Danny McBride is going back to school, and I couldn't be happier to hear it.
There is a fascinating thread running through the work of McBride, especially when it intersects with the work of Jody Hill. There's a curdled idea of masculinity in our culture, and they've done a beautiful job of creating characters who represent the weakest parts of who we are. They are men who buy into the ideas that are sold to us about success and manhood and power, and who are destroyed by it in the process. One of the reasons it infuriates me when critics refuse to engage with comedy in the same way that they engage with drama is that comedy can lay the truths about who we are in a very honest way. The humor is what makes it possible to deal with it in these cases. If we were told the exact same story that “Eastbound And Down” but without humor, it would be so emotionally savage and unbearable that I'm not sure you could look directly at it.
HBO had a great experience with the team on “Eastbound & Down,” and today they have announced “Vice Principals,” with an initial order of eighteen episodes. There's no word yet on when the show will begin or how they'll break those eighteen episodes up between seasons. While the first season of “Eastbound & Down” was set in a school, the series ultimately evolved so far past that premise that it's hard to remember that's where it began. Jody Hill, David Gordon Green, and McBride are all onboard to produce the show, which they say is about “a high school and the people who almost run it, the vice principals.” That sounds like it's going to give them exactly the right kind of setting to play in.
I doubt we'll see a character who is just basically Kenny Powers as a teacher, but I'm willing to bet we'll see characters who are just as trapped by their own issues with power and purpose. I'm dying to see which members of the larger ensemble that they've worked with over the years are going to show up in the series, and which new voices they add to the mix.
It's an exciting announcement, and the next time I run into McBride, I plan to mercilessly grill him on what we can expect from the series. For now, we'll wait for further word on a premiere date from HBO.