Seeing as how “The Foot Fist Way” was my least favorite film of last year, I approached the creative team’s HBO series “Eastbound & Down” with trepidation. Luckily, the show has things the movie doesn’t: depth, story, character development and, thus, genuinely earned laughs.
Danny McBride (“Land of the Lost”) stars as Kenny Powers, a washed-up, mulleted, former MLB pitcher forced to return to his Podunk hometown, live with his brother’s family and take a gig as gym coach at the middle school where his high school sweetheart (Katy Mixon) teaches. He’s anxious to stoke those fires, but she’s engaged to the mild-mannered principal (Andrew Daly).
Not that he’s ready to settle down. Kenny snorts coke, courts a bar whore, refers to his obese nephew as “Shrek” and basically sees everyone as his inferior. He’s a completely unlikable person, and yet, “Eastbound” makes for compelling comedy. You can’t take your eyes off it, even when you despise its central character.
The series is purposely coarse, designed to discomfort, and it does that well — smartly playing stupid. The cast is uniformly terrific, with special notice going to Jennifer Irwin as Kenny’s ultra-patient sister-in-law and Steve Little as a starstruck fellow teacher whom Kenny corrupts. Look for Will Ferrell in two episodes as a crazed car dealer.
Only six half-hour episodes comprise the two-disc set, so take them in as one epic comedy. A rather choice deleted scene involving a nursing home awaits you afterward in the special features. —Rod Lott