Written by Musgo Del Jefe
Ben Best, Jody Hill, and Danny McBride have managed to do something that doesn't happen often enough with TV shows: they've pleasantly surprised me. The creators of the relatively unknown Foot Fist Way put together what is essentially a film divided into six episodes for HBO. In fact, the episodes are only numbered, instead of titled, lending itself to more continuous storytelling. Each episode picks up right at the end of the previous one.
The first episode covers quite a bit of ground in the first three minutes. But that's part of its brilliance. Danny McBride plays Kenny Powers. The Kenny Powers story follows just enough of some real-life characters that viewers can fill in the details. Kenny is in large part former Atlanta Brave John Rocker and bits of other baseball and sports jerks (including a nice homage to the Kenny Rogers incident with a cameraman in Texas). Kenny's career tops out at the very beginning with his 100-mph fastball as he helps his team clinch the World Series. What transpires over the next couple minutes of the opening montage is his fall from grace in the baseball world until he is with Seattle (the horror!) and can't throw out of the 80s. Eventually we see him stooping to moving in with his brother and subbing at the local high school.
The title of the series, Eastbound & Down brings to mind the Smokey and the Bandit films. But more importantly, it doesn't have anything to do with baseball or teaching Physical Education at the high school. I think that naming it anything to do with sports would have needlessly painted this story into a corner. The title tells you nothing and allows the characters to go in any direction without the viewer feeling cheated. The pilot episode is the weakest of the six episodes. Even with the simple set-up montage, there are lots of stories to introduce and it feels like they are cramming a lot of information into each scene. The story has to introduce Kenny, his brother, his high-school girlfriend who now works at the high school, the principal (who's engaged to his old girlfriend), Stevie (a teacher who idolizes Kenny), and other North Carolina friends. The characters are all cliche to begin. The story starts off all about Kenny (who's all about himself) and the supporting cast seems very thinly drawn.