HBO’s Flawed, Comic Leading Men Say ‘Hello’ Sunday Night

Danny McBride of "Eastbound & Down" (left) and Stephen Merchant, starring in "Hello Ladies" (Photos: HBO)

They’ve been somewhat lost in the anticipation (and avalanche of publicity) for this Sunday’s series finale of “Breaking Bad” on AMC and the season premiere of “Homeland” on Showtime.

But for those who take their TV viewing a lot less seriously, we feel it’s our responsibility to draw your attention to the two comedies — one new and one returning — that HBO has paired up for Sunday night, starting at 10/9c.

Depending on your point of view, the return of “Eastbound & Down” at 10 will either have you celebrating and convening a viewing party to watch this show’s season premiere, or it will fill you with foreboding, if not disgust.

We happen to fall into the former category when it comes to this show, which stars Danny McBride as Kenny Powers, a profane, self-centered, former Major League Baseball player who is over the hill and hellbent on living off of his past glory. Sunday’s episode represents the kickoff of this series’ fourth and final season lasting all of eight episodes.

Why we happen to like this show, in spite of its “transgressions” (more on that below): With Kenny Powers, McBride has created one of the most indelible and unambiguous characters we’ve ever seen in a TV comedy. Sure, this guy is a caricature of the stereotypical ex-jock, but like all great comedy, in Kenny’s extreme behavior lies more than a few recognizable kernals of the truth. In portraying Powers, McBride goes all-out, and there’s just no stopping him. It is a fascinating performance.

Why it’s not for everyone: Recognizing that we live in a more coarse, profane world these days (thanks, in part, to our movies and TV shows), the language and situations in “Eastbound & Down” can come across as particularly extreme, especially if you are not prepared for them. For example, one of this show’s hallmarks — particularly in the season premiere episode that we previewed the other day — is the way children are exposed to, and also use the extreme, f-word-laden language that is Kenny’s stock-in-trade. Sure, Hollywood has had children using adult language going all the way back at least to the original “Bad News Bears,” but still …

Click on the pic to watch a recap of Season Three of “Eastbound & Down”:

Danny McBride in "Eastbound & Down" (Photo: HBO)

Meanwhile, to apply a baseball metaphor, British comic Stephen Merchant occupies HBO’s on-deck circle Sunday night with his new half-hour comedy, “Hello Ladies,” premiering at 10:30/9:30c.

Merchant is the skeletal, glasses-wearing counterpart to Ricky Gervais. They are producing and writing partners who have worked together on the original “Office,” “Extras” and “Life’s Too Short,” among other projects.

In "Hello Ladies," Merchant is on his own, without Gervais, starring as a very tall (he's 6'7″) L.A. geek in his 30s who apparently has had a lifelong difficulty communicating with women. In the show, he's seen with a handful of hapless friends trying to bait various females into having drinks with them in clubs and bars, or even dating him. Of course, he fails every time.

Whether he will continue to fail for all of this show’s eight-episode inaugural season remains to be seen.

Click on the pic to go behind the scenes of HBO’s new comedy “Hello Ladies”:

L-r: Kevin Weisman, Nate Torrence and Stephen Merchant in a scene from "Hello Ladies" (Photo: HBO)

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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