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Vice Principals (season 01)

Josh Reviews Vice Principals Season One!

I remember reading about The Foot Fist Way, the 2006 low-budget film directed by Jody Hill and starring Danny McBride.  It got a lot of positive press and so I tracked it down and saw it during the film’s limited run in theatres.  It was very funny and very uncomfortable.  This seems to be the combination of feelings that Mr. Hill and Mr. McBride have continued to pursue over the course of all of their fruitful collaborations.  Honest admission: I totally missed Eastbound and Down (their previous television collaboration) — the first season has been sitting on my DVD shelf for years but for some reason (not lack of interest) I’ve never gotten to it.  Someday.  But ever since The Foot Fist Way I have been paying attention to the work of these two.  Jody Hill directed Observe and Report, a deeply weird and deeply unsettling comedy starring Seth Rogen, and of course Danny McBride has been killing it in a variety of comedic roles in films over the past decade, including Tropic Thunder, Pineapple Express, Your Highness, 30 Minutes or Less, This is the End, and many more.  The two reunited for the two-season HBO show, Vice Principals.

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In Vice Principals, Danny McBride plays Neal Gamby, while Walton Goggins plays Lee Russell.  Both men are Vice Principals at North Jackson High School, and they each believe that they should be promoted to principal when the school’s long-standing leader, Principal Welles (played by Bill Murray in a note-perfect cameo in the first episode) retires.  However, the school board decides to bring in someone else entirely to be the new principal: college professor Dr. Belinda Brown (Kimberly Hebert Gregory).  Shocked by this turn of events, Vice Principal Gamby and Vice Principal Russell agree to team up to take down Dr. Brown.

This nine-episode first season (the show is reportedly structured to run for only two nine-episode seasons, with the second season coming some time next year) is, exactly as I had expected, powerfully funny and also profoundly uncomfortable.  This is a raunchy, pull-no-punches show, and this tone is certainly not for everyone.  But I loved it.  I had a great time watching these first nine episodes and I can’t wait to see what sort of craziness the back half brings.

Danny McBride has made a career out of playing this type of character: a profane, low-watt-bulb man-child who comes off as loud and blustery but is sweet and insecure on the inside.  Neal Gamby feels like the apotheosis of these character traits; this is the most Danny McBride character Danny McBride has ever played.  It’s great fun — and often stomach-churningly painful — to watch.  Watching … [continued]