HBO’s new comedy Vice Principals is something of a play on words.
The principles of this high school vice-principal, Neal Gamby (Danny McBride) are utterly shameless. Dressed like some kind of 1990s hangover -and that’s being generous- this guy is a big fish in a small pond. He is PC-offensive, uncouth, and abusive. Above all else he wants to be the top guy at North Jackson High: the principal.
He may well get that chance when Principal Welles (Bill Murray) retires to care for his dying wife.
But fellow Vice Principal Lee Russell (Walton Goggins) has other ambitions. He too wants the vacant role and fights for it with Gamby like a couple of bad boys arguing in the back seat of a car. Seriously, the two resort to petty name-calling and slapping in an ironic comment on adults acting as adolescents in a school environment.
But both will soon find themselves on the outer when a local superintendent parachutes Dr. Belinda Brown (Kimberly Hebert Gregory) into the role, sending temperatures skyhigh. Whilst the overt, gushing Russell fawns over her like a pussycat, Gamby is set on a war-path, determined to undermine his new boss.
But both men may also forge an unholy alliance in order to achieve a common goal.
The high school universe provides a perfect backdrop as these two men go to extremes in a quest for power. There’s considerable humour to be found in over the top situations, in offices, schoolrooms, yards and teacher’s lounge.
Both lead characters are also depicted in family situations, the first of which sees Gamby having father-daughter time with his teen daughter, now living with his ex-wife and partner.
Co-creator Danny McBride (Eastbound and Down) runs amok with his merciless Gamby, abusing students relentlessly, being condescending to minorities, blinded by his infallible belief that he has been robbed of his true calling. Wait for the moment he interrupts “Wind Beneath My Wings.” The fact that he is so extreme, and does it with such conviction, makes you forgive what would otherwise be an unlikeable, arrogant character.
Walton Goggins matches him perfectly as the effeminate, but equally manipulative Russell. His facial expressions are heading towards Jim Carrey. These two are owl and pussycat, and the claws are out.
In episode one, Dr. Brown’s arrival serves as a perfect catalyst, but by episode two it’s a runaway train. One question for the show is whether it will give equal time to those who are the targets of these cruel individuals, or just serve to further the misogyny and racism of the leads.
Co-created by Jody Hill (also Eastbound and Down) Vice Principals is over the top fun, where class is out and farce is in.
Vice Principals premieres 8.30pm Mondays August 22 on The Comedy Channel (avail On Demand from Monday August 8).