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Monday, March 23, 2009

"Eastbound" and done?

"Eastbound and Down" was never appointment television for me. In fact, I never caught the HBO show when it actually aired Sunday nights, instead, opting to watch it On Demand or much later if I happened to remember TiVo'ing it.

But having watched last night's season finale after a much more emotional adieu to my beloved "Flight of the Conchords," I came away impressed by the evolution of "Eastbound's" central scumbag, Kenny Powers.

At least from a plot standpoint -- and it's something Sara Boyd addressed after the season premiere -- it seemed like "Eastbound" was, er, bound to a one-joke rhythm with Powers as a John Rocker-ish redneck lout who could never come to accept his fading legacy. An anonymous commenter noted, however, that in a six-episode run, Powers' profanity-laden insensitivity and raunch could probably be tolerated. That turned out to be true, and the series got much stronger as "Eastbound" developed characters beyond washed-up, delusional Kenny.

Stevie, in particular, made this show for me. At first, his love affair with Kenny F'n Powers was being painted as creepy and perverse. But those highly sexualized layers were stripped away and Stevie simply became Lil' Kenny, a pushed around, pathetic, wimp-of-a-band teacher who finally came out of his shell thanks to Kenny's brazen, backwards ways. His exuberance at being named Kenny's right hand man was both hilarious and oddly touching for a show that didn't seem like it would bare much of a soul beyond the typical Adam McKay-Will Ferrell low-brow movie fare.

Speaking of Ferrell, his Ric Flair wannabe car salesman Ashley Schaeffer was also a nice addition, particularly in "Chapter Five" -- to me the best episode of the series, and one that would have left me satisfied had last night's final chapter never aired. The series featured just the right amount of Ferrell, who never overpowered with his comedic personality, yet delivered a memorable soliloquy about making love to his wife's daughter and having his son walk in on the act. How actors Danny McBride (Powers) and Craig Robinson (Powers' baseball nemesis and Daryl from "The Office") kept straight faces during that hilariously quixotic exchange is beyond me.

Anyway, the show ended up taking somewhat of a dark, but necessary turn last night (no spoilers!) -- which leaves the door open for a HBO, or perhaps full length movie, return (It has to be better than freakin' "Semi-Pro," right?).

However, it would appear that "Eastbound" might be a one-and-done series. That's befitting Kenny Powers' flame-out in the big leagues, I suppose, though I also suspect "Eastbound" will be a cult hit on DVD. It's the kind of show that should do well thanks to word-of-mouth, especially since it's made for one weekend viewing.

Ultimately, while it won't offer a ton of surprises beyond the straightforward premise of a former big leaguer forced to accept self-induced failure, there were several big laughs towards the end of the series. There was also an uncomfortable dose of reality, which is something I never expected when I saw the names McKay and Ferrell attached to this project.

As Kenny Powers would say, now that's getting f'd up with some truth.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,



As I slowly return to all the television watching I've missed after my weeklong furlough in Jamaica -- ahh, thank God for DVR -- I must say, I was most shocked by "Eastbound."

The ending -- no spoilers -- was just shocking. I mean, I kind of sensed a similar situation but man, talk about a dark twist. Now, I don't know that I'd go as far as Mr. Roz and say it was a brilliant turn of events, but I'm quite thankful it was a turn of events nonetheless.

The show became a little tired for me around the third episode so I was delighted to see something unexpected. I'm not sure that a movie would pan out -- or do well -- but I am intrigued to see if they follow this up with anything. Personally, I'm hoping they leave it at that and close up shop.

-- Sara

By Blogger Press-Gazette blogger, At March 26, 2009 at 11:14 AM  

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