Love them or hate them, Eastbound & Down’s characters are almost always so magnificently written that it’s hard not to think of them as the best of their kinds. But then, that’s a pretty easy accomplishment seeing as they’re almost all one-of-a-kind compared to some of the lamer, cookie cutter characters on today’s half hour comedies. And with just eight episodes in this fourth and presumably final season, there’s no time to dick around with storylines and plot development like a certain HBO show about vampires did so much this season.
But last night’s episode of Eastbound & Down (“Chapter 23”) was anything but pointless or dragged out, as we watched Kenny Powers finally rise from the ashes while Stevie continued to be the most damaged and pathetic character on TV today. In fact, let’s dive right into Chapter 23 by talking about just how terribly pathetic Stevie has become.
If you asked me to list the one million strongest male characters in TV history, you wouldn’t find Stevie Janowski anywhere on that list. If you asked me to list the 10 characters that are so horribly painful to watch and respect as human beings, however, I would probably write Stevie Janowski’s name 10 times and call it a day. But every time that I think that we’ve seen the lowest of Stevie, he’s being called a “dick licker” and “pussy” by his children in a supermarket, only before he hits that rock bottom moment that most college students know too well…
I don’t ever wish death on a human – okay, there are some exceptions in rare moments of unbridled hatred – but because Stevie is a fictional character, I feel fine saying that I wish death on him. He’s a worthless used Band-Aid stuck to the bottom of a homeless man’s ill-fitting Crocs. Yet he’s so incredibly necessary to the existence of Kenny Powers, because without him, as Kenny’s one true best friend, Kenny wouldn’t have ever had the balls to snap out of his funk and take the fame that is rightfully his.
Of course, that fame is now a spot on Guy Young’s “Sports Sesh,” which is a far-too-accurate send up of today’s mindless ranting sports talk shows that have become more important to the landscape of athletics than the actual people playing the games. Guy, as we learned in “Chapter 22,” is Kenny’s former teammate and friend willing to help the former car rental company employee find his way back into the celebrity light, as he’ll to have him on an episode of Sesh as a co-host.
That is, if Kenny can stand up to Dontel Benjamin, a former athlete with a louder mouth than anyone else on Sesh and the only opinion that ultimately matters. Like the fake show, Dontel isn’t too far off from reality. Regardless, Kenny’s initial go on Sesh is a complete failure, as he freezes on camera, gets caught up in a racially-charged moment and finds his hilarious wardrobe the butt of every co-hosts joke.
Before he even has the chance to make an ass of himself, Kenny is warned by Guy that we don’t become celebrities overnight, and that’s proven emphatically when he fails. Fortunately, Guy offers Kenny another shot, and we all know that this can only happen if Kenny has the support of the two most important people in his life. First up, he needs Stevie, because only with Stevie’s completely pathetic existence can Kenny start to feel better about his own pathetic life.
Stevie’s not in, though, and that leaves Kenny on his own. Especially since the other person he needs is April, and she’s not excited at all about the prospect of losing her husband to a life of fame again. Also, this scene has been done to death over the years, but I will never not find it amusing:
Eventually – probably because we only have 30 minutes – Stevie comes around and begs for Kenny’s forgiveness and acceptance. That’s one part of the equation, while April is still the other. Without April, Kenny just has flash and pomp, but he lacks confidence. It’s in that detail that we’ve always seen just how important Kenny and April are to each other, as they’re easily one of the best TV couples in the history of the medium. I will argue this til my death by using knuckles and hard slaps. Like a man, damn it.
I’m gonna be real for a second – April doesn’t get the credit that she deserves for being the most powerful character on this show. She is the driving force behind Kenny Powers and the difference between an empty, unemployed stoner digging a hole in their backyard and a confident, ass-kicking purveyor of hot, nasty truth.
So once Kenny has completed the first step in his tangential road to redemption on Sports Sesh – getting himself a killer suit and an $80,000 green Viper…
… All he needs is the approval of his woman, so we can watch him thrash Dontel. To be completely honest, the majority of this episode, just like Chapter 22, was depressing. It’s hard to watch two guys at their lowest try to work together to climb back above it all, because there are so many cringe-inducing, “Oh man, I can’t watch” moments, but again, that’s why we need April. She the glue and fuel, the most important character on the show and Kenny Mother F*cking Powers’ muse. Without her, he’d never have the balls to not only call Dontel a Milk Dud, but then knock him to the ground.
And that’s where we stand after two episodes – Guy told Kenny that nobody can capture fame in one shot, and Kenny proved him wrong. Next up? Kenny’s going to go way overboard with his newfound success the way that only Kenny can. It should be absurdly offensive and hilarious.