DVD Review: Eastbound & Down"/>
Washed-up major league baseball pitcher Kenny Powers is among the most quotable protagonists in recent memory. In a parlance that's part hip-hop, part redneck, part>"/>
Washed-up major league baseball pitcher Kenny Powers is among the most quotable protagonists in recent memory. In a parlance that's part hip-hop, part redneck, part absurdist literalism, and all insecure machismo, Powers (played by Danny McBride) shoots off at least several lines in each episode of HBO's Eastbound & Down that you'll find yourself thinking back on and laughing. (Or, in my case, repeatedly delivering around the house, much to my fiancee's dismay.)
If you must know, Kenny Powers has "been blessed with a lot of things in this life: An arm like a damn cannon. A cock like a Burmese python. And the mind of a fucking scientist." (This and more in his audiobook, You're fucking out. I'm fucking in., which HBO will release soon, if it's smart.) He's also declared himself "a bulletproof tiger." And after reuniting with his high school fling, he mentions his desire to "get his fuck on," tells her she's looking good, and says that, consequently, he might need to change his shorts. Finally, to clarify: "Just kidding. I didn't come in my pants." (For more Kenny nuggets of wisdom, check out his Twitter page.)
As you might guess, Kenny can't always walk the walk. A one-time fireballer in the major leagues, he's lost his fastball and his mojo with it. So he returns home to Shelby County, North Carolina, moves in with his brother, and gets work teaching P.E. at the local high school. There he competes with the principal (Andrew Daly) for the affections of his former fling, April (Katy Mixon), to whom the principal is engaged. He also enlists Stevie (Steve Little), a possibly mentally challenged band teacher, as his personal assistant.
Despite possessing an awesome jet ski and the aforementioned blessings, Kenny has difficulty adjusting to his newfound lack of stardom. He finds a nemesis in a sleazy BMW dealer played by Will Ferrell and dreams daily of returning to the bigs. And ridiculous as he and the other characters are, the show can get a bit depressing when Kenny's failings reduce him to tears, or when he mistreats his eager-to-please assistant Stevie. This is accentuated by directors David Gordon Green and Jody Hill's tendency to accentuate these forlorn moments with melancholy 60's tunes, a la Wes Anderson's movies or The Graduate. In fact, after a particularly disastrous barbecue in which he comes in his pants and his date, a strung out prostitute, gets out of control and embarrasses him, Kenny--clad in a white button-down and jeans--takes the jet ski out on the lake. The scene is presented in slow-motion and set to a Gregorian-chant-styled cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence," as a stoic Kenny rides out his troubles on the pristine waters. Then he runs out of gas.
The same can occasionally be said of the show; in this critic's opinion, it peaks with his glorious intercom speech and equally glorious, "Black Betty"-set subsequent exit. After that, how long can you watch a washed-up loser feel sorry for himself? But every time you're ready to give up on Kenny, he gives you another reason to believe, or at least laugh. And a second season is on the way. Because, as Kenny himself says, "Kenny Powers has a sneaking suspicion that no matter what comes his way, he will always be great. Because that's just the way shit works sometimes."
Eastbound & Down, HBO Home Entertainment, 6 episodes, 180 minutes, $29.98, Release date: June 30