‘Vice Principals’ returns with more of the same

Danny McBride sticks to what works in season two premiere

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If the premiere is any indication, fans of "Vice Principals" will still have plenty of fun watching Gamby return to his usual antics in the new season.

Courtesy HBO | Cavalier Daily

“The time of lawlessness is over! The fun is done! I am back!” Vice Principal Neal Gamby (Danny McBride) exclaims in the season two premiere of “Vice Principals.” After being shot in the season finale of the previous season, Gamby has returned to restore order to his kingdom — North Jackson High School. While that may mean the fun is done for North Jackson students hoping to run wild in the halls, fans of the show will still have plenty of fun watching Gamby return to his usual antics in the new season, if the premiere is any indication. 

The show centers on Gamby and his fellow Vice Principal Lee Russell (Walter Goggins), two petty school administrators taking their personal frustrations out on unfortunate high school troublemakers. After Gamby was inexplicably shot at the end of season one, the premiere shows his first day back at school, where Russell became principal during his recovery.  

The school has changed quite a bit in Gamby’s absence, but the man himself hasn’t moved an inch. He’s the same old character from last season — frustrated with his personal and professional life, lashing out at those who try to help him and refusing to admit any kind of weakness. The only difference is, he’s now got a new focus — instead of competing to become the new principal, he’s now on a mission to find who shot him. 

The character is a familiar one for McBride, who played essentially the same person as Kenny Powers in “Eastbound and Down” for four seasons. But if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and McBride certainly excels at conveying the unique mix of absolute arrogance and barely-concealed insecurity that defines Powers in “Eastbound” and Gamby in “Vice Principals.” Both think the universe centers on themselves, yet both feel like failures deep down for not achieving more in life. 

But “Vice Principals” isn’t a particularly complex show. Gamby’s pride coupled with his ineffectiveness in work, parenting and socializing makes for a seriously entertaining combination — contributing numerous laugh-out-loud funny bits throughout season one and in the second season’s premiere. For the most part, the writers have seemed content to leave it at that — and that’s exactly how the show works best. It’s an uncomplicated formula, but there’s no denying the resulting hilarity. 

“Vice Principals” surrounds McBride with other talented actors, who play off him to great effect. One such standout is Ray Liptrapp (Shea Wigham), Gamby’s ex-wife’s new husband. As Gamby recovers from his injury, the kind-hearted Ray is more than happy to help, and Gamby is forced to thank him, albeit reluctantly. 

Perhaps just as vital to the show as Gamby, though, is his counterpart, Russell. The two began the show as rivals, only to team up to take down the former principal. Now, it looks as though they’ll work together again to find Gamby’s assailant. The two are excellent together — both are profoundly unlikable people, but each has a slightly different brand of mean. Gamby is simply an outright jerk to most of the people around him, while Russell is a more sly, underhanded bully. Some of the funniest moments in the show emerge from their attempts to work together despite an underlying competitive spirit between the two — they’ve come to blows several times before and it’d be no surprise to see it again this season. 

The premiere also catches the audience up with the rest of the supporting cast, and everyone is just about the same as when Gamby left them last season. Still, there’s no shortage of comedy as he reconnects with some of his coworkers, and vigorously tries to avoid reconnecting with others. 

“Vice Principals” isn’t exactly groundbreaking comedy, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to be bringing many major changes to the table with season two. But that’s not a bad sign — there’s no denying that McBride has found his groove, and for those who appreciate his brand of comedy, the show is an outrageous good time. It may be a simple formula for comedy, but there’s nothing wrong with that — it works, and it’s undeniably fun to watch. 

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