This Sunday night, the new series Eastbound & Down premieres on HBO. I went to a preview screening party last night, complete with hot dogs, nachos, beer cozies and peanuts, in keeping with the shows baseball theme. Simply put, it’s hilarious.
Eastbound & Down stars Danny McBride as the main character, washed-up baseball player Kenny Powers. The rest of the behind-the-scenes crew should clue you into the comic possibilities here:Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, David Gordon Greene, and Jody Hill all play a part in the production. But the real magic of the show lies in McBride’s ability to play a foulmouthed, dumb, hard-on-his-luck, egotistical hick, a distinctly American blend of traits that worked well in films like Talladega Nights, but works even better here.
The first few minutes of the show whip you through Powers’ rise and fall, before the subtitle “Several shitty years later” brings you up to the present. Throughout this montage, Powers is traded from team to team with shades of John Rocker, calling New York “Jew York” and remarking how while he thought the blacks in Atlanta were bad, the gays in San Francisco are even worse. His shoot-at-the-hip stream of conciousness continues throughout the show, as he is forced to move in with his brother, the excellent John Hawkes (Deadwood) and scares the shit out of his kids as he staggers around coked up and drunk. He finds himself forced to take a job as a substitute PE coach at the local high school, where he reunites with his high school girlfriend who happens to be engaged to the nerdy principal. Hilarity ensues.
Yes, it’s kind of a sports show, and yes, it deals in the cliches and shitkicker humor we’ve been seeing a lot of recently. But McBride brings a sweetness to the role, even as he arrogantly shits all over any shot at redemption he may achieve. Given the poor showing that was Summer Heights High, Eastbound & Down will add a new vitality to HBO’s Sunday nights.