Smile Politely

Meet baseball’s newest bad boy: HBO’s Kenny Powers

(Before I begin, this week’s column is about a baseball-themed show, and I’m noting now that there will be a few random references to my beloved Cubs injected for the sole purpose of irritating my editor, Doug Hoepker, who is a Cardinals fan. Believe me, he’s mean when it comes to teasing Cubs fans, and he deserves it.)

With baseball season right around the corner, those of you who have HBO should get thee to thy OnDemand and watch the brief inaugural season of Eastbound & Down. And those of you who don’t have HBO should make friends with these people who do, pronto. Seriously, show up on their doorsteps with some Miller Lites and Xanax, and settle down on their couches for a mere three hours (told you it was brief) of face-hurting hilariousness. And then call the cable guy when you get home and order HBO. For the love of God and Mitch Williams, it’s worth it. 

I loved Eastbound & Down so much, I don’t even know how to begin. I should probably begin by saying my endorsement of Eastbound & Down is proof of the fact that I don’t offend easily [Ed. note: see, this is why I have to be mean when I tease Amy). This show is offensive (as HBO’s website indicates with its Offend-O-Meter). The season finale counts “snorting blow off a loaded rifle” as just one of Kenny’s many offenses. It’s offensive in the best way possible [Ed. note: like me!], of course, meaning the offensive behavior is loutishly comedic, and the offender gets his fair share of comeuppance.

Kenny Powers — played by the awesome Danny McBride, sporting the best haircut to grace a TV screen, ever — is facing that comeuppance big time when the show begins. Kenny is a conglomeration of all the best bad boys baseball has offered up in the last 25 years: John Rocker, Mitch Williams, Kenny Rogers, Barry Bonds (well, Barry Bonds only in the sense of his bad attitude and steroid use, because Kenny Powers is most decidedly racist), etc. [Ed. note: You forgot Carlos Zambrano.] He’s no Derrek Lee, whose grace, kindness, prowess, and sportsmanship seemingly guarantee him a spot in Cooperstown, while someone like, oh, say, Mark McGwire is destined to stand on the outside looking in. Too much?

Kenny Powers is a backwoods boy from a podunk North Carolina town. He rocketed to stardom with his golden pitching arm, and has fallen hard from grace; his drug use, alcohol abuse, homophobia, racism, sexual proclivities, and ‘roid rage got him blacklisted from baseball (well, that and he lost his fastball). So he has returned to his hometown to substitute-teach physical education at a junior high so the government can garnish his wages.    

That right there is a comedic goldmine, for the gym-teaching alone. (I know a lot of gym teachers, and someone should’ve made a sitcom about them long ago.) And the show’s creators and producers are all funny to begin with. Will Ferrell and Adam McKay are Executive Producers. You already know Will Ferrell, but collectively the two have made Anchorman, Step Brothers, and Talladega Nights, not to mention the web site funny or die, a kind of American Idol of web videos starring all kinds of famous people (you should make it your habit to check it everyday). Will Ferrell guest stars on Eastbound as car salesman Ashley Schaeffer (he offers Kenny paltry amounts of money to do autograph signings at his dealership). David Gordon Green (director of all my favorite movies, including All the Real Girls and Snow Angels) is a producer and director of a few of the episodes. But Danny McBride is the real star here. His Kenny Powers is the total anti-hero, and I seriously hope he gets an Emmy nomination for this performance. I highly doubt he will, though, on account of, among other things, the scenes of him repeatedly injecting steroids into his g-stringed ass whilst semi-famous white southern rapper Lil’ Wyte’s “F*cked Up” blares in the background.

I should mention that the music in this show deserves an Emmy as well. The title comes from Jerry Reed’s awesome Smokey and the Bandit soundtrack song (“we’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there”), and Kenny Rogers’ (the other one) “Love Will Turn You Around” closes the penultimate episode, as Kenny Powers kisses his high school sweetheart, with whom he has previously prematurely ejaculated in his pants. Comeuppance! [Ed. note: I’m allowing the pun. See, I’m not so mean.]

Notably, the women, subjected as they are, have great roles to play in this show. Katy Mixon is said high school sweetheart, April (pictured, left), and her southern accent and scrunchy face are perfect. Sylvia Jeffries plays Tracey, a lady friend Kenny uses for sex to make April jealous. And while Kenny is forced to live with his brother Dustin until he can get back on his feet, Dustin’s wife Cassie (Jennifer Irwin) gamely helps him sell his busted Kenny Powers memorabilia on ebay.  

This send-up of baseball’s bad boys is the key for the whole show, though. Kenny Powers, as a character, is so well-known, even to people who don’t follow baseball. He is brash and mulleted, loud-mouthed and lacking, totally idiotic, and baseball is the only sport that would allow for a physique like his (seriously, look at Randy Johnson or John Kruk, how could those two ever be considered athletes on any level?). [Ed. note: Uh, I think fatty fat ass Rod Beck and his mullet is a pretty good comp for Powers.] That America’s pastime has provided so many evildoers and assholes makes America a better place, in my book. And by “evildoers and assholes,” I mean, like, Albert Pujols. 

And I bet Albert Pujols has HBO. Bring Bud Light to his house.

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