TV Premiere Review: The Righteous Gemstones

Fans of Eastbound & Down Vice Principals, and comedy in general, rejoice! The newest brainchild of Danny McBride, The Righteous Gemstones has the potential to be another fantastic series for HBO. McBride brings the same style and humor to a new setting with different, yet familiar characters, and I have faith (heh) that it will end up among my favorite new shows this year.

The bulk of the premiere follows the hijinks (which are best left unspoiled) of the three adult children from the eponymous televangelist family. There’s Jesse (McBride), the eldest son whose arrogance and attitude should make fans of McBride’s characters in his previous HBO series’ feel right at home, Judy (Edi Patterson), the middle child who isn’t allowed to take part in the most prominent of family affairs due to the Gemstone’s backwards view of women, and Kelvin (Adam DeVine), the youngest son who might be the most kind-hearted of the Gemstones, although that’s a very, very low bar. All three siblings are greedy, selfish, and immature, and they probably got those first two qualities from their father Eli (John Goodman), the Gemstone patriarch who has no qualms about bankrupting other churches in order to add to the already vast family fortune.

Aside from Eli, who’s great with the time he has but doesn’t get to do as much as his children, each Gemstone has a bunch of laugh out loud moments in the premiere, and they somehow make you feel a little sorry for them despite their greed and self-serving actions. Just like Kenny Powers and Neal Gamby (the protagonists of Eastbound & Down and Vice Principals respectively), the Gemstones manage to alternate between almost hilariously unlikable and surprisingly sympathetic. The supporting cast is terrific too. In fact, Kelvin’s friend Keefe (Tony Cavalero) is one of the most low-key but hilarious parts of the pilot, and Jesse’s wife Amber (Cassidy Freeman) is the best, as she drops the two funniest lines with pitch perfect timing and tone.

While we’re on the subject of lines, McBride’s writing is as sharp as ever (along with his direction and acting). From rapid fire, brutal, juvenile insults, to unknowing self-deprecation, to laughably poor phrasing, the script never lets up, and the cast never misses a beat. McBride obviously knows how to write himself, Patterson is just as in tune with it as she was in Vice Principals, and DeVine fits right in with signature oafish charm, along with everyone else in the core cast.

I’m so glad I got to see this premiere early, that way I can shout to the heavens (almost) with a certainty that everyone should watch The Righteous Gemstones on HBO this Sunday. If you’re a fan of Danny McBride, you won’t be disappointed, and if you’re new to his brand of comedy, you’re in for quite a treat. My only problem now is that I have to wait a little over a week and a half for the next episode…

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