Plot: North Jackson High School needs a new principal and this is the moment two men have been waiting for, as both vice principals have been prepared to seize power for some time now. Neil (Danny McBride) is an abrasive, socially awkward authoritarian, while Lee (Walton Goggins) is polite, kind, and cunning, two men with very different styles after the same position. The two have taken potshots at each other long before this however, so the open office just escalates the rivalry and both men seem willing to do whatever it takes to be principal. But just when the two prepare for all out war, the new principal is announced and neither is given the position, instead it goes to a new face, Dr. Brown (Kimberly Hebert Gregory). While Neil and Lee have no desire to join forces, if one of them is to ever be principal, an alliance must be forged in the name of having Dr. Brown removed from office. But can these two bitter rivals somehow work together, even as their personal lives implode?
Entertainment Value: This first season of Vice Principals runs nine episodes and packs in one hell of a wild narrative, covering a lot of ground and avoiding the usual filler that most shows stock up on. This could be because the show’s entire narrative arc was done beforehand, which meant the number of episodes was known and by turn, there was no need to pad out threads or draw out storylines in case more seasons were booked. This makes Vice Principals a lean, focused series and this first season is stacked with hilarious and outlandish moments. In addition to the core thread over the battle for the principal’s office, this series also weaves in several other smaller stories and develops even smaller roles, which bolsters the main narrative. Neil has his pursuit of love and attempts to connect with his daughter, while Lee deals with problems at home, from a cruel mother-in-law to a disrespectful neighbor, so these tensions contribute to the main story and help us understand the desperation behind these two men. Even Dr. Brown is given a lot of development, so the show doesn’t just throw out crude jokes and random moments, it takes the time to build up the characters. This makes the humor even more effective, since it comes from the characters and believe me, these are some of the most colorful characters around.
The sense of humor here is dark, mean spirited, and beyond over the top, an approach that makes total sense given the leads involved. This style is ideal for Danny McBride, who found great success in a similar role as Kenny Power in Eastbound and Down, so he is a natural fit for this material. While most of McBride’s roles share a lot of traits, he is able to make Neil feel different than Kenny, as he dials down the bravado and while that is a minor shift, it works. But in truth, this falls in line with his usual performance and doesn’t mix things up that much. That’s never an issue however, as his style works great here and he is especially fun when bantering with his co-lead, Walton Goggins. While Goggins takes a much different approach to this wild material, he is hilarious and makes a great foil for McBride. The two have outrageous banter and play off each other well, especially when escalation is involved. This first season is a massive dose of colorful, offensive humor wrapped in a narrative packed with dysfunction, so in other words, I loved all nine episodes.