'Eastbound & Down': Offending, Entertaining Everyone Possible

Danny McBride's "Eastbound & Down" about a down-and-out pitcher hailed...sort of

March 20, 2009, 12:35 PM

March 20, 2009 — -- If misery loves company and America loves a comeback, then HBO's new series"Eastbound & Down" may have premiered at the perfect time.

The show centers around Kenny Powers, a once-glorious pro baseball pitcher now stuck in his hometown, crashing at his brother's house as he plots a less-than-likely return to the major leagues. Less-than-likely because gets derailed by drugs, strippers, a gig as a substitute gym teacher and, above all, his larger-than-life ego.

It all seems fitting at a time when America is attempting to rebuild itself as a force to be reckoned with after falling into one of the biggest financial crises in its history.

But maybe that's over-thinking things.

No series on television (broadcast, cable or premium) has more curses per episode (view this clip and count the beeps), more over-the-top displays of violence (knocking out an eye with a 101 mph pitch), or more cringe-worthy sexual references (one character momentarily forgot the name of her second child because her "vagina itched").

"Eastbound & Down" is the brainchild of actor Danny McBride, who plays Powers and also serves as the show's executive producer. McBride may be most memorable for his mullet and his hilarious turns in "Pineapple Express" and "Tropic Thunder." He rolls in a crew of comic actors including Will Ferrell and Seth Rogen, and director-producers Judd Apatow and Adam McKay.

While he's played second fiddle in every mainstream movie up to now, McBride's front and center in "Eastbound & Down," and he's making a name for himself by offending every race, class and sex he can.

"If I had children, I would never let them watch this show," he told ABCNews.com. "But we don't want to push the envelope for pushing the envelope's sake. Even if we go really far, there ends up being some sort of truth, or some kind of heart found at the end."

Indeed, for all his expletive-filled rants, blowups in front of students and attempts to lure his high school sweetheart away from her fiance, Kenny Powers is a man trying to make himself better. His arm and attitude may be garbage, but he's got a heart of gold.

McBride sketched Powers from his own experience. Like his character, the 32-year-old Virginia-bred actor had to pack up his pride when he didn't make it big immediately after graduating from the North Carolina School of the Arts, which he attended with series co-creators Jody Hill ("Observe and Report) and Ben Best ("Superbad").

McBride Draws 'Eastbound & Down' From Own Experience

"I was substitute teaching for a little back in Virginia when things weren't really going so great in L.A.," he said. "They had me teaching everything from German to Earth Science to English. I was terrible at it."

And he coped just like his ego-maniacal character would.

"I was feeling a little self-conscious about being back in Virginia," he said. "The first day I was in the classroom I said, 'I'm Mr. McBride and this is just a stop on the way for me. I'm not like the rest of your teachers, I'm gonna be something.'"

With "Eastbound & Down," McBride's made good on that promise. The first season, six-episode run of his series winds to a close Sunday night. While its premiere episode only pulled in 671,000 viewers, the show's developed a cult following that could carry it through to a renewal.

It helps that Ferrell's lent his star power to "Eastbound & Down." He also serves as co-executive producer and dons a shiny white toupee to play sketchy car dealer Ashley Schaeffer, who cons McBride's Powers into participating in a pitching competition with his archenemy.

"He's the nicest guy and he's just as cool as you'd hope he'd be," McBride said about Ferrell. "We just let it rip on screen, cursing at each other and seeing how far we can go."

McBride's hoping audiences and HBO will let him go further.

"If HBO lets us do it again, we definitely have an idea of what we'd do with the next season," he said. "I don't think we could go to network TV or anywhere else. With our type of comedy, having limits is not a good thing."

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