Thursday, March 28, 2013

Eastbound and Down: The Complete Third Season Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
After fleeing his North Carolina hometown, washed-up major-league pitcher Kenny Powers spent a soul-searching season in Mexico as “La Flama Blanca” – and ended up returning to the States a changed man.  Powers, whose boorish behavior and fading fastball led to a spectacular career flame-out now finds himself back on the mound in the USA.  Picking up a year after season two, the third season finds Kenny in action on the “Redneck Riviera” (aka Myrtle Beach, SC), somehow resurrecting his baseball career by becoming the closer for the minor-league Myrtle Beach Mermen.  Even as he tries to pass himself off as the “King of Myrtle Beach,” Kenny struggles to come to terms with growing older and accepting the responsibilities of being a new father.

Show (4 out of 5 stars) 

If there ever was a candidate for the “Ugliest American,” it would without a doubt be Kenny F***king Powers as played to perfection by Danny McBride. Kenny is racist, rude, crude, lewd, obnoxious, ignorant, and so self-inflated that he’s in danger of bursting from his own hot air. Despite all of those negative qualities (or maybe because of them), he’s also obviously politically incorrect and very funny.  We’ve watched Kenny’s descent (morally, financially, and spiritually) over the past two seasons and when the second season ended, it seemed to do so on a more hopeful note for his character.  After somewhat redeeming himself playing baseball in Mexico, Kenny was finally going to get a second chance at professional baseball as he was being called back up to the minor leagues in America.
Accompanied by his personal sycophant Steve (Stevie Little) and his wife Maria (Elizabeth De Razzo) who are there to boost Kenny’s  morale, do his personal errands, and care for his baby son that was dumped on him by his former girlfriend April (Katy Mixon).  Now playing with the Myrtle Beach Mermen, Kenny is even more arrogant and loud than before as he is certain that he’s on the path to greatness again.  He parties like there’s no tomorrow with his best friend (played by Jason Sudeikis for the first half of the season as it’s filled with drugs, alcohol, and teenage girls until their lifestyle eventually catches up to them.  Like every other season, hard lessons start to take their toll on Kenny, forcing him to acknowledge that getting older, having a kid and all of their respective responsibilities are a part of life.
No longer the young hotshot pitcher he once was, Kenny now has to face a younger and just as talented teammate named Ivan Dochenko (Ike Barinholtz), whose very presence is a constant threat to his position on the team and to his ego.  Ivan forces Kenny to reevaluate everything he believed such as his own popularity within the team and his value as well.  Adding to Kenny’s woes is the fact that his assistant Steve is having is own marital crisis and isn’t providing the lackey support he’s supposed to.  Because of Steve’s issues, Kenny is forced to try to care for his own son the best he can (which isn’t very well).  Whether it’s showing his son porn or telling him stories about a dildosaurous or stuffing his son in a backpack with some lettuce to eat, Kenny isn’t in any danger of winning a father of the year award.  Of course, once we meet his parents (guest stars Don Johnson and Lily Tomlin), a lot of Kenny’s issues become understandable.  It takes a long time for reality to set in for Kenny but as we’ve seen over the last three seasons, it does occasionally reach him and this season he seems to grow about as much as he’s able.  It just so happens to take most of this season to get to that point and after some horrendous choices.
Considering that it was generally known that this was going to be the final season of the show (before the surprise announcement of one more season later), it’s easy to see how Kenny’s weird trajectory was planned to end.  Some things don’t change though, as Kenny has to go through a ton of stupid crap that he brings on himself before the season ending mini-redemption.  And then the next season starts and the reset button is hit and he goes through more stupid mistakes before learning some hard lessons once again.  And he doesn’t go down alone as usually Kenny drags whoever is with him down in flames as well and this season it’s Steve and April who suffer by association.  This season gets very dark and and yet there’s still a lot of laughs to be had albeit they’re the kind that you feel guilty for doing so.  Danny McBride is fearless as Kenny and this season had an eclectic group of guest stars that really add a lot of fun to the show, especially Don Johnson and Lily Tomlin who are great as Kenny’s ne’er-do-well parents.  Will Ferrell, Craig Robinson, Seth Rogen, Matthew McConaughey, and Val Kilmer also show up for cameos (Kilmer’s can be found in the deleted scenes), so there’s plenty of other entertaining people to see too.  It will be interesting to see just where the next and presumably final season will go, but I’ll be looking forward to it.

Video (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

This 1080p (1.78:1) transfer is pretty good but it’s not up to the usual quality of HBO’s standards.  Everything seems to be turned up a  notch whether it’s colors, contrast, or black levels much like the last season.  Colors are vivid but a little too warm and the contrast is dialed up more than it should be.   Black levels are much deeper than the previous season and there’s a nice amount of detail present.  I would say this is an above average transfer that continues the quality set by the previous two seasons which will satisfy most fans of the show.  I’ve gotten spoiled by the recent pristine transfers of other HBO properties so I know that they can do better if given good source material.

Audio (4 out of 5 stars)

Eastbound and Down – The Complete Third Season’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix fares better than the video quality with a fairly strong mix that utilizes all of the channels.  Music is well represented with all of the songs during this season (there’s a lot) and the dialogue is always clear and intelligible.  Directional effects are well placed and effective and there’s some nice ambiance as well in certain scenes.  The LFE channel gets more of a workout this season with the cannon fire shot by Will Ferrell’s insane character.  This lossless track does the job nicely.

Extras (3 out of 5 stars)

There’s not a lot of extras included but that’s par for the course with this show as the previous sets didn’t have much either.
  • Audio Commentaries - We get eight commentaries across both discs that includes Danny McBride, writer/director Jody Hill, Katy Mixon, director David Gordon Green, Steve Little, Harris Wittels, Elizabeth de Razzo, Ike Barinholtz, editors Jeff Seibenick and Travis Sittard, Josh Parkinson, Erick Chavarria, John Carcieri, and Craig Robinson.  These are easy commentaries to listen to as each of them is fun to listen to and occasionally informative.  
  • Deleted Scenes - There’s almost an hour of deleted scenes included and most of them are pretty funny. In fact, some of these deleted bits are better than the footage that was kept in the episodes which makes you wonder why they were cut in the first place.  Among the bits cut, is the footage of Val Kilmer being a good sport. 
  • Dinner with the Schaeffers  – I’m always ready to see some more of Will Ferrell improvising and this is some extra footage of his character’s Ashley Schaeffer’s dinner party.
  • Outtakes: Every Time Someone F’d Up Our Show - Almost ten minutes of the cast screwing up and messing around.
  • Previous Season Recaps - If you’re new to the show this season then this is a good primer to get you caught up on the previous two seasons.

Summary  (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

I liked this season better than the first season but viewers should be prepared to see Kenny sink lower than he ever has before before fighting his way back to being a somewhat decent human being.  This show is definitely an acquired taste and if you didn’t like the crude humor from the first two seasons, then you should stay away from this one.  On the other hand, if you did like those seasons then you will have a good time with this one.  This season ended in a very unusual way for this series so I’m looking forward to seeing just what happens next season.
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