November 18, 2013

THE SKED Series Finale Review: “Eastbound & Down”


Television is a little less berserk and interesting tonight with the departure (although not the death) of Kenny Powers (Danny McBride), the unstoppable id of EASTBOUND & DOWN.  The series finale, written by series co-creators McBride and Jody Hill (who also directed) and Consulting Producer John Carcieri,  cleverly managed to have its cake and eat it, giving us both a reformed Kenny and a fittingly bizarre alternate-universe version of his future.

Because the main body of the finale had Kenny finally (?) realizing the error of his ways, he wasn’t in classic insanely egotistical form most of the time, even appearing somewhat subdued by his standards, so some special guest outrageousness was supplied by Sacha Baron Cohen as a Cockney network executive who traveled with a 13-year old protege and was introduced graphically exposing himself to an airline hostess–who, this being Eastbound & Down, liked what she saw.  He offered Kenny his own TV talkshow, on the condition that he begin by ambushing disgraced former boss Guy Young (Ken Marino) on the air.  This was too mean for Kenny to stomach–Kenny’s moral lines have always been difficult to fathom, considering how he’s treated far more innocent characters–and he walked away from TV stardom to reunite with wife April (Katy Mixon) and move with the kids to a peaceful life in Santa Fe.  Kenny, of course, has reformed and then fallen off the wagon many times in the course of Eastbound, and if the show were coming back for another season, no doubt he would again.  But this was the ending, and so we’re to believe that he remained a content husband and father ever after.

While sweet, that would have been a somewhat anticlimactic end for this particular show, so we were given what turned out to be Kenny’s version of the end of his own story, through his rewrite of his autobiographical screenplay.  This included his producing–with worshipful sidekick Stevie (Steve Little) at his side, of course–the film version of his life story (with Alexander Skarsgard and Lindsay Lohan in cameos as Kenny’s grown children), the brutal murder (cribbed from Batman’s origin story) of April, and then a move to Africa (arriving on a hover-bike) for a second marriage and family, leading finally to a peaceful death after he’d had time to acquire a long Old Testament beard, and the African equivalent of a Viking funeral (with Stevie to scatter his ashes).

Kenny went out mellower than he’s been at his madly politically incorrect self-aggrandizing peak, but this final season was a good one nonetheless.  The ex-jock TV business was a natural setting for Kenny’s brand of obscene braggadocio, in some ways making more sense for the character than baseball ever had; the scene where Kenny and Guy confronted each other from their respective jet packs may have been a keynote of the entire series.  Stevie and April had meaty arcs of their own as well, although it was too bad there was little more for Kenny’s brother (John Hawkes) to do than occasional disapproving cameos.

Danny McBride, of course, co-created Kenny for himself (owing not a little to the character he played in The Foot Fist Way, also written by him with Hill and Ben Best), and he’s inhabited the character so fully, and played variations of it so often, that the question is whether he can play (or be accepted as) anything else.  Little, Mixon and the other supporting players over the years have whole-heartedly joined in on the show’s creative vision, but it’s always all been about Kenny, and sometimes the show was as self-indulgent as the character.  It was always true to itself, though, for better and for worse, and in that Eastbound and its anti-hero have been united.  HBO debuts two new comedies next week, Getting On and Ja’mie: Private School Girl, but as Kenny Powers would be the first to tell the network, he’s a hard man to replace.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."