To all those reading this, I present to you a dire warning: Eastbound & Down is a show with a very specific style and sense of humor that will not appeal to a lot of people. It’s gross, juvenile, unpleasant and, dare I say it, a bit risque.
However, if you’re already a fan of the show or you can see yourself enjoying a comedy that’s part Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and part Wild Strawberries, then read on.
Actually, you might as well read on even if you don’t fit into those categories. Couldn’t hurt.
This is the final chapter of the Kenny Powers saga. This is it. After season three, there’s no more Eastbound & Down. Ever. It’ll be gone.
It’s a sad prospect, I know, but Chapter 14 gives me confidence that Danny McBride and everyone else creatively involved in the show can give us the best send-off possible. It’s a terrific episode that, for me, highlights Eastbound & Down’s two major strengths:
1. It’s funny. Boorishly, crudely, offensively funny, in a way where I’m not sure if I’m supposed to hate Kenny Powers or love him for his charming hideousness.
2. It’s got heart. For a television show with this many crass jokes about the human anatomy, Eastbound & Down can mine real, solid emotional weight out of Kenny’s struggles, his meager successes, and the odd earnestness hiding underneath all of that crude, flabby armor.
Chapter 14 brings both of these elements back with a vengeance. There are countless laugh-out-loud moments- Kenny explaining the concept of publishing to his new high school-aged girlfriend, claiming that his son Toby’s name is racist in the middle of that same son’s first birthday party (while simultaneously pointing at the one black guy actually in attendance), and going into extreme detail with his new sidekick Shane about which one of them is Maverick and which is Goose.
Shane, by the way, is played by Jason Sudeikis, an actor I’ve seen occasionally on Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock and a handful of places and never really been impressed by. He seems to be holding his own against McBride in their scenes together, though, and it’s nice to see a sidekick who Kenny Powers has some modicum of respect for (unlike Stevie, who looks to be returning in next week’s episode).
The show’s heart is on display too, and in a big way. I’ll get to that in a minute, though- first let’s talk about just where Kenny Powers is at this point in his life.
Kenny’s got a pretty basic overall character arc- he’s a callous asshole who gets kicked out of Major League Baseball, tries to work his way back in, and in doing so learns a little about himself and becomes a (marginally) better person. It’s a basic coming-of-age story, and in film/television, there are three distinct categories of coming-of-age stories- a child becoming an adult, an adult learning wisdom, and a wise adult accepting death.
Kenny started off as a child (more or less) in season one, and now I’d say he’s an adult on his way to wisdom- what better way to do that then to give him a kid? It seemed a little cliche at first, but honestly, feels like the right way to go. First of all, there are plenty of laughs to be wrought from placing Kenny Powers in the same room as a small child, but this also gives Eastbound & Down a considerable amount of opportunities for the heartfelt moments it can pull off so well.
You see, in film school (or, at least, the film school I attend), comedies get swept under the rug somewhat. You (again, maybe not you- maybe it’s just me) will hear that a modern comedy should have bright, obvious lighting and flat, equally obvious camera angles, and that present-day comedies just don’t provide the filmic opportunities that dramas do.
That’s not the case for Eastbound & Down. With artful touches of slow-motion, above-average camera work and (in my opinion) one of the finest soundtracks of any television show, ever, Kenny’s life contains a number of real, touching dramatic moments that contrast wildly with the overwhelming crudeness in the rest of the show.
Just look at Kenny and April’s kiss in front of little Toby towards the end of Chapter 14. It’s a geniunely sweet moment that the whole episode’s been building to, and it’s pulled off perfectly with just a few touches of soft orange lighting and gentle music.
And then a few seconds later we get a condom joke.
That’s Eastbound & Down for you. It’s unlike anything else on television, but it’s a terrific show precisely because it’s unlike anything else on television.
I’m so glad it’s back.