On the 17th of November back in 2013, television said goodbye to one of its greatest heroes. The inspiring tale of Kenny Powers, Eastbound & Down, came to a fitting climax - and the world wept as we said farewell to the man who could throw a baseball “faster than f*ck”. Well, ladies and gentlemen, 2016 brought us the return of co-creators Danny McBride and Jody Hill and their new creation. Moving away from the world of sports and into the world of education, this is Vice Principals.
Shot as an 18-episode story and split into two halves, these first 9 episodes of the Vice Principals story are absolutely superb television. When the beloved principal of North Jackson High School retires (a cameo Bill Murray), he reveals that he trusts neither the cocksure Neil Gamby (Danny McBride) nor his scheming and seemingly sociopathic co-vice principal Lee Russell (Walton Goggins) for the job, and so instead outsources the job to college professor Dr. Belinda Brown (Kimberly Herbert Gregory). The show chronicles Neil and Lee as they conspire to bring down Dr. Brown, but only gradually self-destruct as their own biases and unlikable personalities increasingly alienate the rest of their co-workers.
First of all, if you enjoyed Eastbound & Down then you will absolutely love this. Maintaining the same inappropriate and foul-mouthed humour that is a staple of Danny McBride’s work, it’s a perfect companion piece to the former show. The dark style is similar and, like Eastbound, there is a surprising amount of heart in here. But for anybody who isn’t familiar with the style and has a more fragile sensibility, I’d be wary before jumping into this. It is often offensively inappropriate.
Danny McBride and the always brilliant Walton Goggins are absolutely perfect here, with Goggins stealing the show. Known primarily for his darker roles – he’ll always be Boyd Crowder – he plays completely against type here as the arse-kissing and flamboyant Lee, complete with blonde-tipped hair. McBride is effectively playing himself but when has anybody ever had a problem with that? The man pisses excellence. But special mention should certainly go to Kimberly Hebert Gregory, who turns our hero’s nemesis into a sympathetic character and arguably has us siding with her.
Vice Principals has come under some criticism with accusations of being too offensive, but anybody familiar with McBride’s usual sort of work won’t be surprised by the content here. There are moments that do push boundaries and the premise itself – two white men aggressively fighting a black woman for her job – isn’t exactly politically correct. But there’s nothing here you haven’t seen before, and certainly nothing that pushes boundaries to foreign waters. It’s no more offensive than your average episode of Family Guy, South Park or Rick & Morty. It’s dark and twisted in its humour, but then again, all the best things are…
Vice Principals is a hell of a lot of fun. The story is engrossing and always interesting, the characters are all great, and the jokes land. And, as I mentioned before, there is heart here. McBride’s character’s fight for the love and respect of his daughter is surprisingly moving, while the hardships of our hero’s nemesis Dr. Brown are often touching too. This is a confidently made show that ticks all the boxes that modern comedy should.
If you enjoyed Eastbound & Down or you like your comedy dark and twisted, you’re in for a treat. If your idea of comedy is Friends or The Big Bang Theory, then you should probably stick to those. This could be a little too inappropriate for you. Vice Principals begins with a bang during its first 9 episodes, and I for one cannot wait to see how it wraps up this year.
Vice Principals at CeX
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