With great power comes great irresponsibility
The minds behind Eastbound and Down have reunited for this comedy miniseries that sets out to be as funny as it is unapologetically offensive, and if the pilot is anything to go by, it tends to succeed at both. Those familiar with the previously mentioned series will see an immediate similarity between the shows, outside of the obvious connection of the starring role being filled by Danny “Kenny F*****g Powers” McBride. While Eastbound and Down primarily focused on McBride’s foul mouth character’s return to the world of Baseball, it did start out with him playing a disgruntled douchebag of a gym teacher. Vice Principals swaps out that role for the shows titular position, but keeps the irresponsible, middle finger to the world attitude McBride is known for.
The plot of Vice Principals is a very simple, down to earth one, even if the characters are far from the latter. Neal Gamby (McBride) plays a high school Vice Principal who’s hoping to slink his way into the position of principal, a role previously filled by a guest starring Bill Murray. Also vying for the job is Lee Russel (Goggins), playing the other, considerably more charismatic (kiss ass) Vice Principal whose sole purpose appears to be to rile up Neal and make sure he doesn’t get the Principal job. The first episode doesn’t do much to inform us why they hate each other and instead focuses on how much they do. But, regardless of that fact, it does lead to some pretty amusing scenes, particularly one in the teacher lounge and one at the tail end of the episode.
Speaking of the end, that scene is the one that helps set up the seasons arc and puts the “pal” in principals by showing the two joining forces. This “enemy of my enemy” based friendship’s main goal is to take down their sole target, the recently hired principal that they both lost out to. They may have a mutual goal in mind but the fact is, only one can get the job. That of course means there’ll be plenty of backstabbing and betrayal between them both that’s hopefully as entertaining as the back and forth you see from them in the opening episode. Both give solid, energetic performances that play very well off each other. Being a fan of both actors, it was great to see them share and attempt to steal scenes from one another and I look forward to see how it escalates into further over the top shenanigans. There isn’t anything standout from the rest of the cast but the new Principals one on one scene with McBride was fun and shows that she has just as much of a “no BS” attitude as Neal or Lee do.
The general humor and tone of the show is exactly what one would expect from the people who made Eastbound and Down, and that’s loud, obnoxious no holds barred characters who will say and do anything, no matter how crude and offensive. The first episode alone contains at least 3 school shooting jokes, so right out the gate the show makes it apparent that nothing is too taboo for discussion. Now, it’s no secret that Danny McBride can be as one note as they come, always playing the mean spirited, loudest voice in the room type of character but I’d be lying if I said he doesn’t absolutely own this persona and flaunt it proudly. Walton Goggins is also no stranger to playing human garbage, having pulled off bigoted scum in both The Shield and the more recent The Hateful Eight, but he too brings a certain charm to that type of character that you can’t help but want to watch. And while both actors are considerably toned down in this show compared to other roles, they aren’t exactly decent people either; Goggins just puts on a better facade about it than McBride does.
And that about sums it up. Vice Principals isn’t groundbreaking by any means but if you enjoy both lead actors and found Eastbound and Down to be a worthwhile time sink, it’s likely you’ll want to invest in this show too. Both seasons have already been filmed with a total 18 episode run planned. While unusual in the TV world, that should hopefully mean the show has a coherent beginning, middle and end laid out that should keep it from straying too far off course. With all that in mind, if you’re the type who takes hurtful material to heart, it’d be wise to stay further from this show than Danny McBride would a church, but if you can have a laugh at even the cruelest of jokes then this is something worth your attendance each week.