In the last ten years HBO has been responsible for some of the best series out there. The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, Entourage, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Six Feet Under– those were all quality shows that demonstrated what the network did best: stellar storytelling with a serious edge. They have had some solid mini series in the last year with Generation Kill and John Adams that have continued this tradition. But with the exception of Flight Of The Concords, their new series have been a let down when compared to the legendary shows they’ve historically released. East Bound And Down is a clear reminder of this.
What it’s about. With a lot of new shows, I’m not sure that there’s a point to giving a synopsis, and I wholeheartedly blame the internet and its popularization of short-form comedy. While the best shows have relied on solid, character-driven plots, an entire new generation of short attention span TV has put it’s focus on stringing together a series of comedic sketches underpinned by a weak premise. In this case the weak premise is this: Kenny Powers (Danny McBride) is a washed-up, mullet-sporting, ex-pro baseball player who blew his quick-earned cash and fame on hookers and blow. Between bouts of offending anyone around him (including his brother’s family who he’s crashing with) and crying himself to sleep, he lands a job as a middle school gym coach, where he puts most of his effort toward chasing a recently engaged ex-girlfriend and cursing around students.
Danny McBride is funny. He’s even funnier when he screams, all foul-mouthed and objectionable-like, more so around kids. He’s funny doing just that in Tropic thunder and Pineapple Express. But after the first episode of East Bound And Down I’m not convinced that a screaming, foul-mouthed Danny McBride can float an entire series on HBO. I laughed a lot– when he’s drinking MGD under a shower in the boys locker room sporting a thong-shaped ass tan, when he’s screaming at his brothers son for touching his leopard print Jet Ski, when he tells the entire city of Atlanta to go get F’d at a press conference– it’s good stuff. But I don’t really care about the characters. Kenny is the absurd comic paired against a cast of cardboard, an entire roster of straight-men and women who’s only expressions seem to be of apoplexy or laugh-it-off tolerance. That’s just not enough to get me invested in the arc.
The one possible avenue of redemption is if the show plays to the weakness of its main character. The best scene’s were ones where you saw that Kenny’s ego was just a fragile shell for a crying child, and under that greasy mullet was a lonely wimp who couldn’t get through a day without listening to his own motivational book on tape. Episode two will have to bring in some more two-dimensional characters who are pitted against this weakness to drive the plot. Otherwise our time will be better spent watching one-offs where they are supposed to live. And by that I mean the internet. It’s entertaining, but it’s just not good TV.