19 April 2009 | zetes
The collaborators behind The Foot Fist Way and Observe & Report made this television miniseries for HBO earlier this year. It's very much like their two films, but it's definitely their most satisfying work. That's mostly because it's consistently funny. The films are frequently hilarious, but get bogged down in some heavily dramatic moments. And they also have a lot of jokes that fail. The six episode show plays like a 2 1/2 hour movie, although the individual episodes are very much structured like television. Danny McBride stars as a John Rocker-like former baseball star named Kenny Powers. He came to fame during a World Series final game and was enormously popular. But between his bad behavior and diminishing results, and passing through about ten MLB teams, he's been kicked out and now he's broke. He returns to his North Carolina hometown and shacks up with his brother, who is married with three children. The only job he can get is as a substitute gym teacher at a local middle school (the teacher for whom he is substituting ends up dying at the end of the first episode, allowing him to become a real part of the faculty). Having tasted so much fame, Kenny is not at all happy at where he is landed. In his mind, some light training will get him back into the big leagues. Meanwhile, he can treat everyone around him like crap and pursue his now engaged high school sweetheart, who teaches art at the school. Like the two films, Eastbound and Down mines a very painful existence. It's mean and misanthropic. I learned to see Kenny Powers as a human being, but he sure as Hell is a repugnant one. It's hard to believe that anyone would give this guy the time of day. You'd think the former girlfriend would tell his to screw off, his boss would fire him and even his brother would disown him. Oh well, it's fiction, after all. Not everything has to be believable (unlike Observe & Report, there're no hints that any of the story is taking place within the character's mind). I wish I could come up with some lines from the show to prove how funny it can be, but IMDb is pretty useless so far. I probably wouldn't be able to post them here, anyway. The show is ridiculously profane. Fans generally refer to the protagonist as Kenny "F'ing" Powers (as Kenny Powers often does himself). Will Ferrel appears in a couple of episodes, but his over-the-top style clashes a bit with the more naturalistic style of the show. Craig Robinson also appears, and works a lot better. Besides Jody Hill, art-house (and Pineapple Express) director David Gordon Green directs. I hope Green sticks with comedy at least in half his career. I've never been a fan of his art-house hits (or non-hits; I don't think any of them have been commercially successful), but his comic style works brilliantly.