The plot for Eastbound And Down
reads like the next Will Ferrell
comedy: a superstar becomes too big for his britches, then crashes and burns. His only hope is to become a better person and get back to his winning ways.
The busted superstar in this case is Kenny Powers (played by Danny McBride
), a power pitching closer that got the last out of the World Series at the age of 19 for Atlanta – they didn’t spring for any MLB licenses, so it's just "Atlanta." He signs a multi-year contract, and soon after trashes Atlanta when they begin to lose, so it's off to the only team that can take his bloated contract: New York. Kenny has his John Rocker moment and calls the city "Jew York," and gets shipped to San Francisco. Meanwhile, shots of his bullpen sessions throughout show a faltering pitch speed.
Kenny Powers (center, McBride), his brother (John Hawkes), and his sister-in-law (Jennifer Irwin). © 2009 Home Box Office
In SF, he makes a few choice comments about minorities in Baltimore and gay people in California. So it's back to the east coast, where he wears a familiar red Boston jersey and slams a camera down with his best Kenny Rogers impression when asked about using steroids. Finally, he takes his last stand in Seattle, where he throws his final pitches in the majors before getting cut. His last resort is to go back home to North Carolina and become a substitute P.E. teacher while living with his his brother (John Hawkes
), his sister-in-law (Jennifer Irwin), and their three young children.
The plot is interchangeable with Anchorman
, Talladega Nights
, Blades of Glory
, and to a lesser degree Step Brothers
. It's also easy to see Will and Adam’s fingerprints all over the script (they get producing credits). However, East Bound eschews the ticket-boosting PG-13 rating Ferrell adhered to for almost all of his comedies, and instead piles on the cussing. The show is overly-comfortable with the level of dirty words, portraying a society that would accept Kenny’s catchphrase of "You're f---ing out!" and even let him publish an "inspiring" audio book by the title of "I'm F---ing In, You’re F---ng Out," in which he tells listeners that he is "the greatest thing in the world, ever – so kiss my ass and suck my d---."
The first comedy notes are indeed the audacity of the writers to have so much swearing, especially around the children within the show. Kenny tells an anecdote about how he and his brother beat up mentally-challenged kids that lived down the block, as well as how stupid it is that his brother’s wife named her daughter after Rose in Titanic
(I agree with him on this point). After catching up with his high school girlfriend (Katy Mixon
) and hugging her, he goes for the usual "I think I need to change my pants," line – then follows it up with the unexpected "Nah, I'm just kidding, I didn't c-- in my pants." When sitting down with faculty for lunch, he makes an off-hand mention of a few boys "raping in the bathroom," before reassuring them he was joking.
The principal (Andrew Daly) and his bride-to-be... as well as Kenny's ex (Katy Mixon). © 2009 Home Box Office
Thus far, the show definitely has the public view of the hot-headed, ego-inflated sports superstar down to a tee. Still, it feels too much like another Ferrell/McKay movie in serial form at its core. While this isn't exactly a bad thing for fans of such material, I think that Eastbound And Down needs to step out of the shadows of its well-known producers and gain its own comedic voice. It has some great pieces to the cast, like Andrew Daly, so I think they can pull it off. But with only a six episode order from HBO, it remains to be seen if they can afford such a change.
Eastbound And Down airs Sundays at 10:30 on HBO.
Story by Casey Johnson
Starpulse.com contributing writer