One episode into “Vice Principals” on HBO, we had our hopes high that this was going to be the silly, funny comedy that we really wanted this summer, especially given that this is a time in which we don’t exactly have many of them. We laughed often in the premiere; by episode 2, however, we felt ourselves slightly more confused as to what this show was meant to be.
Was it too dark for its own good? We wondered that at around the time Neal Gamby and Lee Russell were destroying the home of Dr. Brown, especially when it came to the point Russell set the place on fire. It’s been one episode. Apparently we are meant to understand that Russell is part psychopath and that’s well and good, but has the new principal pushed them this far so quickly? This was more a reflection on them as people than Gamby being forced to fire a longtime employee or having to go get biscuits (hey, Bojangles sighting!) for the entire faculty and staff as a part of a new weekly tradition she’d take credit for.
While the house-destruction was happening, there were certainly some funny moments, especially when it comes to Russell drop-kicking the painting. It just felt a little too much, too quickly, especially since we don’t really know these characters that well just yet.
Maybe this is the thing: We do like to a certain extent to be able to relate to characters, even if they aren’t particularly likable ones. It’s really tough this time around since they are both so over-the-top. The show is probably at its best focusing on things a little bit smaller, such as recess or troublesome kids. This is a show that works wonderfully small-scale.
The fact that Dr. Brown’s adviser recommended both Gamby and Russell as great vice-principals makes it clear that normalcy was restored for a little while … but it probably won’t stay that way given that Russell really set the table for his co-worker to get pinned for the fire down the road. He gave him a stolen object, which Neal later used in order to pay off a horse debt (seriously). Meanwhile, couldn’t there be a fingerprint somewhere in there? Episode Grade: C+.
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