Sunday, Feb. 19 (HBO)
Season Premiere: It’s the last inning for the biggest ego in baseball, the fantastically mulleted Kenny Powers (Danny McBride), the ex-pro pitcher who was reduced to teaching middle school phys-ed (Season 1), then headed south to play Mexican ball (Season 2), all the while plotting his Major League comeback and winning back his One True Love, April (Katy Mixon). In the third and final season of Eastbound & Down, Kenny’s back in the United States on the “Redneck Riviera,” pitching for the minor-league Myrtle Beach Mermen and partying like a rock star with new teammate/bud Shane (Saturday Night Live’s Jason Sudeikis). Will he impress the scout (returning guest Matthew McConaughey) and go back to the majors, or stay and be a responsible parent to his and April’s 1-year-old son? Or, more likely, just blow it all over again? In spectacular goddamned fashion, of course.
Eastbound & Down doesn’t get its due credit as a smart comedy; it takes serious brains and skill to so effectively paint a character to root for who’s this stupid and self-absorbed (just ask Karl Rove). There’s also little-to-no reliance on crutches like “subtlety” or “taste,” as E&D goes full-throttle, balls-out profane gonzo and never apologizes—just like ’Merica, son. Producers McBride and Jody Hill are also smart in ending the show before its shotgun-comedy attack wears thinner than a five-minute Funny or Die video: As much as Kenny Fucking Powers fans like myself hate to admit it, a hero who will do/say/drink/snort/screw anything only has a limited life-expectancy. Like fellow members of the Holy Trinity Tim Tebow and Jesus Christ, Kenny Powers is meant to be enjoyed young and in his prime.
Sunday, Feb. 19 (HBO)
Series Debut: On the opposite end of the comedy spectrum from, and the weirdest possible pairing with, Eastbound & Down, there’s Life’s Too Short, a dry new faux-documentary series from Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. The series centers around British “go-to dwarf actor” Warwick Davis (Willow, the Harry Potter and Star Wars movies), who plays himself as a self-aggrandizing has-been who opens his life to a reality-TV crew to cling to the spotlight, make some cash and “raise up little people everywhere” (though he’s really only in it for himself). His talent agency, Dwarves For Hire, is struggling; his wife (Jo Enright) is leaving him; and his “friends” Gervais and Merchant are no help whatsoever (“How do you keep getting into our office? We raised the buzzer so you couldn’t reach it.”). The desperate-actor-fake-reality-show premise has been done before, but Davis is so flop-sweat perfect and game for abuse that Life’s Too Short almost feels like the real thing. Well, until Liam Neeson shows up in the first episode and upstages everyone, demanding help from Gervais and Merchant for launching his “new comedy career” and delivering the most deadly serious improv exchange ever.
Tuesdays (Nat Geo)
New Series: Of the several dozen reality shows on former educational channels about toothless rednecks with dirty jobs currently piling up in the TV guide, Doomsday Preppers at least has a great title. It’s also perfectly self-explanatory: Paranoiacs are gearing up for the end of the world, and here’s who you’ll be begging for food and guns when the apocalypse hits. So, in a way, it is educational.
Wednesday, Feb. 22 (Nat Geo)
Series Debut: In 2011, the Discovery Channel brought us Weed Wars, a behind-the-scenes reality look at an Oakland medicinal-marijuana shop. Now, National Geographic has picked up American Weed, a reality series all about the ganja-med business in Colorado, which, as we’ve already learned from South Park, is the only state to allow said businesses to operate for-profit. Since City Weekly’s fellow alt-pub Westword in Denver gets to run almost 12 pages of ads for these shops, whereas we’re barely allowed to sell booze spots here, screw them and this show.