Eastbound & Down: Chapter 1 - Pilot Reviewed
Review by Jack Foley
INDIELONDON singles out notable episodes from current television series for stand-alone reviews. On this occasion we take a look at the pilot episode of Eastbound & Down entitled Chapter 1 (as aired on F/X on Thursday, October 1, 2009, at 10pm).
What’s the story? Kenny Powers (Danny McBride), a former star baseball player, returns to his hometown but immediately finds that he is not as respected by people as he once was.
Was it any good? The jury’s out on Eastbound & Down, the new show from and starring Danny McBride that boasts Will Ferrell as an executive producer.
We kind of liked it; but kind of didn’t too. And much of this has to do with the quality of McBride’s central performance, given that his former baseball hero turned loser Kenny Powers is such a difficult character to warm to. But then that’s the point.
Rather like The Office and other comedies of its type, Eastbound & Down isn’t supposed to provide warm, fuzzy, comfortable viewing. Rather, the chuckles come from the cringe-worthy comments made by its leading anti-hero, as well as the dire situations he finds himself in.
In a particularly slick and well-executed establishing set-up, we saw how Powers went from baseball’s big new hope to its mullet-donning biggest dope.
His decline was measured by his diminishing ball-throwing speeds, while his vitriolic outburtsts included re-dubbing New York “Jew York”, and poking fun at San Francisco’s gay scene.
By the time the washed up former pro pitched up at his old stomping ground as a substitute teacher and took up residence with his put-upon brother (John Hawkes) and his family, you had the measure of the character. He’s loathsome… irredeemably stuck up on himself and a burden to anyone unlucky enough to know him.
McBride, for his part, channelled the pent-up aggression and egotistical nature of Powers brilliantly. He was a car-crash presence to be around – swearing at kids, trying to reclaim his High School sweetheart even though she’s engaged to the school principal, and generally making a nuisance of himself around his brother’s wife and children.
And the laughs were guilty ones at best – such as seeing Powers encourage the children in his class to pick on the child whose father thinks he ruined the sport, or tearing his nephew down a strip for daring to climb on his jetski.
But make no mistake… McBride, as writer and co-creator, doesn’t want you to sympathise with him just yet. He may never… Even Powers’ last act epiphany came with its own self-indulgent flourish.
For, having realised that he needs to get his shit together, Powers took over the school airwaves with a rallying speech to his own ego, and then went for a jet-ski session with the town slapper… last seen being ditched, topless, in the water for him to circle around and almost drown.
And in case you hadn’t guessed it yet… the humour is jet black and knowingly provocative.
Seeing whether Powers mellows or gets his come-uppance should make for intriguing viewing over the five episodes that follow. Eastbound & Down certainly has aroused our curiosity…
What did you think?