High school power struggle not kids' vice in HBO show


What is it? Vice Principals, Season 1, nine episodes on two discs from HBO Home Entertainment

When? Now

How much? $29.98

Documentary about the education system? Not quite. More like very dark comedy. With probably a few grains of truth.

North Jackson High School is experiencing a transfer of power. Beloved Principal Welles (Bill Murray) is resigning to take care of his terminally ill wife.

That will leave a void, and Vice Principal Neal Gamby (Danny McBride) is certain he's the only one who can fill it.

But there are problems. For starters, Gamby is unpopular with pretty much everyone. He's a rule-obsessed, authoritative disciplinarian with poor interpersonal skills. He's casually dismissive and insensitive. His punishments can be irrational and draconian. He's hated by the students. And staff, like the idealistic young teacher Gamby rather likes (Georgia King), don't care for him either. The only people who seem to like him are his middle school-age daughter (Maya G. Love) and his ex-wife's (Busy Philipps) amiable new husband (Shea Whigham).

The other problem is Gamby's co-vice principal, Lee Russell (Walton Goggins). He's in charge of curriculum and is much more popular, but he's also a scheming, obsequious Eddie Haskell type, and he's certain the big office should be his.

Both are stunned and bitterly disappointed when the school board brings in an outsider, Belinda Brown (Kimberly Hebert Gregory), to run the school. While the teachers and students take to her steady, intelligent leadership, Gamby and Russell decide there's only one thing to do: develop a plan to get her kicked out of North Jackson.

Working on the "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" concept, the two join forces in elaborate schemes to get rid of Brown and take over the school. But considering their personality flaws, they're really their own worst enemies.

How is it? Irreverent and darkly funny. Emphasis on "dark." If jokes about cancer and school shootings are beyond the pale in your eyes, you might want to consider yourself warned.

The two main characters are pretty unlikable for the most part, though there are glimpses of vulnerability that make it possible to have a sneaking affection.

The humor can fall too far on the mean and unpleasant side, but it also can be very sharp and funny when poking fun at problems with the education system and the series's borderline-sociopathic characters.

Extras? There are deleted scenes, commentary tracks and a gag reel.

New this week: The Brokenwood Mysteries, Season 3; Death Valley Days, Season 3; The Dick Van Dyke Show, Now ... In Living Color; Insecure, Season 1; Master of None, Season 1; Newsreaders, Season 1; Wolf Creek, Season 1.

Next week: Archer, Season 7; Mystery Science Theater 3000, XXXVIII.

Style on 03/19/2017

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