HBO brings class into session with the soon to be released Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Download pack of comedy that will test your take on laughter with “Vice Principals: The Complete First Season.”
When the principal (Bill Murray) resigns from North Jackson High School, the position of principal is being carefully watched by two very different teachers. Neil Gamby (Danny McBride) is a no-nonsense teacher and counselor who isn’t about to change his tight ship, and Lee Russell (Walton Coggins) who has a frightening side all wrapped up in a well dressed charming teacher. The outgoing principal knows neither of these men is fit to lead any high school.
That’s when the superintendent of schools decides to go outside and finds Dr. Belinda Brown (Kimberly Herbert Gregory). Both Gamby and Russell are beside themselves and normally against the other knowing that the only way to win is to work, reluctantly together. Dr. Brown hasn’t even unpacked yet when she begins making changes at the school including having both teachers evaluated. Gamby makes it outwardly clear that his grumpiness isn’t going to change anytime soon but Russell takes another tactic of being the coffee-getting brown nose to win Dr. Brown’s heart.
Gamby has a minor distraction having a huge crush on fellow teacher Amanda Snodgrass (Georgia King) who doesn’t really feel the same. In fact, Amanda shares the feelings of most of the North Jackson High School staff which is that Gamby is wound too tight and has no social skills to speak of. Trying to change that image, he volunteers to go on a class field trip and proves them right. That is until he is needed to straighten out students who are out for trouble and that’s when Amanda and the other teachers need his toughness.
While Gamby is distracted, Russell is making plans to sabotage another one of Dr. Brown’s ideas when it comes to the hometown football game. Sharing his idea with his partner-in-crime, Russell sense that Gamby’s heart may not be all in. That isn’t going to matter as the plan takes a very mind blowing turn. Soon after, the two have a blow-up and walk away. That is actually a good idea as Dr. Brown has decided that Gamby needs to reevaluate his discipline tactics exchanging harsh words for bean bag chairs. He talks with Amanda about it all to discover that she might be able to help re-direct more of his anger so that the relationship with daughter Janelle (Maya G. Love can be better.
Imagine how that works for Gamby! Their buddy-breakup is a good thing for Russell too with the wife Christine (Susan Park) and mother-in-law Mi-Cha (June Kyoto Lu) driving him crazy and now a new neighbor who is pushing him to limits that could be deadly, or at least really, really stupid. When Dr. Brown suspects him of being absolutely nothing like she initially believed, it is time to bring him down a peg ordering him to keep an eye on her two mischievous sons.
At this point, Dr. Brown offers Gamby more responsibility with a title. Just when he thought life was going so well, a jealous Ms. Abbott (Edi Patterson) shares a little secret about Amanda. The stress on Gamby and Russell begins to show as they come together one final time to put a plan into motion that should seal Dr. Brown’s fate.
It isn’t easy being a vice principal.
Let’s jump right in, Danny McBride as Neil Gamby is perfection! He puts up a rough exterior that makes you think he enjoys being an ass but it’s plain to see he is protecting himself from just about everybody. His ex definitely did a number on him, the new husband is so nice it drives him nuts, he hates that his daughter might like him more, can’t figure out a way to not be weird around Amanda, would rather see Russell roasting on a spit and hates the idea of his dream job going to Dr. Brown. Is there anything else? Oh yes, the only person who speaks to him regularly is Dayshawn (Sheaun McKinney) who works in the cafeteria. Although the last part isn’t so bad, I mean you want to be friends with the guy making your food right? McBride cracks me up, scares me and then makes me want to give him a huge and then back again to scaring and cracking me up. This character might have just made me question my own sanity.
Now, Coggins, my dear, lovely Walton Coggins — this actor has come so far so fast I don’t know where to begin. Yes, I loved him in the series “The Shield,” hated/loved him in the FX series “Justified” along with films “Miracle at St. Anna,” “Django Unchained” and “The Hateful Eight.” But, it has to be said, his role as Venus Van Damme in the FX series “Sons of Anarchy” will always hold a special place in my heart because that character brought a richness to the already successful series. It became clear almost immediately that SOA fans fell hard for the lovely Venus! Now, in “Vice Principals,” Coggins brings a little of Venus back to me at least but with a whole new psychotic attitude and penchant for destruction the likes of which will have me fearing well-dressed-bow-tie-wearing-charming teachers for the rest of my life. I love everything about this character and cannot wait to see what mayhem comes next.
King as Amanda is a welcome surprise to the series for me. I saw her in “Cockneys vs. Zombies” and, as anyone who knows me can testify to, anything zombie will get high praise from me. In this character she is just as unsure about lie as Gamby is and she shares many of his insecurities. Having feelings for another teacher, Gamby is the last man on her mind. That is what makes watching their interactions fascinating. There is an early scene between King and McBride that sets the stage for the confusion between the two of them, or maybe they just confused me.
Gregory as Dr. Brown comes in with the sweetest of intentions but when it’s time to get serious let the attitude commence. Knowing away from a bad marriage, she is dealing with two sons that aren’t happy to be in the new town and have no problems expressing it. Hanging around Gamby and Russell wasn’t a good idea from the very beginning because she isn’t dealing with two faces — but four and none of them have good intentions. Gregory takes her character dark and deep once she realizes that something fishy is going on in her life and not just as principal. There are a few jaw dropping moments, okay more than a few for her character so be prepared!
Love as Janelle is Gamby’s daughter who loves her father but can’t stomach his controlling ways. Wanting to please him she also wants to find a relationship with her motor-crossing step-father. That’s when the tugging between the two Dad’s begins putting this young girl between a horse and a motorbike. Patterson as Ms. Abbott is pure hilarity but in an eye-widening-oh-no-she-didn’t way. There are adult crushes and then there are reasons to check the door locks — Ms. Abbott falls into the latter category.
Other cast includes: Ashley Spillers as Janice Swift, Busy Philipps as Gale Liptrapp, Jennifer Gatti as Mrs. Deets, Shea Whigham as Ray Liptrapp, Dale Dickey as Nash, Christopher Thornton as Mr. Milner, Brian Howe as Superintendent Haas, and Mike O’Gorman as Bill Hayden.
“Vice Principals: The Complete First Season” is a must-see for everyone with a twisted sense of humor. McBride and Coggins together are a duo that not only bring the best of dark comedy but man they can be disturbing in an awesome way. I love the show and nothing is going to change my mind. It is testing, irreverent, kind of gross, hilarious, jaw-dropping, insane and pretty much a good time.
The series is co-created by Danny McBride and Jody Hill and will have a second season on HBO. This should surprise no one because I’m not about to be happy being left with these two still in high school! I want conflict resolution, okay no I don’t, I want to see Gamby and Russell take another shot at their dream job.
The Blu-ray and DVD include the Exclusive Bonus Features of Deleted Scenes, Blooper Reel (prepare for serious laughs) and Audio Commentaries with Cast and Crew including Danny McBride, Jody Hill, Walton Coggins and more.
In the end — we all need someone to look up to!