Last week, we came to the realization that the humour of Eastbound And Down relies mainly on Kenny Powers’ obliviousness to himself and all those around him. As much as we may want to crucify Powers for the way he treats others, and he treats everyone in his life horribly, we feel something that resembles empathy for him because he’s completely devoid of it himself. Incapable and unwilling to understand or identify with the emotions of others, Powers becomes a piece of comedy through his indifference to everything but himself.
This is best represented in this week’s episode by the school dance with which Powers wants nothing to do. When a fellow teacher and the target of his (mostly) unwanted advances inform Powers that he’s supposed to chaperone the dance which is being held to cover the expenses of a student brain cancer, he immediately justifies his lack of emotion over the tragedy by claiming that he doesn’t know the student. Shortly after that he claims that it sounds too depressing for his own participation, justifying and excusing himself as though he were capable of feeling depression for anything but himself.
It’s no coincidence that Powers excuses himself from a gathering that includes the majority of characters in the series. Everyone else is capable of empathy and capable of joining together. He is not, at least without depending on a chemical boost.
As much as the show relies on Powers obliviousness for humour though, it also relies on it for tragedy. Watching him armed with a baseball, both in the backyard at his brother’s house with his two nephews and later at Ashley Schaeffer’s BMW car lot, I was reminded of one of the more powerful scenes in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. In a desperate attempt to impress the other patients in the mental ward and also take their money in a bit, the protagonist, Randall McMurphy, attempts to lift an enormous marble sink. Of course, he’s unable to do so. But the complete lack of knowledge around his own limitations is the first hint we get that perhaps McMurphy isn’t that out of place in the mental ward.
In the mind of Kenny Powers he’s not only a mere four or five pounds overweight and still capable of bench pressing more weight than he actually can, he’s also a celebrity and a Major League Baseball player that demands attention. This, of course is unrealistic, and everyone around Powers, from his brother and sister in law to his colleagues at work realizes it.
However, as this week’s episode ends, we’re reintroduced to someone even more dangerous to Powers than his drug enabling friend who owns the local watering hole. Drugs are one thing, but sycophantic Stevie enables Powers’ ego, which, combined with his established lack of empathy, one suspects will give our delusional hero a far more rewarding high than anything that his bar owner friend could provide.
I think this will translate into more of the funny side of Powers’ obliviousness and less of the dark and lonely obliviousness that we witnessed tonight.
The greatest way to ever woo a woman:
If you won’t listen to my words then listen to my dancing feet.
I’m not really a big fan of vomit being used for comedic effect, but Powers mid dance stomach evacuation inspired the biggest laughs of the episode for me.
He’ll finger them with his penis.
One thing I really like about this, ultimately, situational comedy, is that it doesn’t strain hard for jokes. The character of Kenny Powers is so enormous that the capacity for jokes doesn’t need to be forced.
Eastbound & Down will be airing on The Score television network at approximately 11:15 PM on Monday nights. Immediately after each episode we’ll have a post up reviewing the show.