EASTBOND AND DOWN DVD Review

     June 28, 2009

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One of the things I love about Danny McBride is how he variates his essential comic character. McBride usually plays one form of white trash or another but The Foot Fist Way’s Fred Simmons is different than Kenny Powers. Fred Simmons never had his lifestyle challenged, even with the Chuck “The Truck” stuff. Both men are delusional, but Fred managed to the big fish in a small pond. Kenny Powers, the main character of Eastbound and Down, was a superstar, and he’s still got the swagger way after he lost his arm, and his money. It’s a different sort of delusion, someone desperately clinging to the illusion that they’re still hot shit, which is different than someone who achieved something more than being the king of the demo. More after the jump:

eastbound_and_down_poster_01.jpgAnd from Ben Best, Danny McBride and Jody Hill, you get one of McBride’s best turns on Southern redneck hubris. Kenny had a breakout strikeout, and hit the majors big, winning multi-million dollar contracts. But Kenny is a racist asshole, and his road to the bottom hit all the rungs. After the show’s prologue, Kenny is taking a test to become a substitute teacher. Returning to the town he grew up in, he gets work with his old flame April (Katy Mixon) and her fiancée/the principal Terrence Cutter (Andrew Daly) as a gym coach.  Also at school is Stevie Janowski (Steve Little), who becomes Kenny’s #1 sycophant/enabler. Kenny takes the full time job, but he has illusions of going back to the majors. He lives with his brother Dustin (John Hawkes) and his “Church bitch” wife Cassie (Jennifer Irwin).

The show follows him hitting rock bottom. And it’s pretty hilarious, his delusions and dialog are uproarious. For the first couple episodes it’s about watching Kenny get all the way down. But then there’s some actual hope and redemption toward the end. But this is about watching an anti-hero work through his own failure, but being too oblivious to always realize how bad he’s made his own situation.

There is so much funny here, but the show gets dark like a lot of modern black comedy television. Watching it week by week, the middle act felt like it just kept taking Powers lower and lower, but now collected as a whole, with the ending it has, it feels more audience friendly in its way. The creators conceived it as a long movie, and now with the DVD you can watch it that way. And in that they created a masterpiece. Kenny Powers is one of the great characters, and in the show, there are so many great moments. I wonder fi the writers set up the whole first episode “I didn’t just come in my pants” to pay off, or if they saw it coming (no pun intended), or if it was a happy accident. If you like watching people who have egos oversizing their actual gifts, there are few greater shows, and I can’t wait to see what the people behind it do with their second season.

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HBO presents the show on DVD in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) and in 5.1 Dolby digital surround. The transfer is excellent, as to be expected. Extras include three commentaries for the six episodes, with David Gordon Green, Ben Best, Danny McBride and Jody Hill on episodes one, four and six. Extras are mostly kept to the second disc, where the rest is stored. There’s a making of (12 min.), and a Greatest Hits for Kenny Powers (3 min.) from his promo video, two Ashley Schaeffer commercials (3 min.), Deleted scenes (9 min.), and outtakes (13min.), along with Stevie’s Dark Secret (8 min.) which gives Steve Little a chance to go wild.

This is an absolute must have.


Television