I’m a little late to the game, but man am I loving Jody Hill and Danny McBride’s Vice Principals. I’m slowly making my way thru the plethora of content on HBO Max, and had recently remembered the Hill/McBride shows were on HBO. When Vice Principals came out I was sort of interested in watching it, but didn’t have HBO then. Figured now would be a good time to dive in. So glad I did.
I was slow coming around to Danny McBride. I never really knew how to take him. Watched The Foot Fist Way when it first came out and was left feeling indifferent. He plays the doofus asshole so well that I thought maybe that was just McBride playing McBride. I liked him more in Pineapple Express, but then wasn’t a fan of Her Highness.
He seemed a lot like Adam Sandler in that everything they were in they were the same clueless dolt that said inappropriate things and yet somehow won everyone around them over and got the good looking girl at the end. In-between all of that was crude jokes and offensive behavior.
Well I’ve finally removed the stick from my ass. I’m a convert to the Hill/McBride world. I think these two have more in common with The Lonely Island crew than Sandler’s stale world. The comedy is crude and offensive because the characters are clueless to reality around them, and the reality in Vice Principals is over-the-top, insane, and the comedy goes to 11. Despite the lead characters living in their own reality and not caring about anyone but themselves, you still end up feeling for them. At least a little bit.
Vice Principals tells the tale of two hapless vice principals(Danny McBride and Walton Goggins) at a high school vying for the seat of principal when the old principal(played by Bill Murray) retires to take care of his ailing wife. Both VPs think they have the job in the can and can’t stand each other. They find out that the job was filled with a woman from Philadelphia(Kimberly Herbert Gregory) and decide to put their differences aside and form an alliance to try and oust her.
That’s the long and the short of it for season one. What happens with the schemes they create and the world of supporting characters and McBride and Goggins personal lives is what makes Vice Principals so damn good. It’s crude for sure, but also absurdist, smart, heartfelt, and quite dark at times. Jokes are offensive, but not at the expense of those being made fun of. It’s totally at the expense of McBride and Goggins. You know from the get-go these two are self-centered, egotistical assholes, so the things they say and do feel right at home being done and said by them. The outside world acts accordingly. It’s cringe-worthy humor. Not Borat cringe-worthy, but still cringe-worthy.
Like I said, it took me a while to warm up to Danny McBride, but I’m won over now. He was great in Pineapple Express, This Is The End, Hot Rod, and even Alien: Covenant. I still need to give Her Highness a re-watch. Plus, he’s been part of bringing Halloween back. I’m good with that. And Walton Goggins. Who doesn’t love Walton Goggins? He’s absolutely genius on Vice Principals. I remember him from The Shield, but of course his Boyd Crowder on Justified was where I grew to love that toothy smile and sinister just under the surface. Amazing actor, and he goes head-to-head with Danny McBride. He does the mean streak perfectly, while also showing us why he is the way he is.
The rest of the cast is too good to go thru here. Hill and McBride stack their cast with amazing actors, comedic and otherwise. Shea Whigham, Kimbery Herbert Gregory, Georgia King, Busy Phillips, and Edi Patterson are all just outstanding.
I also want to mention the score by Joseph Stephens. He does an amazing job coloring in the show with darkness when its needed. His score lets you know that “Yes, this is kind of dark shit.” He’s worked with David Gordon Green, Jeff Nichols, as well as Jody Hill on most of his stuff. For a comedy series, the score is pretty heavy which is why I like it so much. You know to take the dark stuff as dark.
Things have been pretty heavy lately. Lots of external weirdness in the world has sort of turned into some existential dread since the beginning of January. Vice Principals has been the comedy escape I’ve sorely needed. Excited to dive into season two. Then into The Righteous Gemstones.