“Eastbound & Down”: A Fine Look Into the Life of a Likeable Loser


In this image released by HBO, Ben Best, left, and Danny McBride are shown in a scene from the HBO original series, “Eastbound & Down.” (AP Photo/HBO, Fred Norris)

In this image released by HBO, Ben Best, left, and Danny McBride are shown in a scene from the HBO original series, "Eastbound & Down." (AP Photo/HBO, Fred Norris)
In this image released by HBO, Ben Best, left, and Danny McBride are shown in a scene from the HBO original series, "Eastbound & Down." (AP Photo/HBO, Fred Norris)

The best new show on television isn’t about a king ruling America. It’s not a new talk show and certainly isn’t a reality show about dancing celebrities. No, it’s about a loser. A loser with dignity and a giant ego. That show, is HBO’s “Eastbound & Down.”

“Eastbound & Down” is the latest creation from Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. They redefined humor on the Internet with FunnyorDie.com, they brought comedy back to Broadway with “You’re Welcome America: A Final Night with George W. Bush,” and now they’re reshaping the sitcom with “Eastbound & Down.”
The hero of “Eastbound & Down” is not a hero, but rather the anti-hero; the kind of guy audiences would usually route against but now they find themselves routing for. That anti-hero is Kenny Powers (Danny McBride).

Powers was once living the dream of any ten-year-old boy as the best pitcher in major league baseball. He was a superstar, with his face on the cover of every magazine in America. Powers, however, had a reckless attitude. He was known for dropping f-bombs whenever he got somebody out and for dropping anti-Semitic remarks for no reason whatsoever. His fame begins to wane as he moved from Atlanta to New York to San Francisco, and finally to Seattle. His baseball career finally comes crashing down after he is kicked out for using steroids.

Now, Kenny is desperate. He decides to move back home to North Carolina and live with his brother (John Hawkes) and his family. Desperate for money, Kenny decides to go back to his old middle school and teach gym using his bad boy attitude. Eventually, his goal becomes to win back an old high school girlfriend (Katy Mixon) and somehow make into the majors.

Under most circumstances, it would be hard to believe that anyone like Kenny Powers could get back into major league baseball. But McBride plays him so perfectly that the audience feels more like their rooting for him, rather than laughing at his demise.

With this show, McBride has officially made a name for himself by playing the loser that absolutely no one likes and then making him likeable. He broke through in 2008 with his scene-stealing roles in “Pineapple Express” and “Tropic Thunder” and proves he is leading man material with “Eastbound & Down.” He commands every scene he is, and every scene that Powers isn’t a part of feels somewhat empty.

In his performance, McBride is able to accomplish one of the most difficult tasks for an actor: making an obnoxious, bullying loser seem like a good guy. How does he go about doing this? Well, he not only emphasizes his shortcomings, but he also focuses on Kenny’s strong points. Kenny might’ve done some horrible things in the past, but he is passionate and dedicated to the things he loves. He is not the kind of guy who gives up without a fight. And therefore, the audience wants him to succeed. Kenny has experienced karma, and now, he deserves redemption.

“Eastbound & Down” also carries a love story with it. The love story is between Kenny and his old girlfriend April, who is now engaged to the school’s dorky principal (Andrew Daly). In a normal comedy, the principal would be the kind hero who finally gets the girl from the bad jock. “Eastbound & Down” is about what happens when the jock comes home, and the audience is on his side.

“Eastbound & Down” displays some fine directing, as well. Directors David Gordon Green, Jody Hill, and Adam McKay can make the viewer feel so uncomfortable using freeze frame (especially in the intro to every episode), and long awkward pauses and situations. The show also carries the best selection of music of any show currently on TV.

Unfortunately, “Eastbound & Down” is only slated to run for six episodes with only minor discussion of future seasons. There are only two episodes left of the series, but it just doesn’t seem like six episodes is enough to chronicle the life of a character as dynamic as Kenny Powers. Here’s hoping that the show’s creators reconsider.