Supported by Will Ferrell (who produced this series and has a very funny cameo), actor Danny McBride's latest effort is this HBO series about a down-and-way out ballplayer named Kenny Powers. As the series starts, we find out that Powers went from being a star rookie to far too much trouble for every team he was traded to.
Soon enough, he's gone from being a superstar to teaching gym at the North Carolina high school he attended as a kid. Kenny's a crude, arrogant jerk who can't comprehend the fact that he's not only washed up, but that he was in the pilot seat as his own career crashed. Introducing himself to the PE class, he asks them if they have any questions - not about the class, but about him, because the class has the rare opportunity to talk to an "American Icon".
While Kenny isn't pleased with his current status as a PE teacher, he does get a dose of motivation in the form of April (Katy Mixon), who once went on a date with Kenny in high school but - at least at first - wants absolutely nothing to do with him. She's engaged to Cutler (Andrew Daly), the bland principal who's impressed with Kenny's faded star status. Kenny even gets an assistant in Stevie (Steve Little), a nerdy fellow who looks up to Kenny. While Kenny generally makes life miserable for those who tolerate him, a series of mis-steps and moments (such as when his prized bat only goes for seven bucks on Ebay) wake him up - at least a little bit - to the realities of his present day.
McBride has played this character before, in "Foot Fist Way", but the results are improved here, as the character has a little more depth and tries to improve himself (at least a little, and in his own deeply twisted way.) The series is also directed superbly by Jody Hill ("Observe and Report"), David Gordon Green ("Pineapple Express") and Adam McKay ("Anchorman: Legend of Ron Burgundy".) While I wasn't a fan of "Foot Fist Way", "Eastbound and Down" is an improvement - while it starts off uneven, the show gets progressively better as it goes on.
The set includes all 6 episodes from season 1.
VIDEO: HBO presents the series in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Picture quality is generally good, as the transfer does a fine job with the somewhat rough, gritty-looking visual style of the show. Sharpness and detail are mostly satisfactory, although some wide shots can look soft. Flaws include some slight edge enhancement and a couple of trace instances of pixelation. Mild-to-moderate grain is seen throughout many scenes, but it's likely part of the intentional visual style of the show. Colors looked spot-on, appearing natural and well-saturated.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation - as one might expect - doesn't put the surrounds to much use, but the show's fantastic use of various tunes is a lot of fun and the music sounds terrific. Dialogue also sounded clean and well-recorded.
EXTRAS: Commentaries on 3 episodes, several minutes of very funny outtakes, two Schaeffer Motors ads, 9 minutes of deleted scenes and a few featurettes (including an entertaining "making of" documentary.)
Final Thoughts: "Eastbound" may start off a little rough, but the series gets much better as it goes along. The show benefits from a terrific lead performance from Danny McBride and a series of memorable supporting efforts, as well as solid writing and directing. The DVD set provides fine audio/video quality, as well as a nice set of extras. Recommended.