Goodbye Kenny Powers

In the midst of all of the TV last night, which was so much TV, there was, of course, the Eastbound and Down series finale. We haven’t talked that much AS A FAMILY about this season, but that’s because we didn’t need to. It was great. Within the first 10 minutes of the very first episode of season 1 I texted my friend Max and told him that Eastbound and Down was a “game-changer.” And for the past three seasons, it has consistently been the funniest show on television. The end! 30 Rock is so smart and Portlandia has a heart of gold, but when it comes to straight up LAFFS, it was always Eastbound. (The show was actually very smart and full of heart, as well, but we’ve got to save SOMETHING for the other shows.) The first season was so perfect that the second season gave reason for concern. Would the show still be as sharp and funny? Answer: yes. Different, but yes. Season 2 was great. The show became increasingly absurd over the years, perhaps, but everything changes, and the reality of an actual Kenny Powers probably couldn’t have sustained more than those initial episodes because we know how the real story ends: the way this one began: on someone’s couch, with a terrible hangover, ghosts of bad decisions past, and no actual prospects. This year went further off the deep end but in a way that was entirely enjoyable. Kenny’s rival on the Myrtle Beach Mermen, the Russian pitcher Ivan, was one of the funniest performances in years (after Danny McBride’s). The funeral scene in which Kenny plays Candlebox and claims to have absorbed his dead friend Shane’s powers is more cringe-worthy than the whole The Office UK including the two specials! (That may be an exaggeration, but it sounds right.) You could probably write a book about Kenny Powers as Cultural Filter for contemporary race/gender/sexuality politics. Good luck with your book! I can’t wait to read your book! (Just kidding. The day I read a book about a TV show is the day I am not allowed to choose which books to read anymore.) But, so, and then, of course, there is last night’s series finale, which was basically perfect: redemptive without being cloying, hilarious and brash and stupid and genius. What a great show. R.I.P. to it.