First off I would like to apologize for the unconscionably late nature of this post. I wasted two hours of my life watching the season premiere of Celebrity Apprentice so I had to catch the 12:30 showing of Eastbound & Down and I left my power chord at the office, so I had to power my computer through one of those old-timey hand-cranks. Then I discovered that they don't make hand-cranks for computers and that a traveling flim-flam man had sold me bogus goods. I cannot stress this strongly enough: don't buy a wooden hand-operated power cord from a traveling salesman. They just don't work. It was a bad situation all around.
Kenny Powers would have fit right into Celebrity Apprentice. He combines the impregnable self-delusion and arrogance of Andrew “Dice” Clay with the blue-collar vibe of Jesse “I’m dressing like a lumberjack ex-con to represent the common people” James. Like the Diceman, Powers lives eternally in the moment of his greatest fame. In his mind, he’s still throwing hundred mile-an-hour fastballs in the World Series even when he’s reduced to teaching gym, just as the Diceman still seems to think he’s selling out Madison Square Garden even though he’s playing the Swinomish Northern Lights Casinos of the world.
Tonight’s Eastbound & Down picked up exactly where last week’s left off, with a high, drunk and rage-filled Kenny Powers vowing to hurl a brick through Will Ferrell’s car dealership. Powers smashes Ferrell’s window up but good, then convinces a deeply inebriated Stevie to take the drunk-driving rap for him by offering him an unpaid assistantship. Stevie desperately wants to be Kenny’s friend, with or without benefits, but Kenny doesn’t want friends; he wants flunkies, yes men, hangers-on, weed-carriers and the like.
Kenny loves the superficial trappings of fame; he likes having parasites and groupies around. He wants to be judged not by the content of his character but by the money he used to make and the skanks he used to bang. In that respect Eastbound & Down offers a refreshingly honest take on the mind-warping power of celebrity.
In yesterday’s episode Powers once again found a way to exploit his former popularity, this time by having his sister-in-law sell his merchandise on Ebay. Meanwhile, Kenny becomes convinced a hotshot high-school pitcher is threatening his chances of making it to the majors and dispatches Stevie to fuck him up old school. In Kenny’s myopic worldview his main competition isn’t the thousands of younger, better pitchers filling the ranks of minor and major league baseball or the ravages of aging and time but a teenager from his home town. Powers used to be a national, if not international force but with each dispiriting defeat his world becomes smaller and more rinky-dink. That's why he starts juicing again.
I’ve written earlier that one of the things I like most about Eastbound & Down and McBride’s comedy in general is its complete dearth of sentimentality. Yet last night’s episode offered a slightly kinder, gentler Kenny. The scene where our intrepid anti-hero watches April from his truck managed to be simultaneously sweet and creepy. And Kenny seems to be warming up to both his students and his nephews. He’s still an arrogant sonovabitch but he may not be beyond redemption.
—I’m still loving the inspirational tapes. It would be neat if they released the complete tapes for public consumption. I know I’d be inspired as fuck by Kenny’s words of wisdom.
—The scout’s quick take on Kenny (too old, too fat, too stupid) was brutal in its economy. You couldn’t help but feel for him in that moment.
—Kenny can be a very funny guy, intentionally and otherwise. I especially liked his line about April looking like "a retarded Michael Myers" with his mask on.