Vice Principals: Season One Review

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There’s never been a show quite like Vice Principals. It’s a story covered in so much ridiculousness and crudeness, but has a sharp, realistic underbelly that grabs the viewer tight and takes them along for one hell of a ride. In other words, if you haven’t been watching Eastbound and Down creators Jody Hill and Danny McBride’s new HBO comedy, you are in for a real treat.

 

I have good/bad news for you right now. The good news is that the entire first season of Vice Principals is streaming on HBO’s various streaming services right now. The bad news is that season one only contains nine episodes, and last night was the finale. Vice Principals was written and shot as a two-part story, so the show will conclude with season two. There is no premiere date set in stone for the second season, though it shouldn’t be too far away, seeing both seasons were shot back-to-back. It’s fresh and unusual for a comedy show to have a concrete story to tell, sans any useless filler episodes. Each episode of season one did a terrific job in fleshing out all of the main characters. Anyways, let’s dive into this twisted show.

 

Vice Principals concerns Neal Gamby (Danny McBride) and Lee Russell (Walton Goggins), two rival vice principals at North Jackson High School. When the current principal (Bill Murray) steps down from his post, the two fight for the vacated spot, only to have those hopes snatched out from underneath them when Dr. Belinda Brown (Kimberly Hebert Gregory) is hired. The two put their mutual hate aside to work together in bringing Dr. Brown down by any means necessary.

 

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I think the best way to classify Vice Principals would be to call it cringe comedy. These are completely believable characters who always seem to say the wrong things and make the wrong choices. Gamby’s borderline predator-esque stalking of Amanda Snodgrass (wonderfully played by Georgia King) shows his deep-seeded insecurities and inability to properly communicate. Russell’s egocentrism fuels his manipulation and deceitfulness to take down Dr. Brown, while also willing to sabotage those around him to fulfill his desires.

 

The show crosses a moral threshold very early in the season; Russell initiates the burning of Brown’s house after the duo ransack and destroy her living room. The most notable shot is the destruction of a portrait of Brown and her children. This is the penultimate point in the season where it’s made very clear that this is not a light-hearted comedy… this is a very dark comedy.

 

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Aside from the duo’s plans to take Dr. Brown down, the show provides many entertaining diversions that really let the actors shine in these roles. The ongoing struggle between Gamby and his inability to relate to his daughter (newcomer Maya G. Love) is what humanizes him. Gamby strives to be a provider to his daughter, financially and emotionally. Russell, on the other hand, has to deal with his wife’s hateful mother living with them, and his struggles with his loud, body-builder blowhard neighbor Jackie (Owen Harn). Russell’s character is a lot harder to sympathize with – he has cruel intentions.

 

Nothing in the show is outside the realm of possibility. Gamby spends the first half of the season (unintentionally) creeping on a resistant Ms. Snodgrass, only for them to hook up in the latter half of the season. Two school administrators are able to completely wreck and burn a house down and escape without leaving a single trace. That said, there’s a sort of strangeness to seeing these wholly unlikeable character’s succeed at their dastardly plans, likely due to Dr. Brown’s personal anguish.

 

Kimberly Hebert Gregory really sells her character as a woman whose world is falling apart – single mother living with her two sons (who eventually leave her for their estranged father), no house and no friends (except the two men conspiring against her). When Gamby and Russell finally reveal the truth to Dr. Brown on the season finale, it’s heartbreaking to see the last nail be hammered into her professional coffin, and Gregory does a hell of a job here; her character certainly has the most extreme transformation throughout the season.

 

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And now onto that moment. Towards the end of the season finale of Vice Principals, Russell and Gamby become co-interim principals after Dr. Brown steps down from her post. Neal’s relationship with his daughter is better than ever, and his relationship with Ms. Snodgrass is back in action. Russell seems to be overjoyed, but there’s a brief banter between him and Gamby which suggests that he does not want to take any credit for what they did to Dr. Brown. Right after Gamby and Snodgrass reunite, his assistant comes in to warn him of an emergency. When Gamby runs outside to investigate, he sees him and Russell’s cars on fire. When Gamby runs over to take a closer look, a mysterious, costumed individual walks up to him, pulls out a pistol, and SHOOTS GAMBY in the shoulder/stomach. Gamby is possibly dead. Cut to credits; commence freaking out.

 

Aside from seeing if Gamby lives or dies after this incident, I’m excited to see what the final season has in store for us. If it was Dr. Brown, we can expect Gamby & Russell v Brown: Dawn of Toughness. However, Russell could be an equal suspect; we knew from the beginning that he wanted the title all to himself, and it wouldn’t be out of character for him to have plotted a murder. Those two are the most satisfying and likely results. Anything else would feel like a tired bait-and-switch. This show has been wildly unpredictable so far, so it’s time to hold my breath until season two. Until next time!

 

4-out-of-5

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