Bellafante, Ginia. “A Pitcher’s Life After the Third Strike.” The New York Times. 12 Feb 2009. The New York Times, Web. 28 Oct 2009. <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/13/arts/television/13east.html?_r=1>.
Ginia Bellafante gives Eastbound what I take to be a shallow reading, calling the show a case of “beer-bong, red state mockery.” As I will attempt to argue in my paper, I think Eastbound, while mocking the red states, is mocking the blue states as well, poking fun at the outrage the politically correct masses would take at many of the shows more potentially offensive jokes. However, I think Bellafante also makes many good observations about the show. First, she, like I, sees Kenny Powers as a fictional John Rocker. Rocker, like Powers, was not ashamed to hide his unpopular (and often morally revolting) views. Second, Bellafante makes a powerful argument for the auteurship of Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. She points out that Powers is an “entitled idiot” and that this idiocy leads to his many calamities, much like Ferrell characters Ricky Bobby (of Talladega Nights) and Ron Burgundy (of Anchorman). I think this comparison will be helpful to me in my paper, because I can look to Talladega Nights and Anchorman in attempt to find an agenda similar to what I claim is at work in Eastbound. Having not seen these films recently I can’t say if that endeavor will be successful, but I hope it will.
Edgerton, Gary R. and Jeffery P. Jones. “HBO’s Ongoing Legacy.” The HBO Reader. Ed. Gary R. Edgerton and Jeffery P. Jones. Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky, 2008. Print.
In this piece about HBO’s legacy, Gary Edgerton and Jeffery Jones begin by discussing a changing of the guard at HBO in 1995. He notes that when Jeffery Bewkes was installed as CEO he, “brought a more collaborative, bottom-up way of doing business to the company, unleashing a great deal of creative energy and a new era at HBO” (316). They then go on to detail HBO’s almost meteoric rise, and clearly attribute part of this to the more artistic direction Bewkes pushed the network on. Later they write that artistic and critically acclaimed programming had become an expectation of HBO shows (317-18). There are 7 characteristics that the authors claim help define the legacy of HBO, but only a few are relevant for my paper. Their second characteristic is that HBO’s dramas in particular have had the effect of raising the bar for all television networks (319). This will be useful in my paper because I think Eastbound and Down has no pretensions of trying to raise the bar, and while Eastbound isn’t a drama I think this still applies. The fifth characteristic the authors offer is also very relevant to my project. The authors describe the many ways in which HBO specifically target male audiences, both with shows directed toward males and characteristics included in many shows that are aimed toward males (322-24). The three characteristics that relate most closely to Eastbound and Down are that of coarse language, male narcissism and traditional male professions (324). I think this relates to my paper because it is an example of how Eastbound fits into the traditional HBO trend. I could use this source to help construct an argument that explains how Eastbound still works on HBO, while still serving as a reaction to some other HBO trends.
Edgerton, Gary R. “Angels in America.” The HBO Reader. Ed. Gary R. Edgerton and Jeffery P. Jones. Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky, 2008. Print.
This piece explores why the HBO miniseries Angels in America was so successful. Gary Edgerton begins by discussing the plays popularity and how the show ended up on HBO. One of the determining factors in the show ending up on HBO rather than a movie was that the plot featured many gay characters, and film studios were afraid to touch what they felt could be a controversial subject (137). The long discussion of the specifics of the plot is unimportant for my purpose, so I will not spend time on them here. What is important is that the authors note the way Angels in America had the effect of “cultural mainstreaming,” making discussion of gay issues or themes less taboo (146). This is a perfect example of the progressive agenda of HBO programs that I want to claim Eastbound is a reaction to. I will use this piece in this way, setting up Angels in America, along with The Wire and True Blood, as what HBO had been doing; in contrast to what the network is currently doing with Eastbound and Down.
Goldberg, Michelle. “Vampire Conservatives.” The Daily Beast. 18 Jul 2009. The Daily Beast, Web. 28 Oct 2009. <http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-07-18/vampire-conservatives/full/>.
In this piece Michelle Goldberg takes a very unique (and by perusing the comments very derided) reading of the relatively new HBO series True Blood. She notes, as I had missed, that the experience of the vampires in True Blood is an allegory for the experiences of gays in the South. This is hinted at with many puns, such as vampires “coming out of the coffin” or a church billboard in the opening credits that reads “God hates Fangs” with “Fangs” replacing a similarly spelled slur for homosexuals. But Goldberg doesn’t see True Blood’s intentions as purely progressive, claiming that, “the show’s universe is like the right’s worst nightmare about post-gay-liberation America come to life.” She notes that the show’s creator is an openly gay man, so the show can’t be gay-bashing, but it leaves her puzzled as to what the author’s political intentions really are. Basically, Goldberg is bothered by the way True Blood seems to endorse some conservative fears about homosexuality, because the vampires are scary, just as conservatives seem to view homosexuals with fear. However, she does concede that the show mocks the right-wing as well, with its stereotypically evangelical Fellowship of the Sun. Goldberg concludes her piece claiming True Blood, “goes after liberal pieties, at times making the viewer feel like a right-wing moralist wracked with terrible attractions…True Blood suggests that, when it comes to sex’s subversive, destructive power, the right isn’t all wrong to be very afraid.” I am still unsure as to how I will specifically use this source, but it will be one of two ways. I can use Goldberg’s discussion of True Blood as an allegory for homosexuality to position the show with Angels in America and The Wire. However, I think it would be more interesting accept Goldberg’s conclusion, and argue that True Blood is also somewhat reactionary to the clear-cut progressive nature of other HBO shows.
Marx, Nick. “Nowhere to Go but Up: Redeeming HBO’s Eastbound and Down.” FlowTV. 06 Fed 2009. FlowTV, Web. 28 Oct 2009. <http://flowtv.org/?p=2331>.
Nick Marx takes a more critical (in the sense of television criticism, not negativity) at Eastbound and Down, and begins like many other discussions of the show by noting “there’s a lot to not like about Eastbound.” From here he details many of Kenny’s despicable actions in the first episode (he notes he has only seen the pilot) and worries that the character is so horrid that viewers won’t like him. Marx points out that the usual way unlikable comic characters grow on audiences is through a “maturation” process or by completing their goals, and the Eastbound didn’t seem to be going down this same path. I find this interesting because I’m not sure if I can agree. In the final episode of the first season (and the series thus far, which as a sidenote was conceived as a self-contained story), which obviously Marx wasn’t privy to, it seems that Kenny will actually make it back to the majors and reunite with his high school sweetheart, only for it all to come crashing down. While Kenny clearly doesn’t actually achieve his goals, he seems to have gone down a similar path to audience redemption as Marx describes other despicable characters taking. Clearly, I will have to decide whether I feel Powers fits this character mold, or if his character is even possibly a commentary on this character trope. While I may disagree with Marx on some specifics of his analysis (he thinks a particular Powers’ soliloquy is designed to drive audiences away, while I find it uniquely endearing), he too sees Eastbound as a commentary of the “cultural milieu” it constructs. He compares Powers to Cartman, writing that both characters are intended to mock the attitudes and views they both respectively trumpet. Marx, like Bellafante, also notes the evidence of Will Ferrell’s auteurship in the series. However, in contrast to Bellafante (and to my liking), he takes his analysis of Eastbound’s intentions one step further. Marx writes that Eastbound and Down, “create[s] a comedic hero that embodies American cultural tensions of the recent past while warily embracing the changes to come.” This sentiment aligns with the analysis of Eastbound that I intend to offer. The wariness that Marx is referring to is what I take to be a reaction to the progressive nature of many other HBO shows. The authors of Eastbound clearly don’t endorse the close-mindedness that Powers demonstrates, but they are wary of the politically correct notion that it isn’t ok to laugh at his ignorance.
Rose, Brian G. “The Wire.” The HBO Reader. Ed. Gary R. Edgerton and Jeffery P. Jones. Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky, 2008. Print.
This article brings up the ways that The Wire was unique and envelope-pushing, even for HBO. The author, Brian Rose, notes that it is a cop show, territory that had been ruled by the networks, but that in contrast to most cop shows it doesn’t inspire much faith in our justice system (82). In all of David Simon’s works that we have looked at in class he clearly has a political agenda in mind, and Rose can see that The Wire is no different, writing that the show had “political intentions” (82). Rose details the many ways that Simon attacks our drug policy, and this is what will be helpful for my paper. Drug law reform is a very progressive agenda, and The Wire pushes it forcefully, and I believe successfully. The commentary on our policies that Simon is able to offer in a narrative structure may be the most explicit example of a progressive agenda on an HBO show. Like with Angels in America, I will use The Wire to help establish the progressive trend I will claim Eastbound and Down is responding to.
Shales, Tom. “Review of HBO’s Comedy ‘Eastbound and Down’.” The Washington Post. 14 Feb 2009. The Washington Post, Web. 28 Oct 2009. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/13/AR2009021303450.html>.
In reviewing Eastbound and Down Tom Shales comes to the conclusion that Kenny Powers is “never lovable, he’s barely tolerable, but many of the things he does and says are frighteningly recognizable.” Shales is reviewing the series on the day before the pilot premieres (and presumably has only seen the first episode although we can not be sure), and offers a positive review. He focuses on many of the different flaws Kenny demonstrates, from egoism to prejudice, and then discusses how Eastbound manages to place us in such a perverted world that some of these flaws come off as endearing. Like many other reviewers of the show (at least those that like the show), Shales seems to be almost confused by the fact that he likes Powers character, and in the review is trying to explain for his audience (and convince himself) why that is. I think this review will be very helpful in my discussion because Shales, like me, doesn’t take Powers flaws to be solely intended to make Powers despicable. He notes that his self-absorbed attitude even comes of as oddly “heroic” at one point. Shales discussion will help me set Eastbound and Down apart from other HBO shows that have a openly progressive agenda, such as The Wire, Angels in America, or True Blood.
Note to Prof. Fitzpatrick: I’m going to upload my bibliography to Sakai because I’m afraid something may not have copy and pasted right. Thanks.