Guess who's back from near-death?! Despite Eastbound & Down co-creators Jody Hill and Danny McBride's repeated declarations that their third season was always meant to be their last, HBO has now picked up the show for a fourth season of eight episodes. First of all: Hoor-fuckin'-ay. Second: What just happened?
Sunday-night television really put my emotions through the washing machine this week. While Pete Campbell was measuring himself for stereo coffins on Mad Men, Kenny Powers went out on a high/low note in the best series finale since The Sopranos left Tony holding Schrodinger's cannoli. I welled up a little when Stevie and Maria declared their independence from Kenny and choked laughing when he pushed Stevie's face in her tits. I was all set to bawl when I seriously thought La Flama Blanca was muerto, and ready to kill him when he came back with Ponyboy Curtis blond hair. What made Eastbound & Down such a cut above most comedies was its capacity to arouse real emotional reactions. Combining indie-film naturalism with '80s action-movie bombast, it was as truthful as it was absurd. The show could do something as willfully zany as the Ashley Schaeffer plantation subplot and somehow keep me invested in Kenny's moral development like it really fucking matters. As refreshing as it was to see such an unapologetic prick when Eastbound & Down started, it was equally exciting to explore the depths of Kenny's secret sweetness through the next two seasons.
Kenny Powers was a 1970s stuntman who ghost-stunted for the more famous Canadian stuntman/daredevil Ken Carter during a famous failed jump in 1976. Ken Carter publicly promised to jump the Saint Lawrence River in a Lincoln Continental augmented with rockets; the process of building the car and ramp was documented in a Canadian documentary called The Devil at Your Heels. Carter got ABC to pay him $250,000 to broadcast the stunt on Wide World of Sports, but as the date approached, he realized the jump was likely impossible and chickened out. (Evel Knievel visited the site and personally judged the potential for success highly fucking unlikely.)
Since talking about last night's episode of Eastbound & Down would be impossible without inventing an entirely new language, your palate cleanser from all the Oscar coverage is not a recap. It's a Kenny Powers dubstep K-hole. Let's motherfuckin' go!
"Kenny Powers" - Control/Kthulhu
This wobbly track from Control/Kthulhu is called "Kenny Powers," samples the man himself, and is perfect for recutting Season 1's MDMA-fueled school dance sequence.
After a mid-decade slump, HBO is back to its starry best on the drama side, finding success by investing in blood and horses. (And, in the case of Game of Thrones, both!) But reinventing its comedy brand has proven to be a stickier wicket. The brain-dead lifestyle porn of Entourage and How to Make It in America was a poor match for the Occupy era, and the twee amblings of Bored to Death struggled to connect with audiences outside of Mr. Ned’s Tailor Shop. More recently, Enlightened proved to be a critical hit, but not yet a commercial one. With the networks still dominating mainstream laughs and nichier, riskier fare succeeding elsewhere on the basic-cable grid, HBO has found itself boxed in and outflanked, unable to settle on a comedy strategy that fits its prestige brand. This Sunday’s debut of a new 10 p.m. sitcom block doesn’t solve the problem, it only serves to accentuate it — albeit in awfully interesting ways.