Like it or not, you can’t deny that HBO is currently the top dog in the world of premium cable these days. By giving us too many beloved shows to count, as well as the ability to watch White House Down while hungover at 2pm on a Sunday, the channel has earned the love and respect of essentially everyone on the planet who isn’t that one friend of yours who only has Cinemax.
Between Westworld, Veep, The Sopranos and of course the blood and sex soaked juggernaut Game of Thrones, the Network is one of the few that can actually accurately say that it has something for everyone. In fact, I would say the only thing really wrong with HBO right now is that it has too much good stuff.
What do I mean by that? Well, do you fellas remember the show Vinyl (2015) at all? Neither does anybody else. Set in the 70s, the show focused on a chain smoking record label executive as he hangs out with a guy pretending to be Bod Diddley for an hour. It wasn’t half bad, and with Scorsese at the helm, it could have been something really special. It was quickly overshadowed however by shows that were frankly just a lot better than itself, and after a ho-hum first season, the show basically disappeared off of the map.
Now although I didn’t actually care about Vinyl’s demise because it was about as interesting as a wet carrot, this same death by oversaturation almost happened to one of my favorite shows ever; HBO’s woefully underrated 2016 dark comedy series, Vice Principals.
Before I go any further, I must stress that if you do not watch this show, you are denying yourself one of life’s greatest pleasures. Please, please, please give this show a watch. All of it is on HBO Go right now, so do yourself a favor and go watch it.
If you can’t afford an HBO subscription, then simply burn down your house and use the insurance money to pay for it. Works like a charm. Badda bing, badda boom.
So what makes this show so good that you should commit insurance fraud just to watch it?
The brainchild of Danny McBride and Jody Hill, the show is a dark comedy that focuses on the shenanigans of two disgruntled vice principals,played by McBride and Walton Goggins as they try to usurp the newly hired and very competent new principal, played by Kimberly Hebert Gregory.
The show is essentially what you would get if you threw Mean Girls, Pineapple Express, and Office Space into a blender, and then through that blender through Quentin Tarantino’s window. It’s a lot better than it sounds.
It’s interesting because both of the show’s two seasons were written in their entirety before anything else was even planned. As a result the two seasons, although they both distinguish themselves, feel very cohesive. While the first season is a bit more grounded and the second a bit more all over the place, there was never a rough spot, and I was on board from beginning to end.
What helps is how interesting and varied all of the character are. It sounds a bit obvious, but a lot of these character driven shows tend to suffer because well, they have awful characters. Thankfully, Vice Principals is not one of these shows, and succeeds in fully realizing most of its cast. It even goes a step further by making you root for its protagonists, who both at face value have the likability of head on car crash.
For example, Neal Gamby, McBride’s character and the show’s lead, is an angry middle aged man who, when he’s not shouting at students, spends his free time hanging out with his and ex-wife, her husband, and his daughter; whom he tries to impress by constantly sh*t talking her stepdad.
This could have easily gone into obnoxious character territory, but the show takes a lot of time to show us why Gamby is such an angry fart, and that he is trying to change his ways. Most of the supporting cast get’s this same level of love as well, and even those with minor appearances are developed enough to where they don’t come off as plot devices.
Now look, I could go on and on about what makes this show special, but ultimately it’s all on you to watch it. I would highly recommend starting from the beginning though… duh.
Ultimately though, the point of this article is less to convince you to watch Vice Principals and (which you should), and more to give other small time shows a chance. I didn’t really mention this, but what happened to Vynil also seemed to happen to the political/ war comedy The Brink, which starred Jack Black and Tim Robbins, and unlike Vynil, was actually fun to watch. While the first season did relatively well, it too was quickly overshadowed by HBO’s heavy hitters.
This is a shame, because The Brink was planned to become this multi media comedy juggernaut that would have had each season focus on a different world crisis. These hopes were dashed when the show fell off the face of the earth after its under-performing first season.
While thankfully it didn’t, the same thing almost happened to Vice Principals, which got only a slightly better reception in its first season.
So sure, while shows like Game of Thrones and Ballers are near and dear to our hearts, we shouldn’t be afraid to give these new shows a chance. Maybe then your friend will finally stop complaining about “having to feed his family” and will come to his senses and buy an HBO subscription.