving or have it really rough, you don't get to contemplate the problems and issues that I'm lucky enough to consider. But, as Neil Young wrote, "Though my problems are meaningless, that don't make them go away..." 

Have Neil Young and Wordsworth ever been quoted this close together in one piece of writing? Probably, but I wonder...

Anyway, my final thought on episode 5 - I love the look on Jason's face and the way he holds the gun as they make their getaway in the orange Mercedes. It really looks like an old-fashioned bank-robbery movie-shot, like something out of ‘Bonnie and Clyde.' And as I typed 'Bonnie and Clyde,' I suddenly heard in my mind Serge Gainsbourg singing, "Bonnie and Clyde, Bonnie and Clyde." I think I'll go find that song on the iPod that Jason filled up for me and quench my need to hear it right now. Right now!

P.S. I haven't formatted this blog like a letter, so a p.s. is odd, but two other quick thoughts before I find that song: (1) As an inside personal joke, I have Vikram, like Jim (played by Jim Norton) in episode 3, scream out in frustration: "I'm not mechanically inclined!" I have two characters say this because this is an ongoing frustration of mine - how poorly my hands work; and (2) my original line for Jennifer Gladwell was, "He gave me oral chlamydia," but I love how Kristen Wiig added, "He gave me oral chlamydia. Of the mouth."

I hate to quote a TV commercial about credit cards, but "of the mouth," to me, is priceless. Pricelessly funny. Thank you, Kristen Wiig!

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