Eastbound and Down is a ridiculously entertaining show that has had a core issue since Season 2, which is that the arc of Danny McBride’s Kenny Powers is virtually the same for every season. He’s an arrogant guy who learns a lesson on how to be a slightly better person every time, but in a way that suggests for every two steps forward there’s one back. He’s still an ignorant redneck jerk, but maybe a little better. Season Three looked to close out the series, and that gives it a nice boost over Season Two, which was also good, but suffered more in direct comparison to the first season. Now it seems that creators McBride, Jody Hill and David Gordon Green are going back to this well for a fourth season. But they had a good ending, with Season Three, and that makes us a little worried about more. Our review of Season Three of Eastbound and Down on Blu-ray follows after the jump.
For the third season, Kenny Powers has been called back up to the minors to pitch for Myrtle Beach Mermen and things are going okay. He’s now partnered with Shane (Jason Sudeikis) as his catcher, and the two are loaded with bad jokes and are dating college aged girls. Kenny goes home to find that April (Katy Mixon) still has feelings for him, even though he abandoned her and their child, and he tries to make peace with both of them, but he’s Kenny Powers.
April comes to visit, and the two go out for a night on the town where they get drunk and coked up and have a good time, but she takes off before dawn, and leaves Kenny with their child. That’s when Kenny calls Stevie (Steve Little) and his wife to come help him raise his kid. Shane and Stevie initially don’t like each other, but then Shane dies of an overdose, which introduces Shane’s twin brother (Sudeikis), and leads to one of the best jokes of the season.
On the team, Kenny is asked to help shepherd hot new pitcher Ivan Dochenko (Ike Barinholtz), who is also a club DJ. The rivalry goes about as well for Kenny as expected. Kenny also wants to ditch his kid, so his father (Don Johnson) suggests he pawn his child off on Kenny’s mother (Lily Tomlin), which leads to more hijinks, and Ashley Schaffer (Will Ferrell) and Reg Mackworthy (Craig Robinson) return as well.
The biggest problem with Eastbound and Down is that it told a great story in the first season. It’s no surprise that Kenny Powers became a great quotable character, but every additional season has offered variations on the exact same thing: Kenny digs himself a hole, and then kinda digs his way out. A blowhard man-child, it doesn’t compare as favorably to the original UK version of The Office, which found a way to present its overblown egotist character and then destroy him in its way. But with Kenny back in the minors, there’s different stakes here, and in this season he comes to be a better father, albeit after toting his child around in a backpack with a leaf of lettuce in the sack with him (you know, for a snack).
On second pass this season is much funnier, because you can relax into the jokes, and there’s a lot of great funny one-liners, and great squirm-inducing bits of terrible taste and bad behavior. Steve Little is the obvious MVP of the show, and his ability to go anywhere (from dressing as a geisha, to being sodomized, to shaving off all his hair) is impressive. He commits to the joke and then some. Sudeikis makes for a wonderful addition, and he’s great as Shane and equally good as his twin brother. And with vets like Farrell, Robinson and Matthew McConaughey putting in nice cameos, there’s always something of interest. But it’s hard not to worry about that fourth season. This felt like as good a wrap up as the show could have, and now they’re going to keep going. Hope it works.
HBO presents the third season on Blu-ray in widescreen (1.78:1) and in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. It’s a TV show so the surround don’t get a great work out, but the transfer is pristine. Disc one comes with recaps for the first two seasons, and commentaries on every episode. Episode 14 has commentary by McBride, director Jody Hill, and Katy Mixon, 15 with McBride, Hill, writer Harris Wittels, director David Gordon Green, and co-stars Steve Little and Elizabeth De Razzo. 16 features McBride, Hill, Parkinson, Green, editors Jeff Seibnick and Travis Sittard, Little and Ike Barinholtz, while 17 offers McBride, Hill, writer Josh Parkison, Little and De Razzo, and 18 features McBride, Hill, Little, De Razzo and Erick Chavarria.
Disc two offers the final three episodes with commentaries on each. Episode 19 offers Hill, McBride, Green, editors Jeff Seibnick and Travis Sittard, and Little, 20 has Hill, McBride, writer John Cariceri, editors Jeff Seibnick and Travis Sittard, and Craig Robinson, and the finale offers McBride, Hill, Little and Mixon. The second disc also features cut footage, which starts with “Dinner with the Schaefers” (6 min.), which offers more footage from the second episode of the season. Then there’s deleted scenes (48 min.) – which includes a cut out Val Kilmer cameo – and outtakes (9 min.). The deleted footage is definitely filled with gems, so the supplements are very worthwhile.