Sometimes it seems that every TV show creator wants to get back at teachers and administrators who made their lives a living heck when they were kids.
How else to explain the abundance of characters like Sue Sylvester (“Glee”), “The Middle’s” Mrs. Rinsky (“The Middle”), Mr. Belding (“Saved by the Bell”), the teachers on TV Land’s “Teachers” and ABC’s “Bad Teacher,” who was so bad, she/it lasted three episodes before being canceled.
Add to the list of pedagogical monsters the two losers who are “Vice Principals” on the new HBO comedy premiering Sunday, July 17. One is a loudmouth bully and total screw-up, the other is a whiny manipulator and total screw-up. It’s a match made in sitcom heaven when the show is created by co-star Danny McBride and Jody Hill, the pair behind the earlier HBO comedy “Eastbound & Down.”
Neal Gamby (McBride), fond of never-fashionable sweater vests, and fussbudget Lee Russell (Walton Goggins) despise each other, and the feeling only increases when they find out the high school principal (guest star Bill Murray) is leaving to care for his ailing wife, which means the school will need a new principal.
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You won’t be surprised that Neal and Lee are the last people anyone would consider to fill the vacancy, but Neal and Lee are dumbfounded when they are summarily passed over in favor of Dr. Belinda Brown (Kimberly Hebert Gregory), a formidable, take-charge administrator with an enviable track record at other schools.
Neal and Lee resent her immediately but take different approaches to dealing with her. Neal is arrogant and defiant, openly insulting his new boss, while Lee becomes a garishly grinning sycophant. The guys may hate each other, but they have something in common: a desire to get Belinda to quit or be fired. The men form an uneasy but hilarious alliance that becomes the basis for the increasingly over-the-top series.
Gregory is winning as Belinda, who may have had a lot of experience dealing with dim bulbs in the past but has never encountered a pair like Neal and Lee. It would be one thing if their various schemes worked, but of course they all go haywire, which tests even Belinda’s resolve almost to the point of breaking.
The first episode doesn’t begin to suggest how far “Vice Principals” will go and how funny it will become. However, you can readily appreciate the chemistry between McBride and Goggins. Who could have predicted these two would turn out to be a modern-day re-creation of Jackie Gleason and Art Carney?
Where to watch
“Vice Principals” premieres at 9:30 p.m. Sunday, July 17, on HBO.