The Righteous Gemstones (Neon)
Ah, yep. There it is. Ten minutes and 36 seconds into the first episode of The Righteous Gemstones, the show's first on-screen penis.
This is nothing less than what we were promised by Danny McBride's new HBO comedy series, now streaming on Neon. "There is a dick in [close to] every episode," executive producer Jody Hill promised while doing the press rounds last month. "There is one episode that has about six dicks in it," teased Edi Patterson, who plays Judy Gemstone, the sister in the show's titular family of greedy, amoral televangelists.
The obvious question, you'd have to ask, is why? Why all the dicks? Everybody involved with the show seems to think they're fearlessly breaking the last taboo, that these on-screen penises are some giant leap forward for equality.
For too long, they'd argue, we've had wall-to-wall female nudity on television and yet almost no male nudity and that's a bit sexist. True.
But has no one at HBO ever stopped to think this inequality might be better redressed if they just stopped obsessively shoehorning as much female nudity as possible into all their shows?
Also, it's not really equal when all the on-screen dicks are being played for laughs. We're not talking Michael Fassbender in Shame or Ewan McGregor in The Pillow Book here. This one's tiny, shrivelled and middle-aged, in the background of a cocaine sex party tape that's being used to blackmail and extort McBride's character Jesse Gemstone. To be fair, the scene where Jesse plays the tape to his inner circle on an expensive home theatre system is actually pretty funny.
It is also quite important to the plot and what's a cocaine sex party tape without at least one bloke wandering around pantsless in an unbuttoned business shirt? Seems realistic.
This tape is what initially threatens to unravel the Gemstones' televangelical dynasty, although they're doing a pretty good job of that themselves already. Patriarch Eli (John Goodman) is lost in a fog of grief after the death of his wife; his sons, Jesse and Kelvin (Adam Devine) are at constant, childish war with one another. All three characters are the type of larger-than-life, emotionally stunted manchildren McBride has specialised in writing and playing ever since Kenny Powers in Eastbound and Down.
This show is like a bigger, flashier version of that. It's big, loud and entertaining but as the season progresses it plays more and more with your expectations (I certainly didn't see the climax of the first episode coming), revealing a depth you might not have initially anticipated.
So it does have that much going for it, even if it's not going to with the Nobel Prize for solving Hollywood's sexism problem just by chucking in a couple of penises. I mean, I get it – you always need a point of difference to get noticed in a crowded market. If black comedies about the toxic, dysfunctional relationships of wealthy American families are your thing, give The Righteous Gemstones a go as soon as you've finished Succession.