Meet the reason ‘Vice Principals’ doesn’t sound like any other comedy on TV

08.15.16 1 year ago

Have you been watching Vice Principals on HBO so far?

If not, you”re missing a completely deranged new comedy that is only going to get more deranged as it goes. This should not be a surprise since it”s the brainchild of Rough House Pictures, the partnership between Jody Hill, Danny McBride, and David Gordon Green, and it”s their first HBO show since Eastbound & Down went off the air. While many of the same people are working in all departments on Vice Principals, as it unfolds from week to week, it”s clear that they”re not just rehashing the same sort of thing they”ve already done, and that judging this show from its pilot is impossible, because it”s not the same show even now that it was a month ago.

One of my favorite things about Vice Principals is the score, which takes some pretty big stylistic swings. Joseph Stephens is the show”s composer, and he dropped by the HitFix studios at Woven, where we sat down to talk about how he came up with the show”s signature sound. He also scored Eastbound & Down and Observe and Report for Jody Hill, and I like that none of those projects sound remotely the same. Hill has a great ear for how to use a needle drop, and unlike so many big-budget feature directors, he doesn”t just use the same 20 songs everyone uses. But while he can wield a well-timed pop song like a doctor with a scalpel, Hill relies on Stephens to really give his projects a unique sonic signature.

So often, scores are overlooked or under-appreciated when it comes to comedy, but the score for Vice Principals is a huge part of what works about the show. Considering how dark some of the material is and how far Hill”s willing to go with these characters, the score could totally change the nature of the show. What Stephens does so well is find a way to hang together all the complicated emotional ups and downs of the show, and particularly of Neal Gamby (Danny McBride) and Lee Russell (Walton Goggins). Watch this week”s episode and just listen to the way Stephens charts the evolution for each guy over the course of what happens. This is great work, and Stephens, like the rest of this creative team, was easy to talk to about his process.

Vice Principals is airing now, every Sunday on HBO, and appropriately airs what should be an insane season finale on September 11, 2016.

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