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The guys of "Mad Men," which makes its welcome return Sunday, are smoking, boozing, womanizers who live to out-swagger one another and freely wield the implements of backstabbing.
Sure, they've got problems, but they don't show it. Image, in advertising and in life, is everything.
As thrilled as we are about the start of the show’s fourth season, we're equally happy to learn that another Sunday night favorite – "Bored to Death" – will be back beginning Sept. 26, just as "Mad Men" is winding down.
The programs are oddly shaped bookends, particularly when it comes to their very different depictions of manhood.
The under-appreciated "Bored to Death" stars Jason Schwartzman as Jonathan, a heartbroken writer who decides to become a private eye – and offer his services on Craig’s List – even though he's more sad sack than Sam Spade.
His cases – including retrieving a kid’s skateboard from some teen toughs – lead to humorous misadventures. But the crux of the show is the endearingly strange three-way friendship between Jonathan, his neurotic cartoonist pal Ray (Zach Galifianakis) and his seemingly suave magazine editor boss, George (Ted Danson).
Jonathan is fumbling his way toward some elusive, outdated definition of manhood, believing that playing the tough-guy detective part somehow will inure him to the pain of losing his girlfriend (and just maybe win her back). Ray, meanwhile, is trying to navigate domesticity, but finds himself regularly emasculated.
They wind up looking to middle-aged George, who is no role model. A slick "Mad Men" throwback type on the outside, he's a pot puffing, Viagra-popping mess who is terrified of aging and losing touch with the popular culture.
In one funny and telling bit, George, who wants to explore his feminine side so he can learn what appeals to female readers, hires a male prostitute (he chickens out – they don’t get past snuggling).
Last season's finale ended with the odd triple on a boxing card facing three rivals – all as hopelessly bad at pulling off macho as Jonathan, Ray and George.
We got to thinking about “Mad Men,” the “Bored to Death” finale – and George's gigolo encounter – this week with the debut of “Brostitute,” a video posted on Funny or Die.
The mockumentary stars Tim Roth as a pimp with stable of overgrown frat boys whose services are sold to lonely men in search of male bonding.
Roth's rent boys, who hang out on corners in sports jerseys and spout come-ons like “You want to hang out?” will watch basketball on TV with you, play video games and hacky-sack – for a price.
“I’m not a pimp, per se,” oozes Roth’s seedy character. “A pimp would sell sex. I broker friendship. It’s a commodity, it’s like anything else.”
The video gets laughs, partly because it strikes a chord of truth in its portrayal of how men to awkwardly relate to one another in a world that would make the steely gents of "Mad Men" cringe and dive back into their martinis.
But that may be reading too much into a clever 3 1/2–minute video. Check it out below (warning: mildly NSFW) – before jumping back into the retro world of “Mad Men”:
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NY City News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.