If, HBO's 'Eastbound & Down', about a self-destructive Major League ballplayer who has hit rock bottom, is a refreshing comedy then it is just as divertingly politically incorrect.
Premiering Sunday, we have a protagonist, who refuses to conform to polite society, yet somehow, one finds him likable, despite boorish and lewd humour, thanks to the performance of budding star Danny McBride, whose 2006 'The Foot Fist Way' is something of an indie classic. Since, embracing mainstream theatrical comedy circuit roles, he has appeared in 'Tropic Thunder' and 'Pineapple Express'.
The pilot, co-written by McBride, Ben T. Best and Jody L. Hill has McBride in the role of Kenny Powers, a big-league fastball pitcher, who ends up as a drug-addled blur of nastiness with limitless egomania. Now back in his North Carolina home-town, Kenny is living with his older brother, Dustin (John Hawkes), teaching P. E. at his old middle school, while struggling to come to grips with how quickly everything fell apart.
Worst of all, his former flame April (Katy Mixon), engaged to school principal Terrence (Andrew Daly) teaches art in the same school. We have deadpan, deer-in-the-headlights humour, as everyone from shell-shocked sister-in-law (Jennifer Irwin) to overly indulgent brother, everyone in school, in town, wondering whether to simply humour Kenny or lock him up in a dungeon.
A subtle actor, McBride instinctively understands one doesn't have to apologise for unbridled vulgarity. He doesn't make Kenny likeable, but he let's us catch the self-doubt beneath his self-approval. The pilot may not be particularly funny, yet, it has a bunch of talented people, including a number of good things about it. You can say 'Eastbound & Down' is a different show, don't write it off just yet, you can say it looks promising.
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