Things are looking up for “Eastbound and Down” at HBO.
It’s no secret that the lewd-and-crude comedy series starring Danny McBride as a washed-up former Major League Baseball pitcher was a hard sell for HBO — especially among some of its top execs.
Even for a network that prides itself on doing shows that no other outlet would touch, “Eastbound” pushes the envelope. The central character is a crass, cocaine-snorting, foul-mouthed Southerner who spews political incorrectness and shockingly unfiltered snark every time he opens his mouth.
The show launched in February with little fanfare, particularly by HBO’s marketing standards and considering the show’s creative pedigree: “Eastbound” hails from the Will Ferrell-Adam McKay comedy hothouse, Gary Sanchez Prods., and its co-creators are all rising stars in the comedy world: McBride, Jody Hill and Ben Best (all pals from college).
The “Eastbound” producers were miffed when HBO quietly sent out only the first of the show’s initial six episodes to crix for review — most of which were not pretty, though the New Yorker, of all places, gave it a rave, as did a few others. (The show grew on me as a guilty pleasure. It’s not going to replace “Cheers,” “WKRP in Cincinnati” or “Fernwood 2-Night” on my list of all-time faves, but it did make me laugh, for reasons I can’t quite explain.)
So who knows, maybe Kenny Powers is just the kind of underdog that HBO’s affluent, well-educated viewers want to root for in these crazy times. The show, paired with “Flight of the Conchords” on HBO’s Sunday sked, had undeniable momentum in its last few airings: The initial telecast of the March 22 finale delivered 904,000 viewers, up 34% from its Feb. 15 preem numbers, and it marked a 30% build from its “Conchords” lead-in.
Through all of the repeats and video-on-demand plays during the past two months, “Eastbound’s” half-dozen segs have averaged a healthy 3.4 million viewers.
In any other circumstance, it’s unlikely that “Eastbound” would still be awaiting a formal pickup announcement — which is expected. It’s just that some at HBO are still adjusting to the idea of keeping Kenny and Co. in the family. But those 158,796 fans who signed on to Kenny Powers’ Facebook page in a matter of days will not be ignored.