Film critic Dominic Corry celebrates, clarifies and justifies his love for all things movie.

Vice Principals: A lesson in cult comedy

Danny McBride stars in Vice Principals as Neil Gamby, who teams up with his workplace rival Lee Russell (Walton Goggins) to take down their mutual nemesis. Photo / HBO
Danny McBride stars in Vice Principals as Neil Gamby, who teams up with his workplace rival Lee Russell (Walton Goggins) to take down their mutual nemesis. Photo / HBO

The love for Danny McBride's cult comedy smash Eastbound & Down was so great that writer/creator/star McBride returned to make an extra season after the series originally ended.

Fans of that series are encouraged to check his new show Vice Principals, which isn't all that far removed from Eastbound & Down, at least at first.

"Following up that show," McBride tells TimeOut. "We didn't wanna necessarily do something that was so completely different that we would turn off fans of Eastbound & Down. We wanted to start with something that felt a little familiar but then be able to take the time to turn it into something else that's completely different."

Danny McBride, left, as Neal Gamby and Walton Goggins as Lee Russell in Vice Principals.
Danny McBride, left, as Neal Gamby and Walton Goggins as Lee Russell in Vice Principals.

McBride stars in Vice Principals as Neil Gamby, an educator in charge of discipline at a high school in Charleston, South Carolina, who teams up with his workplace rival Lee Russell (Walton Goggins) to take down their mutual nemesis, newly installed principal Dr Belinda Brown (Kimberly Hebert Gregory).

Gamby is classic McBride - a big, blustering bully of a jerk, whose outward anger reveals many internal frustrations.

"People say 'You're good at playing assholes'," admits McBride. "But I see these characters as something much deeper than that. I think there are people who are stunted, people who believe that life should be one way and it doesn't turn out that way. I think that's a more interesting character to write than someone who has a heart of gold."

Perhaps the show's biggest point of distinction is that it has an ending.

"We didn't sell it as a series," says McBride. "It's only 18 episodes, and so it's told in two seasons of nine, we approached it like it's a giant novel. When HBO asked us what we wanted to do after Eastbound, we thought about trying to tell a story that had an ending that we could tell before the audience chimed in."

McBride was inspired to tell a longform story by the massive strides being made in dramatic television, citing Mad Men and Breaking Bad as influences.

"These are stories that you need to sit with for weeks on end and we hadn't really seen anybody really doing that with comedies. And so for us to do that it had to have finality. We just turned the last episode in ... it's such a strange dark, dramatic weird story, like I don't think anyone would ever be able to guess where this goes from where it starts."

Vice Principals works as well as it does thanks in large part to Goggins' performance as Gamby's partner-in-crime, a revelatory turn that follows a well-received co-starring role in Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight.

His Lee Russell is perhaps the first character to really give McBride's trademark blowhard a run for his money. The actor came on board already a fan of his collaborators.

"I'm a student of Eastbound & Down," Goggins says. "I know it. What Danny and these guys were able to do is sublime. And if you don't see it that way then you just don't get it."


Tune in

When: Tonight, 9pm
Where: Sky Soho
What: A lesson in cult comedy

- TimeOut

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