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Eastbound & Down aired from February 2009 until ? on HBO.
Relief Pitcher Kenny Powers ( Danny McBride) was poised to rule the Big Leagues, but two things got in the way: his fading fastball and his insufferable personality. After a spectacular career flame-out, Kenny came home to Shelby County, NC and picked up a job as a substitute gym teacher (mostly so his brother Dustin would stop threatening to kick him out). He spent every moment since then cashing in the last of his dying fame while plotting his inevitable comeback... one beer at a time.
'Eastbound & Down' was the latest project to come out of Will Ferrell and Adam McKay's comedic goldmine Gary Sanchez Productions, which also launched FunnyOrDie.com. Starring Danny McBride ('Pineapple Express'), Katy Mixon ('Four Christmases'), John Hawkes ('Deadwood') and a host of other talented comedians, 'Eastbound & Down' was created by McBride along with two friends from film school: Jody Hill and Ben Best. The hilarious new series was shot on location in North Carolina and also included a few guest appearances by Ferrell as a local car dealer with marvelous hair.
A Review from Variety
Eastbound & Down
(Series; HBO, Sun. Feb. 15, 10:30 p.m.)
By BRIAN LOWRY
Filmed in North Carolina by Gary Sanchez Prods. Executive producers, Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Chris Henchy, Jody Hill, Danny McBride, Ben Best; director, David Gordon Green; writers, Best, Hill, McBride;
Kenny Powers - Danny McBride
April Buchanan - Katy Mixon
Dustin Powers - John Hawkes
Cassie - Jennifer Irwin
Terrence Cutler - Andrew Daly
Stevie Janowski - Steve Little
Clegg - Ben Best
As HBO scans the horizon for distinctive new programming, along comes "Eastbound & Down," a comedy whose most salient characteristic is its production auspices. Will Ferrell and his posse produce this show about a former Major League pitcher whose bad behavior lands him back at the middle school he once attended, teaching phys ed and pining for his former girlfriend. Perhaps sports fans are similarly pining for something to fill the emotional void left by "Arliss," but anyone holding HBO to a higher standard will signal for a reliever long before "Eastbound" reaches the bottom of the ninth.
Even with the promise of a Ferrell cameo in future episodes, it's a tired premise -- a more profane version of the kind of low-swinging sitcom that could easily have wound up on TBS. Danny McBride ("Tropic Thunder") plays Kenny Powers, whose rise and fall as a flame-throwing pitching ace is rapidly documented in the first few minutes of the premiere. He's an amalgam of sports excesses, a mix between Charles Barkley and John Rocker, leaving a trail of empty beer cans as he insults everyone around him.
Less convincing are the circumstances that bring Kenny back to North Carolina, sponging off his tolerant brother ("Deadwood's" John Hawkes) before taking the teaching gig, mostly to gain proximity to old flame April (Katy Mixon). Sure, she's engaged already to the foppish principal (Andrew Daly), but he's a big fan of Kenny's and thus seemingly oblivious to his scheming to woo her back.
Ignoring that McBride doesn't much resemble a former professional jock, the series quickly settles into the most mundane of territory, relying on crudity in lieu of wit. "God's taken a dump on my face," Kenny mutters at one point. And apparently on your script, too.
HBO's recent approach to comedy has been one of relatively narrow demographic slices (think "Flight of the Conchords"), but with their juvenile flair, both "Eastbound" and the animated "Life and Times of Tim" fail to achieve a sense that they are premium offerings. "Eastbound" proves less about Kenny's comeuppance than about simply watching him behave like an overgrown 12-year-old, caught in a state of arrested development by the squandered privileges of pampered stardom.
With only six episodes ordered, "Eastbound" appears to be a relatively low-risk player. Still, with Ferrell's George Bush stage special looming on HBO, it's hard to escape a suspicion that "Eastbound" got into the game based less on big-league ability than on who's managing the team.
camera, Amy Vincent; production designer, Richard A. Wright; editor, Tom Costain; music, Wayne Kramer; casting, Juel Bestrop, Seth Yanklewitz. 30 MIN.
A Review from The New York Times
Television Review | 'Eastbound & Down'
A Pitcher's Life After the Third Strike
By GINIA BELLAFANTE
Published: February 12, 2009
Will Ferrell and his creative partner, the writer and director Adam McKay, are, let's face it, our national poets on the subject of dimwitted, bubba arrogance and the redemptive powers of failure, their poems seemingly conceived in a midnight frenzy of brilliance on the back of a bag of Doritos.
Together they have made great contributions to our cinematic library ( Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy ) and lamentable ones ( Step Brothers ). The partnership has also resulted in the sketch-comedy Web site Funnyordie.com; Mr. Ferrell's current show on Broadway, You're Welcome America. A Final Night With George W Bush ; and the new HBO comedy Eastbound & Down, created by Danny McBride as a work of beer-bong, red state mockery packaged precisely to appeal to his patrons tastes.
Eastbound & Down (beginning Sunday) stars Mr. McBride as a John Rocker-like former pitching star named Kenny Powers, a Jew-hating, gay-bashing, hooker-happy athlete who drank away any vestiges of discipline and forced himself into retirement by the depths of his own jerkiness.
Mr. Ferrell and Mr. McKay are not involved in the writing of this latest venture they are executive producers but the mark of their auteurship is all over it, chiefly in the sweet, quaint life-lesson of an idea that if you go around acting like an entitled idiot, your entitled idiocy is going to rain a plague of misfortune on you, one felt chiefly in downgrades to real estate and audiovisual systems.
In this instance Kenny's contemptuous, mullet-haired ways send him back home to Shelby County, N.C., where, with the I.R.S. after him and no more Gatorade endorsements, he must move in with his brother's family. Kenny hasn't had much contact with the kinfolk since he sent them a tanning bed for Christmas three years ago, and he is shocked to discover that his niece is named Rose after Kate Winslet's character in Titanic.
What's his name? Kenny asks pointing to his nephew. Shrek?
It is here that we have just another example of how Eastbound & Down feels like a margarine, not butter, version of Talladega Nights, the Nascar reversal-of-fortune story in which the children were ingeniously named Walker and Texas Ranger, and the exchanges between Mr. Ferrell and John C. Reilly had an addicting improvisational madness.
Comparatively, Eastbound & Down feels static. Unlike Ricky Bobby, Kenny shows no signs (at least not yet) of a turnaround, and it is unclear whether Mr. McBride could believably pull one off. Lacking Mr. Ferrell's vulnerability, one that comes to a great extent from resembling an overgrown 10-year-old, Mr. McBride looks like someone you'd run away from in the parking lot of a Waffle House.
Kenny's rank obnoxiousness really takes hold at his day job as a substitute gym teacher at his alma mater, Jefferson Davis Middle School. (I thought that was really funny until, just for fun, I Googled Jefferson Davis and schools, and found educational institutions bearing that Confederate leader's name in Kentucky, Louisiana, Florida, Virginia and Texas.)
During a question-and-answer session on the first day of school Kenny is peeved that the students are grilling him about phys-ed requirements and prods them into asking about what he considers his legendary career. Is it true you were in jail? one girl asks. He says, No, babe, rehab.
The funniest moments during the initial episode come when Kenny, during his breaks, is in his car listening to the cassette version of the inspirational memoir he wrote when he was still on top. Sure I've been called a xenophobe, he hears himself saying. But the truth is I'm not. I honestly just feel that America is the best country, and the other countries aren't as good. Maybe HBO ought to release the whole audiobook.
EASTBOUND & DOWN
HBO, Sunday nights at 10:30, Eastern and Pacific times; 9:30, Central time.
Directed by David Gordon Green; written by Ben Best, Jody Hill and Danny McBride; Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Chris Henchy, Mr. Hill, Mr. McBride and Mr. Best, executive producers; Stephanie Cone Laing, producer.
WITH: Danny McBride (Kenny Powers), Katy Mixon (April Buchanon), John Hawkes (Dustin Powers), Jennifer Irwin (Cassie Powers), Andrew Daly (Terrence Cutler), Steve Little (Stevie Janowski) and Ben Best (Clegg).
A Review from The LA Times
It hits several foul balls, but it's staying alive at the plate.
February 13, 2009|ROBERT LLOYD, TELEVISION CRITIC
"Eastbound & Down," which premieres Sunday on HBO, brings to television a certain sort of comedy now abroad in theatrical features, a comedy of male arrested development whose expanding nexus of practitioners includes Judd Apatow, Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Seth Rogen and Will Ferrell. Larger than life and less than perfect, the genre's self-mythologizing heroes are pictured in a way that is at once critical and admiring.
Ferrell is an executive producer of "Eastbound," which stars doughy Danny McBride -- the Buddhist drug dealer in "Pineapple Express," the pyrotechnics guy in "Tropic Thunder" and Ferrell's costar in the upcoming "Land of the Lost" -- as Kenny Powers, a former big-league, big-star ballplayer whose career, ignited in a moment of rookie glory, has come to ashes in a conflagration of inflated ego and contracting talent. Depressed but hardly chastened, he returns home to a small town in the South, moves in with his brother's family and goes to work as a substitute P.E. teacher at his old middle school.
There is nothing revolutionary in the premise, created by McBride with North Carolina film school friends Jody Hill and Ben Best -- it was their self-financed film "The Foot Fist Way," which starred McBride as a Southern-fried teacher of taekwondo, that first attracted Ferrell's attention. Prodigal-son stories have been knocking them dead for a couple of thousand years now, and the tale of the messy failure redeemed by contact with ordinary folks and small children has been with us at least since the first version of "The Bad News Bears." It remains to be seen just how redeemed Kenny will be, but it won't take much to make him seem improved.
I can't say the pilot struck me as especially funny, but there are good things and talented people in it, and it looks good. (Hill directed, and Best appears as Kenny's once-and-present drug buddy.) Perhaps I am just being old-fashioned, but I was disappointed by its tenuous relation to reality and the uneven respect it pays its characters.
To imply, for instance, that high school flame April (Katy Mixon), now teaching art, is still moved by Kenny is to rob her of substance. Likewise, the deck is stacked against her boyfriend, the school principal (Andrew Daly), whose cheery banality we are pushed to see as something inferior to Kenny's unbridled vulgarity. And in any vaguely real world, Kenny would not last a minute as a teacher with the language, unprintable here, that comes out of his mouth. The show itself is like a giant enabler for its main character's bad behavior.
McBride is a much subtler actor than his roles might suggest. He does not make Kenny likable, but he catches the vein of self-doubt that runs through the mountain of his self-approval. (He has taken to listening to the motivational tapes he recorded in his former life: "I am better than everyone in the world.") Yet his character is so huge that he distorts the scenes he's in, the way a planet bends passing light. When brother Dustin (John Hawkes, excellent) and sister-in-law Cassie (Jennifer Irwin, ditto) get a brief moment on their own -- Kenny is making a racket in the middle of the night, and Dustin is getting out of bed to go deal with him -- "Eastbound" becomes a different, affecting show.
So I am not ready to write it off: I will give it the benefit of its arc.
A Review from The SF Chronicle
TV review: HBO's comedy 'Eastbound & Down'
February 13, 2009|By Tim Goodman
An interesting aspect of HBO's solid-gold reputation is that the channel's record on comedy is spotty. A new, almost buzz-free comedy premiering Sunday called "Eastbound & Down" is unlikely to improve that record, though with only one episode sent to critics, it might be hard to know.
Of course, HBO's being better at drama than comedy makes it very much like its competitors - so much for its claim that "it's not TV." Comedy is hard. Not many comedy series on TV are very good. In HBO's case, "Curb Your Enthusiasm" is probably the high-water mark. "Extras," with Ricky Gervais, was just as funny and - thanks in part to a limited two-season run plus an extended series-ending special - it never suffered the periodic creative lulls that have hit "Curb." But that series was also co-produced by the BBC, so it's debatable how much real creative input HBO had.
Going back in history, the underappreciated sketch series "Mr. Show With Bob and David" (1995), the barely seen "Tenacious D" (1997) collection and the brilliant "Larry Sanders Show" (1992) were more than enough to offset a dog like "1st & Ten" (1984), the weak "Arli$$" (1996) and the flawed "Da Ali G Show" (2003).
Like "Entourage" today, "Dream On" (1990) wasn't much of a ha-ha comedy, and neither was "Sex and the City," which was a dramedy. "Tracey Takes On ..." (1996) never really lifted off or caught on. "The Mind of the Married Man" (2001) came nowhere near its ambition. The recent "Lucky Louie" (2006) was disastrously bad, and trying to Americanize "Little Britain" last season turned a funny sketch series into one that was virtually unwatchable.
Two relative newcomers on HBO's schedule are extremely funny but appeal to limited audiences - "Flight of the Conchords," which just began its second season, and "The Life & Times of Tim," an animated series recently renewed for a second season. "Summer Heights High" was an Australian import - with no HBO additions - so it doesn't count.
That brings us to "Eastbound & Down," a six-episode series executive-produced by Will Ferrell (who will have a few cameos, apparently) and written by Danny McBride and Ben Best, the guys who wrote the very similar-in-tone feature film "The Foot Fist Way." Jody Hill, who directed that movie, is also an executive producer on this series.
"Eastbound & Down" is about the downfall of a foulmouthed, mullet-wearing former Major League Baseball pitcher named Kenny Powers (McBride), who alienates everyone around him with his obnoxiousness, meritless ego, politically incorrect comments and sexual boorishness. In short, he's easy to hate. Apparently the idea here is that in his quest to return to the big leagues, there will be some kind of redemption story to carry the day.
That seems unlikely on several fronts. Powers is out of shape, frequently drunk and prone to cocaine, and he has burned so many bridges in baseball that even if he regained his searing fastball, he'd have a hard time finding a team to take him.
That's just the fictional character. What HBO might find equally difficult with "Eastbound & Down" is overcoming the fact that the series is mostly stupid, frequently unfunny and covers for its lack of original comic material by dropping f-bombs all over the place. The notion that being daringly inappropriate at all times or shouting obscenities as loud and often as possible somehow makes "Eastbound & Down" cutting edge is misplaced. Anybody can do that. Is it funny? Sometimes - definitely. But the repetitive yahoo-centric situations hint that there are no other comedic layers here. Swearing, yelling and snark, with an unlikable main character - that's just "Deadwood" without the brilliance, nuance and originality. At this point, "Eastbound & Down" is a consciously lowbrow, one-note tirade. Maybe the five other episodes grow up? (HBO usually sends three or four episodes, so something seems amiss.)
If "Eastbound & Down" is only looking to get the "Foot Fist Way" audience, then worrying about comedic ambition is pointless. But HBO spent millions of dollars developing "12 Miles of Bad Road" with Lily Tomlin and others, only to realize, apparently, that it was basically a standard network sitcom. That famously shelved series didn't fit the brand. The question is, does "Eastbound & Down"? It seems like a middling Fox series with a monotonous glut of obscenities and some nudity tossed in to make it pay-cable worthy. But you have to wonder whether the current HBO regime liked the Ferrell connection more than the show itself. Or maybe HBO doesn't have any clue about what it wants from its comedy.
To watch some clips from Eastbound & Down go to http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=eastbound+%26+down+hbo&aq=0
For a Page dedicated to Eastbound & Down go to http://timvp.com/eastboundanddown.html
For a Website dedicated to Eastbound & Down go to http://kennypowersfanclub.com/
For a Jennifer Irwin Photo Gallery go to http://www.fanpix.net/gallery/jennifer-irwin-pictures.htm
For a Website dedicated to Will Ferrell go to http://planetwill.jt.org/
For a Website dedicated to Will Ferrell go to http://willferrellfan.org/
To listen to the theme song of Eastbound and Down go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=naJgeoRFzFk
� Date: Fri February 20, 2009 � Filesize: 46.9kb � Dimensions: 500 x 314 �
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