Eastbound & Down (Season 2)

HBO

Sep 24, 2010 Web Exclusive
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The funniest show on television returns for a second season in an entirely new place: The return of Kenny Powers opens with the former major league pitcher in Mexico, having run away from the woman of his dreams. Eastbound creators Jody Hill, Ben Best, and Danny McBride have found some new magic south of the border, and they let Powers enjoy all the drugs, booze, and racism he can possibly stomach, then let him puke and rally for more.

The idea of changing the setting of the show completely is a bold move and exposes the deep ruts of most shows currently on television. Some aren’t afraid to change things up (Mad Men comes to mind first) but most have become so terrified of shark jumping (itself a relatively new term) that even the most adventurous of networks get stuck on repeat. Eastbound’s network bro Entourage found some success this season by finally giving Vincent Chase and co. one or two new twists. Otherwise, Entourage’s greatest weakness has been its ability to stare change in the eye (Ari could have been a studio head, the boys moved back to New York for about five minutes) and then run shrieking into the safe comforts of Hollywood success.

Of course, few other shows can boast a weapon as powerful as Danny McBride as Powers. He is one of the funniest characters to grace television in a long, long time, and unlike the guys on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, there’s a beating heart and soul behind Powers, it’s just covered in cocaine, steroids, and pride. The show’s gimmick of letting Powers narrate his own audio books works to hilarious perfection and gives needed structure to what is clearly an often-improvised performance from McBride. He deserved an Emmy and then some. 

It’s not going too far to say Eastbound and Down holds a magnifying glass up to sports and hero workship, it’s just that the magnifying glass is outrageously outsized, Charlie Chaplin, silent-movie prop huge. Sadly, as far as McBride takes Powers, the satire may never go far enough, as LeBron James and Roger Clemens and Tiger Woods and a host of others have shown. (www.hbo.com/eastbound-and-down)

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