David Brent takes the unwitting abuse of office staff to new heights. Gregory House is a manipulative, sadistic boss. And Larry David has the kind of foot-in-mouth disease that would normally lead to a punch in the face. Kenny Powers, however, makes them all look like a bunch of pussies.
Created by Adam McKay and Will Ferrell’s production company, Eastbound & Down follows a superstar baseball pitcher whose fall from grace has plummeted him to the depths of teaching PE in his home town. Unfortunately, the descent hasn’t changed the attitudes of a man whose catchphrase is “You’re fucking out!” followed by a middle finger. “That’s the fun thing about watching Kenny Powers, he just keeps doing the wrong thing,” says writer and actor Ben Best on one of three commentaries.
Ultimately, your enjoyment of this series will ride on whether you’re willing to see the humour in Powers’ arrogance as it’s brought scarily to life by Danny McBride. Watching a grown man stomp his petulant feet can get testing. Redemption rears its head, but comedy this dark can’t be lightened by traditional sitcom practices...
Ferrell pops up in an entertaining turn as a car dealer with Peter Stringfellow hair (with his TV adverts helping bulk out the solid extras). Meanwhile, McBride, Best, Jody Hill and David Gordon Green chatter away on those commentaries. It’s an odd mix of dry production material and friendly joshing, but there are nuggets to discover. For instance, you might think that a channel that routinely allows the C-word isn’t the censoring type, but HBO turned down an Eastbound script featuring devil-worshippers and even toned down some swearing. The deleted scenes, outtakes and featurettes also display the process behind the show – lines are adlibbed in front of the camera only to have additional suggestions shouted out from those behind the camera.
This is the blackest of comedies, leaving a bitter taste that won’t be to everyone’s palate. Those unable to penetrate the darkness should take McBride’s advice on the chat-track. “You take a shot of Southern Comfort and lime juice every time someone says ‘fuck’,” he explains. “You’ll be wasted five minutes in.”
Arrogant, misogynistic and often hilarious – but the dark comedy may strike some viewers out.