Can Neal Gamby soften his image up? That was one of many stories at the center of this episode of “Vice Principals” Sunday night.
Interestingly enough, we did have a few moments where Dr. Belinda Brown’s latest technique to improve the school actually helped him. Rather than screaming at students and giving everyone suspension / detention, she advised him to use a sit-down meeting — complete with popcorn and bean bag chairs — as a way to talk out problems with the students. This was funny for many reasons, most notably Neal throwing the popcorn around in the middle of a hissy-fit near the end of the episode. He was upset over a disagreement with Lee Russell and the downfall of their partnership, ironically because in Lee’s mind, Gamby was not tough enough to go the extra mile (which to him means “going completely psychotic”).
After getting some advice from the very people he was disciplining, Neal came to Lee’s rescue as he dealt with a major problem of his own: His neighbor Jackie (played by the hilarious Owen Harn). Jackie was being that neighbor you pray never moves in next door to you as he blared his music late at night without any consideration. The exchange between these two was pretty great for so many reasons, whether it be the comic nature of the punches being thrown or the one-liners. “Night night, termite” may be a personal favorite line from the entire season so far. In case you missed it, we talked to Owen Harn about playing Jackie several weeks ago — he was the perfect kind of funny/scary for this show.
Neal punched Jackie using a pair of brass knuckles he got from school, and he was taken down; then, he let Lee take the credit for it in a fairly rare moment of humility for a guy who has few things in his life to legitimately celebrate. Neal watching his daughter bonding with Ray tonight was one of the sadder things we’ve seen on this show. He can’t even find one person to follow his example and think of him as someone special.
While we do still believe that the house-burning came too early and there are times when this show is much darker than it needs to be, there’s no doubt in our mind that this is one of the funnier shows of the summer. We had about five moments in tonight’s episode where we laughed out loud for no reason, and it’s sometimes tough to do that while writing a review. Well done, “Vice Principals,” and see you next week. Grade: A-.