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Before watching “Chapter 22,” I was very skeptical as to whether or not I’d like this new season of Eastbound. The creators said in interviews back from season 1 that the story was meant to be three seasons long. That made sense: season 3 seemed to come to clear narrative resolution for the characters, especially Kenny Motherfucking Powers. But while season 4 was in production, rumors surfaced that comedy-actor Tim Heidecker was scheduled to appear as Kenny’s “wacky suburban business dad neighbor” Great news. And in the episode, it turns out Kenny’s become that character’s foil: a sad redneck dad from the neighborhood who had aspirations of professional sports. Hilarious! Both of these character archetypes fill up perhaps millions of suburban homes – ripe for satire! By the end of the episode, I came to love the character even more than I did when he taught gym, went to Mexico, or quit real baseball (ever before, really). Now he’s the perfect embodiment of a discontent, failure chasing, false-success in suburban middle-class America. He’s deep! But he still likes drinking, shit-kicking, and big ass above-ground swimming pools. He’s Kenny Powers, motherfucker.
Hey, speaking of Tim Heidecker, comedy-content manufacturer of random-humor sketch show Tim & Eric Awesome Show Great Job!, I think his role in the season has implicitly changed some of the show’s comedy dynamics in interesting ways. As mentioned above, Tim’s character seems to be a caricature of exactly what Eastbound & Down is mocking now: lame suburban fuddy-duddies who pretend their mindless capitalism is a display of culture. Kenny, on the other hand, wants the good life; that is, enough money so that he can buy whatever the fuck he wants and not give a shit about culture. Anyway, this episode showcases Kenny’s overblown country-boy superstar ideal going up against the popular model of comfortable middle class success. Boy, I hope there’s more Tim throughout the year!
Added to my Tim & Eric-influence theory, there’s been a rampant increase in reaction shots in this episode. A reaction shot is when you turn the camera on someone reacting to a line of dialog. In Tim and Eric’s show (among other places), video-comedians start experimenting with getting reaction shots of normal people doing reaction shots badly. Trying to get the average joe to do the complex “face acting” only a Hollywood professional could do, basically. You can see instances of this when April’s receiving her award and everyone keeps looking at Kenny all strange, or when Kenny walks in the club and the business boys all try to look cool. Again, I think this is the show mocking the silliness of suburban folks (who are, in fact, your typical HBO viewer, right?). I’m loving the new comic timing of the show as well. The awkwardness of the scene where Kenny’s forced to take a fan photo, or when his boss bitches him out for crushing donuts, is really uncomfortable/funny. Usually, Eastbound & Down pushes the comedy limits with profanity, but now it seems to really revel in the sad, everyday failures of modern American life. Hooray!
The main conflict of this episode, and perhaps thus the entire season, is that Kenny can’t fit in with mild-mannered suburban folks because he’s an asshole. He’ll try to listen to NPR, work a job at a car rental place, and hang out at dinner parties, but he’ll hate it all because he’s an asshole. Kenny’s mad that he gets no respect at his job. He’s mad that his wife makes a lot more money than he does. He’s mad because his five-year old son challenges his authority on everything. He’s mad because he’s boring now, and Kenny Powers has always been anything but boring. So, he tries to treat his problem by doing drugs in his garage. Or breaking something. Or yelling. But by the end of the episode, Kenny’s had it! He gets a taste of the big life when he goes out partying with a sports anchor/former teammate. Now, he’s ready to return to the Kenny Powers mantle the world knows and loves! But how?
We’ll find out next week! Also, Kenny’s a dad. Did I make this clear? Kenny Powers, kind of the worst person ever, is in charge of raising children. We haven’t gotten to see a ton of this yet, but hopefully more soon. Gosh, I’d hate it if my dad was Kenny Powers.
— “You’re a good fit for AIDS. That’s awesome. I’m happy for you.”
— “I’m gonna get a big motherfucking pool.”
— “Suck on my nuts so hard that you can only breath through your nose, but not very well still because my nuts are so big that they’re also kinda blocking up your nose too.”
— “Credits roll. Besides them, on set bloopers play in a square box. Hilarious.”