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Eastbound & Down: The Complete First Season (2009)

Warner Home Video
DVD Released: 6/30/2009

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/15/2009

Overnight success is a term that we hear a great deal in the world of entertainment. But, it's rarely true, as many actors paid their dues in small, thankless roles before they made their way into the spotlight. However, it does happen every once in a while and Danny McBride may be the ultimate example. Here is someone who made a low-budget film with his college friends and suddenly it's like he's in every movie. He's been able to infiltrate the worlds of The Frat Pack, Judd Apatow, and the Saturday Night Live gang. And after popping up in nearly ten movies over the past three years, he landed his own show on HBO, Eastbound & Down, which has now come to DVD.

McBride stars in Eastbound & Down Kenny Powers, a man who was once on top of the world. At age 19, he threw the last pitch which one the World Series for Atlanta. He suddenly became a celebrity and a fan-favorite. But, his fame went to his head and his talent began to wane, his mouth got bigger and he alienated everyone around him. Now in his 30s, Kenny has returned home to North Carolina, where he's living with his brother, Dustin (John Hawkes), and sister-in-law, Cassie (Jennifer Irwin). Unable to do anything else, Kenny takes a job as a substitute PE teacher at a local middle school. There, he runs into his old flame, April (Katy Mixon), and is surprised to learn that she's engaged to the somewhat nerdy principal, Terrence Cutler (Andrew Daly). Despite the fact that Kenny has hit rock-bottom, his attitude hasn't changed -- he still thinks that he's better than everyone and he always want to be treated as a celebrity. He mistreats Dustin and Cassie, he's rude to April, he doesn't take his job seriously, and he's convinced that he will get back into baseball. Will reality ever set in?

As McBride has risen from obscurity to cult actor to TV star, he has demonstrated one thing: he is a master at playing a narcissistic jerk. From his debut in The Foot Fist Way through his small roles in movies like The Heartbreak Kid and Hot Rod, he always seems to play characters who simply don't have time or patience for those around him. He carries that talent into Eastbound & Down and has made Kenny Powers into a challenging character. There's no doubt that McBride was born to play this role and we often forget that we are watching an actor. He's taken the idea of a jerky John Rocker type athlete and taken him to the nth degree. Kenny puts himself first in every situation and honestly doesn't understand why others don't feel the same way. This make Kenny very difficult to like. He is the center of the show and if you don't like him, you won't like the show. This is the catch-22 and this is the thing which ruined The Foot Fist Way.

If you can tolerate Kenny Powers and get past the fact that he is a truly unlikable character, then you will get used to him after a while. And, not to give anything away, Kenny does begin to sort of, kind of, see the light after a while. In some ways, Kenny is very similar to Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights. The difference is that Will Ferrell's craziness was balanced out by other crazy people in that film. Unfortunately, Danny McBride doesn't get that kind of support in Eastbound & Down. Everyone fights Kenny's craziness instead of playing up to it and the result is off-putting. The only person who goes toe-to-toe with Kenny is, ironically, Will Ferrell, who appears in two episodes. Otherwise you've got crazy Kenny doing and saying over-the-top things while everyone else remains normal. Does that reflect reality? Sure, but we don't want reality from a show like this. The supporting cast isn't bad, but their limp characters actually drag the show down. They need to join Kenny in the crazy sandbox.

If nothing else, Eastbound & Down is an uneven show. Kenny Powers is a total jerk, but if you can get beyond that, he is funny and some of his lines had me crying. (Especially the one which deals with Fashion Bug.) This may not come through to a lot of viewers, but the show does a good job of portraying what life in some parts of North Carolina is like. The six-episode season is obviously short, but the first three episodes drag at times. The last three pick up the pace and are far more interesting. While Kenny is the center of the show, the lack of colorful (as opposed to annoying) supporting characters does hurt the show. If you liked The Foot Fist Way, you'll probably love this show. As for me, I liked aspects of it, enough to make me want to check out Season 2 when it arrives on DVD.

Eastbound & Down: The Complete First Season uses a lot of profanity in front of children on DVD courtesy of Warner Home Video. The two-disc set contains all six episodes of Season 1 of the show. The show has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing only a hint of grain at times and no defects from the source material. The colors look good and the image is never too dark or bright. The picture is somewhat soft at times and there is some mild artifacting, but otherwise, the image rivals digital broadcast quality. The DVD offers a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track brings us nice stereo effects which come into play during crowd scenes or the moments in the bar where Kenny hangs out. There are also some nice surround sound effects, most notably when Kenny reminisces about playing baseball. I didn't detect any major subwoofer effects.

The Eastbound & Down: The Complete First Season DVD set contains a selection of extras. Disc 1 offers an AUDIO COMMENTARY on "Chapter 1" with David Gordon Green, writers Ben T. Best and Danny R. McBride and writer/director Jody Hill. This may be the greatest commentary ever as the Tar Heels are mentioned. Also, the talk is funny as well. The trio talk about the making of the show, including casting and locations, as well as the story and characters. They are very frank in their comments and they are often humorous. The remainder of the extras are found on Disc 2. Ben Best, Jody L. Hill, Danny McBride, and David Gordon Green provide AUDIO COMMENTARIES on "Chapter 4" and "Chapter 6". "Making Eastbound & Down" (12 minutes) is a broad overview of the show. It contains comments from most of the main cast and crew, who discuss the show's origins, their characters, and the bizarre nature of the program. McBride talks about shooting in North Carolina and astute viewers will see a quick cameo by a Bojangles biscuit. "Kenny Powers: Greatest Hits" (2 1/2 minutes) is the full version of Kenny's promo video which we see in the show. We get two "Schaeffer Motors Commercials" (around 1 minute each) which feature Will Ferrell. Both are somewhat similar and very silly. The DVD contains 7 DELETED SCENES which run about 9 minutes. But, instead of being typical deleted scenes, the different scenes are chopped up and edited together instead of playing straight through. And to make matters worse, there's only one deleted scene here -- the rest are cut moments from existing scenes. There's a 13-minute reel of OUTTAKES. "Stevie's Dark Secret" is a 7-minute deleted scene in which Stevie volunteers an upsetting story to Kenny and Clegg.

On August 2, 2011, Warner Home Video brought Eastbound & Down: The Complete First Season to Blu-ray Disc.  The show has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 26 Mbps.  The image is sharp and clear, showing no defects from the source material.  The level of grain is actually more noticeable here than on the DVD, but this is no doubt due to the clarity of the HD transfer.  The colors look very good, but they aren't overly bright or bold.  The picture is never overly dark or light.  The level of detail is fairly good, but the depth is somewhat lacking, as the picture lacks any simulated 3D look.  The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of  2.0 Mbps.  The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects.  The stereo effects are pretty good, most notably during crowd scenes like the "pitch-off" in Episode 5.  These effects are nicely detailed and show good separation.  The surround sound effects are notable at times, but they mainly stay too far in the background for their own good.  I didn't note any significant subwoofer effects.  The extra features found on the Blu-ray Disc are the same as those on the DVD. 

Review Copyright 2009/2011 by Mike Long