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He's Kenny Bleeping Powers!
September 24, 2010  | By Eric Gould
 
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Eastbound & Down
returns this Sunday (10:30 p.m. ET on HBO) with Danny McBride taking another turn as the obnoxious, washed-up major league pitcher who looks like he's getting another chance at pro ball in the Mexican league.

Last year, Kenny Powers returned home to North Carolina to teach gym at his old high school after washing out of baseball, getting traded from team to team, his fastball disappearing, and his time in the big leagues along with it.

Those who follow Eastbound know that the Powers character was loosely modeled on real-life Atlanta Braves flame-throwing relief pitcher John Rocker, who suffered multiple episodes of politically incorrect foot-in-mouth interviews -- and who, too, washed out of the majors shortly after his own fastball-disappearing act.

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The show is co-written by McBride, and co-produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, the masterminds of seriously dumb-ass characters in Step Brothers, Talladega Nights, and the gold standard for all clueless morons, Anchorman.

Like HBO's pariah for the metropolitan set, Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm, Powers is the foul-mouthed, inappropriate anti-hero for suburbia. He's the W.C. Fields of his day, cursing in front of children, fixating on sports, too fat, too drunk, wearing too-tight black jeans, and boasting an ego to match his ridiculous mullet.

After last year's first episode, I wondered why on earth HBO was wasting time and money on such a jerky character. It was tough to stay with him. But then again, they (and we) have been squarely behind Larry David for years, and Ricky Gervais, too. Seems the cringe-fests hit the mark.

And with good reason. Kenny Powers is just about everything we shouldn't be, and is monumentally inappropriate doing it. The laugh is definitely on him, and maybe we're the better off for it, since most of us would be too polite to act this way in real life. TV gives us the opportunity to watch a real dip-s#*!, and freely have the last laugh on all the dumb jock stuff, without getting thrown against the lockers and having our lunch money stolen. (Maybe the sports hogs are watching, too, and learning a thing or two from this doppelganger.)

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McBride is a smart actor with good comedy instincts, as seen in Pineapple Express and particularly, with depth, in The Heartbreak Kid with Ben Stiller. He's accompanied by the ever chameleon-like Jonathan Hawkes (as Kenny's brother, Dustin), who has had amazing turns in Me and You and Everyone We Know, Deadwood, The Perfect Storm and Taken.

There aren't a lot of "aww" moments in Eastbound & Down; Kenny makes some half-hearted attempts at being a better person, living with lost fortune and lost fame without bitterness. But it doesn't last for long; his worst instincts take over, his taste for making his way back to the Alpha Male high-life is too strong. If there's anything to guarantee the failures of Kenny Powers, it's Kenny Powers.

Turning this moron around would take a lot of sitcom tricks. Somehow, I think between McBride and Ferrell, we'll eventually get an original -- and extremely cringe-inducing -- outcome. Kenny certainly deserves it.

 
 
 
 
 
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