Vice Principals S01E01 Recap: 'The Principal' [Series Premiere]

You always know exactly what you're going to get with Danny McBride. No matter what kind of character he's playing, be it a washed up baseball player in Eastbound and Down, an explosives expert in Tropic Thunder, even himself in This Is The End, you can bet he's going to be loud, obnoxious, foul-mouthed and about 40% too over-confident for a man in whatever position he finds himself in.

Sure enough, McBride's new show Vice Principals, which he co-created with his long-time partner Jody Hill, is no different. And that kind of consistency which you can expect from those two leads to a show that feels fully formed from pretty much the very beginning in its first episode, The Principal, despite the large amounts of setup it has to do.

The show almost doesn't even need to set up its characters. McBride's character is Neal Gamby, a stern disciplinary vice principal at a southern high school, who's disliked by the student body which he often has to send out to detention, and more so by the faculty which he refuses to befriend. He takes his job way too seriously and it very obviously cost him his marriage to his ex Gale (Busy Philipps). His main foe in the show is Lee Russell, the school's other vice principal, played by the incomparable Walton Goggins. Goggins brings charming southern drawl to the role as he portrays a shameless kiss ass. He brown noses the outgoing principal, the faculty, the students and, eventually the lady chosen over both of them to be the new principal of the school. But he's a snake in sheep's clothing, waiting to pounce at the first opportunity for him to get ahead.

Goggins' and McBride's characters go up against one another when the school's principal, played by none other than Bill Murray, decides to retire in order to take care of his terminally ill wife. They bicker before his last day even really gets started and nearly come to blows, but in the end, the school board decides to go with an outside hire, Dr. Belinda Brown (played by Kimberly Hebert Gregory), a highly educated and capable educator.

Neal reacts by essentially throwing a fit. He tries to organize protests among both the children and the teachers, he breaks down in tears and even pukes while in private, he's very forthcoming about his distaste for what happened. Lee, however, hangs back, kisses and and waits for his opportunity. And by the end of the episode, he and Neal are shaking hands under your usual "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" kind of deal. Which should tell you everything you need to know about both characters. Neal shoots from the hip and will never stop firing his weapon. Lee is a sniper who'll only bring the one bullet he needs to a fight. Together they are probably an unmatchable force, but can this alliance last? Probably not, but I'm definitely on board to see what'll happen.

With who the main characters are being very self-evident from the very beginning, the show wastes no opportunity to have McBride, the heavy focus of the episode, do what he does best. He yells, gets angry, and swears at every corner; and it's hard to think of anyone on TV or in movies who is better at it than he is. Danny McBride yelling at children is pretty much the peak of peak TV. And it leads to some great lines in the premiere. Where Vice Principals surpasses what you'd expect from a Danny McBride show is that it gives him a much better foil to work against than he's probably ever had. Not that Eastbound and Down and his other projects haven't had antagonists, they've just never been conceived with one in mind. Here, it's McBride vs Goggins from the very beginning. In the very first scene they're bickering and acting like children, and it's great. That's a new dynamic for your typical McBride show, and it stops me from saying that this is just Eastbound and Down but set in a school (which, to be fair, it was for a full season).

What the premiere episode of Vice Principals tells me is that we're in for one hell of a ride. And with McBride recently confirming that the show will only last two seasons, things are going to go off the rails very quickly, and that's something I can get behind. "The Principal" gets 8.5 members of the school board out of 10.

Notes & Quotes:

  • While I'm sad we'll only ever get like 18 episodes of this show, I'm in love with the idea of Danny McBride shows as these limited series events where he goes around different southern settings and jobs just yelling at children for a couple of seasons at a time. I hope he has more ideas like this on his plate.
  • I also love Danny McBride shows for their great casting of unknowns. In this case, both Neal's daughter and his ex's new husband Ray are absolutely perfect casting, as is the guy who plays the cafeteria worker, Dayshawn.
  • There are some great lines in this premiere, but nothing is better than the look on Walton Goggins' face when he finds out he won't be the principal, so go back and look at that on repeat.
  • Also fantastic, Neal interrupting a student's rendition of "Wind Beneath My Wings" in front of the departing principal's dying wife because a couple of kids are snickering. And he actually thinks he's doing the right thing even though even the other characters know this is the most cringeworthy thing ever.
  • "You pop me one more time you son of a bitch and I will bounce you right out of this school. I should slap you across your mouth, you slap like a woman."
  • "Potter, I don't ever want to see you in here again. Josh Props I know I'll see you again, so until next time, *blows kiss.*"
  • "Pants up, grades up."
  • "I'm talking to my daughter, not your daughter, cause she's never going to be your daughter."
  • "I'm going to take my dick and slap it across your face." "Shut your mouth, you sassy-ass motherfucker."
  • "I bet she went to Berkeley, and I'm pretty affirmative on how she got in."
  • "You're not going to kill everybody, right?" "No, Dayshawn, I told you I'm not going to murder anybody."