Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Turn That Never Came

Last night I watched the pilot episode of Eastbound & Down and experienced sore disappointment. The premise: hotshot pro baseball player who in love with himself to the Nth degree wrecks his pro career and winds up teaching PE in a public school. Sounds entertaining, doesn't it? I sure thought so.

About half way through the episode, I came to the conclusion that I couldn't stand the protagonist. I mean, couldn't stand him in the way that the sound of his very voice made the muscles in my back tense up. It was a visceral, disgusted response. A good part of it, no doubt, informed by all the times when I was waitressing and got stuck serving some version of this guy. In short, completely obnoxious and I can't stand him.

Yet, I waited it out. I thought I saw potential. The kind where, after almost a whole episode of making the audience hate the guy, the writers, if they were smart, would put in a turn toward the end that would hook me. I mean, it's the pilot, right? It's all about the hook. The final scene, instead of redeeming Kenny Powers, made him even more obnoxious. Ugh.

It was very disappointing. Me, I'm all about rough characters. I love my anti-heroes, reluctant heroes, sympathetic villains, and all the rest. Make them flawed, make them unreliable, make them messy, and I'm there. But, and it's a big "but," they still need to be redeemable. One of my latest favorite examples of a flawed hero is Dennis Leary's character, Tommy Gavin, on Rescue Me. He's all kinds of shady, selfish, and untrustworthy, but he's got enough about him that's admirable that he's redeemable. There's depth there. It's beautiful.

Kenny Powers? Total caricature, and a character who falls completely flat for me. If they had balanced out the over-the-topness just a little more, I could have gotten into the show. Lack of balance wrecks a character far faster than anything else.

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