TV review: HBO’s ‘Vice Principals’

Walton Goggins and Danny McBride in Vice Principals

Two stars

Vice Principals Sundays, 10:30 p.m., HBO.

Danny McBride has made a career out of playing variations on the same overconfident, inconsiderate, vulgar, egotistical buffoon. The purest manifestation was Kenny Powers, the main character of the HBO comedy series Eastbound & Down, co-created by McBride and his longtime collaborator Jody Hill. McBride and Hill return to HBO with Vice Principals, which takes McBride’s Kenny Powers type and makes him a mid-level administrator at a small-town South Carolina high school. McBride’s Neal Gamby is one of two vice principals hoping to ascend to the school’s top position when the previous principal retires, but both he and rival Lee Russell (Walton Goggins) are thwarted when the superintendent brings in outsider Belinda Brown (Kimberly Hebert Gregory) instead.

Neal and Lee team up to take Belinda down, a mission that involves lots of reprehensible behavior from all parties. Like Eastbound, Vice Principals is deliberately off-putting and obnoxious, with almost no likable characters, and nearly all of its comedy comes from watching terrible people in uncomfortable situations. McBride hasn’t added any dimensions to his comedic style, and Neal is only slightly less abrasive than Kenny Powers was. At least Eastbound had a unique setting, with its focus on minor-league baseball; Vice Principals doesn’t offer much of a twist on the familiar high-school setting, or even on the idea that teachers and administrators are despicable. It’s just a slight variation on McBride’s grating, played-out persona.

Tags: Television
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