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Reviewed by Jamey Codding
f only John Rocker had been this funny. Admittedly, the character of Kenny Powers isn’t based solely on the life of Rocker, the former big league reliever who flamed out after six seasons, 88 saves, and an extreme case of diarrhea mouth in a 1999 interview with Sports Illustrated. Rocker, however, has been cited as an inspiration for the story of Kenny Powers, the fictitious former big league reliever who flamed out after four seasons, 121 saves, and an extreme case of diarrhea mouth… well, pretty much whenever someone stuck a microphone in his face. Rocker was brash, obnoxious, intolerant and, for a sliver of time, dominant on the mound, all of which describe Kenny, who spent the first season of HBO’s “Eastbound & Down” attempting to assimilate to life after baseball. In Season 2, Kenny and his fantastic mullet find love, family, loyalty and success – on the diamond and in the cock fighting ring – all south of the border in a tiny Mexican village.
For actor Danny McBride, the role of Kenny Powers is nothing new, having played similarly insufferable characters in movies like “Pineapple Express” and “Tropic Thunder.” Kenny is a guy you love to hate…or a guy you simply hate. A character like Kenny Powers ensures there is no middle ground, especially in the seven episodes from Season 2. We first see Kenny sporting a set of dreadlocks and soaking up the spotlight, as it were, during a big cockfighting event, but when Sebastian Cisneros (Michael Peña), the billionaire owner of the local Charros baseball team, tries to coax Kenny out of his involuntary retirement, the lure of the diamond is too much to ignore. Of course, KP needs a love interest after leaving high school sweetheart April Buchanon (Katy Mixon) in the dust in the first-season finale, so Kenny turns to the lovely Vida (Ana de la Reguera) only to later learn that he has some stiff competition for her affections.
The decision to set almost the entire second season in Mexico was curious, to be sure, particularly since that meant abandoning all but one supporting character from Season 1. Fortunately, that lone character is Stevie Janowski (Steve Little), an über oddball who tracks Kenny down in Mexico and quickly becomes KP’s devoted sidekick. Together, the two friends craft Kenny’s comeback bid and turn the Charros’ newest pitcher into a cult hero who goes by the name La Flama Blanca, or The White Flame. Of course, Kenny’s latest attempt to reclaim his glorious past hits more than a few speed bumps along the way, and Kenny’s reunion with his estranged father, memorably played by Don Johnson, complicates matters even further, all of which contribute to a second season that’s even more outrageous than the show’s debut.
The funny thing is, while “Eastbound & Down” enjoyed a modest ratings spike in Season 2, the show doesn’t bring in a whole lot of viewers. With a central character as polarizing as Kenny Powers, that’s hardly surprising. But among the show’s core group of fans, “Eastbound & Down” can do no wrong, which is why you’ve likely seen Kenny show up in commercials and print ads for K-Swiss. He may not have a huge fan base, but KP and “Eastbound & Down” have a loyal one, which is much more than John Rocker can say these days.
Special Features: The usual suspects accompany the seven episodes on this two-disc set, including behind-the-scenes footage in the “Invitation to the Set” featurette, deleted scenes, outtakes and audio commentaries from McBride, Little, co-creator Jody Hill and director Gordon Green. We also get a look at the special bond Kenny shares with his cock-fighting rooster, Big Red, along with an extended deleted scene starring everyone’s favorite weirdo, Stevie Janowski. Finally, two Season 1 holdovers round out the bonus features: Kenny’s champion demo reel and a couple of mock commercials featuring executive producer Will Ferrell as car dealer magnate Ashley Schaeffer.