Eastbound & Down

So I had my TV playing on as white noise in the background as I was sitting at my computer finishing up a presentation when all of a sudden I get the “Next, on HBO” advertisement and see that Eastbound & Down was about to come on.  I was excited to say the least.  Granted, now, I’ve heard very little in terms of the shows premise, but I was still anxious to see a television show starring Mr. Danny R. McBride.  Most of you may know him as Red from last year’s hit stoner-action-comedy Pineapple Express (and you may recall him from Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder as well).  For me, though, it was Mr. McBride’s character of Rico in the small 2007 film Hot Rod that he first captured my imagination with the line, “I am pumped–I’ve been drinking green tea all g**-damned day,” which was closely followed with the immortal, “I go to church every g**-damned Sunday, you gonna bring the demons outta me!?”

And with that I knew that this man had great potential.  Given his next two aforementioned films, I was not wrong.  (His acting debut in the indie-flick The Foot-Fist Way is still on my list of things I need to watch.)

And so that brings us back to Eastbound & Down.  The show, which is executive-produced by Will Ferrell (who also makes an appearance) and Adam McKay (writer/director of Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby) stars McBride as Kenny Powers, a Major League Baseball pitcher.  Powers’ career starts out well — the man has talent (and knows it) — but Powers soon becomes unhappy with the team he’s on, believing himself to be the only real talent.  And so he becomes a free agent and takes up playing with another team, where he once again believes himself to be the only real talent, and switches again… and again… and again.

As Powers becomes more ingrained in the lifestyle, however, his performance begins to slip and soon enough his career comes to an end — his arm no longer the cannon it once was.  Powers inevitably returns home…

He takes up residence with his brother and his brother’s wife — his brother, played by John Hawkes (Identity, Wristcutters) is almost unnoticeable from the actor I’ve come to know over the years (and to think all he did was shave his goatee).  The brother and the wife, however, aren’t that happy and Powers is eventually forced to get a job as a substitute coach for his old high school.

And I believe that’s just about half of the episode, where I’ll now stop with story and move onto the review.  Like Dollhouse, the pilot for EB&D isn’t perfect.  Some of the characters seem to have potential, others I’m unsure of.  Take the principal of the high school, Terrence Cutler (played by Andrew Daly of Reno 911! and Root of All Evil fame).  Cutler is the nice, uptight, Ijustwannabeyourfriend type but his character just seems uneven, at least in context to the show — the guy is just a little too oblivious.  But these, as well as maybe one or two others, are only small gripes.

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The real reason you watch this show is for Mr. McBride.  The guy just has that constant arrogant confidence about him that makes everything he does seem funny.  Whereas if some other actor was to drop a line like, “New York?  More like Jew York,” it would get a few laughs, when McBride says it, it’s 10x funnier for some reason.

Another thing I’ve noticed about McBride is that when any character he’s ever played has to deliver a line of exposition, somehow it too comes off as a punchline, almost as if to say: “I’m saying this because it’s gonna lead to this and then that, so just shut the hell up and go with it.”

And y’know what?  I think I just might.

Catch a re-run of the pilot of Eastbound & Down Wednesday, February 18 at midnight (EST), and an all-new episode on Sunday, February 22 at 10:30 P.M. EST, on HBO.