Did you guys watch Eastbound and Down last night? If you answered yes, then you are correct. If you answered no, then GET IT TOGETHER. To quote my friend Max, “Eastbound and Down is a game changer.” In just one half hour episode it has already become my favorite show on television. The way I see it, there are two kinds of people in this world, people who love Eastbound and Down, and people I’m not talking to anymore.
The show follows professional baseball player Kenny Powers (Danny McBride), who’s lost everything (but his jet ski) and moved in with his brother’s family. He takes a job substitute teaching PE at a junior high school. That’s a decent enough Will Ferrellian plot for a show, but it’s really McBride’s performance that makes this whole thing work. He could do an obnoxious impersonation of a stereotypical dumb redneck the phone book, and it would make me laugh.
Admittedly, obnoxious impersonations of stereotypical dumb rednecks are kind of cheap and easy laffs, but they are the BIGGEST laffs. I was LOL’ing so hard at this show! Besides, the line between Danny McBride the performer and Danny McBride the character seems pretty thin and blurry. He plays a caricature of himself as much as any overarching stereotype. This is basically the same Danny McBride from Foot Fist Way and Pineapple Express and from Tropic Thunder, despite each character being nominally of very different socio-economic means. With Danny McBride, what you see is what you get, and what you see is hilarious.
The show has already gotten some good reviews, I guess. I hadn’t really read anything before watching the show last night, so I’m only catching up on the professional criticism now, but I take issue with the New York Times: review.
“Eastbound & Down” feels like a margarine, not butter, version of “Talladega Nights,” the Nascar reversal-of-fortune story in which the children were ingeniously named Walker and Texas Ranger, and the exchanges between Mr. Ferrell and John C. Reilly had an addicting improvisational madness.
Comparatively, “Eastbound & Down” feels static. Unlike Ricky Bobby, Kenny shows no signs (at least not yet) of a turnaround, and it is unclear whether Mr. McBride could believably pull one off. Lacking Mr. Ferrell’s vulnerability, one that comes to a great extent from resembling an overgrown 10-year-old, Mr. McBride looks like someone you’d run away from in the parking lot of a Waffle House.
I don’t know what almost any of that means. What is a margerine, not butter version of something? Does that mean that it’s cheaper? Because if it means that it’s cheaper, of course it’s cheaper. It’s a TV show. And Will Ferrell is an incredibly famous millionaire. If it means that it’s not as well made, then bullshit. If it’s some kind of cute metaphor playing on the dietary class distinctions between people who eat butter and people who eat margarine then the New York Times needs to stop being such an asshole.
But more importantly, there’s an obvious pejorative to calling this show static, and a dismissal in McBride’s capacity to play his character in a redemptive arc, all of which completely misses the point. Who wants to see some hackneyed, melodramatic, Hollywood redemption story? What makes the whole thing actually FUNNY is that he’s unrelentingly arrogant and cocky and obnoxious even when he is sleeping on his brother’s Jennifer Convertible and teaching kids how to play crab soccer.
We don’t want him to change, you stupid dummy. The New York Times is so dumb. The New York Times is who you should run away from in the parking lot of a waffle house. (Also, what was THAT all about?)
Anyway, watch this show. Did I mention that the first episode ends with Kenny Powers whiplashing a topless girl off of his jet ski into a lake and then using the jet ski to slapshot water into her face? If you don’t have HBO, tell your parents to get it for you.