Danny McBride managed to inhabit the role of Kenny Powers to such an extent that I do appear to have trouble keeping them separate. I thought that the arrival of a new series would finally put that issue to rest. I’m discovering there was a reason I had trouble telling them apart. They are indeed the same person. Add to the situation that Vice Principals uses the same writing and production team headed by McBride and Jody Hill, and there are moments when you will think that you’re still watching Eastbound And Out. The wild card that changes things up enough happens to be Walter Goggins. Goggins came to notice as the cold Shane in The Shield and the quirky Boyd Crowder in Justified. Put those two characters together and you get an inkling of his character here. It’s a wonderfully nuanced character big enough to shine over McBride’s shtick.
Bill Murray cameos in the pilot episode as Principal Welles of North Jackson High School with an ailing wife. His two vice-principals Neal Gamby (McBride) and Lee Russell (Goggins) have been competing for his job for years. Just when one of them is about to grab the silver ring, the school board brings in outside Dr. Belinda Brown (Gregory) who has left Philadelphia with her two sons, fleeing a broken relationship. She’s qualified, so now the two enemies have to join forces to get rid of her.
The situation is just as outrageous as Eastbound’s baseball scenario. But that’s really the only kind of environment where these characters could exist. It stands on the performances of the two leads with a little help from the supporting cast which includes Kimberley Herbert Gregory as the perfect foil for our anti-heroes. She’s dealing with two sons who are just as evil as Gamby and Russell. We also have Georgia King as Amanda Snodgrass, who has caught the eye of Gamby. Of course, he has to overcome his unlikable personality, which distracts him from keeping his eye on the prize. He’s also distracted by a daughter who is cozying up too much to her stepfather. Russell’s life is complicated by a bully neighbor, a Korean wife with her angry mother who constantly berates him in Korean. It’s a nice collection of colorful characters and situations.
Still, it’s McBride and Goggins tasked with carrying the solid weight. McBride merely continues as if he’s still playing Kenny Powers, who incidentally spent several episodes teaching at his Carolina high school. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still funny, just don’t expect the act to be very original. It’s the same arrogant guy who thinks people like him more than they do and answers insults by serving them back. He does share some pretty sweet chemistry with Goggins, who has created an effeminate southern drawl that makes him somewhat disarming. While Gamby doesn’t hide much, Russell manages to hide the bad guy with more natural charm and ease. Goggins has come along way from Shane including a strong stop in Tarantinoland in The Hateful Eight. It’s worth it for his performance alone.
Each episode is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average 20-25 mbps. The picture looks almost too good for a comedy. The show’s scenes contain a ton of texture that puts more reality into this image than we might be used to for a comedy show. We’re talking solid colors that jump out at you at times. The black levels are solid and display a wonderful range of shadow definition. Close-ups are almost painfully sharp on those faces.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is also more active than you might expect. Yes, the focus is on the dialog, but there is still a depth to the audio that is bolstered by a nice sound design and dynamic audio presentation.
Audio Commentaries that are often as funny as the show.
Deleted/Extended Scenes and a gag reel.
It’s all in HD.
It’s all forgettable, but entertaining for a fast 30 minutes. It’s long enough to drive a pretty good story forward over nine episodes, but not long enough to overstay its welcome. Sophomoric comedy? Sure. The final episode cranks up the stakes, and we’re in for quite a ride in Season 2. Can it be sustained? “Let’s just say all will be revealed in good time.“