I said it before and I’ll say it again – we all need someone to look up to…though these may not be the guys! Vice Principals: The Complete First Season arrives on Blu-ray and DVD (both with a free digital download copy) on February 7, 2017 and is created by Danny McBride and Jody Hill, creators of HBO’s Eastbound & Down, along with Ben Best. The acclaimed new HBO comedy series tells the story of North Jackson High School and the two people who almost run it, the vice principals. McBride and Walton Goggins (The Shield, Justified) star as the school administrators, who are in an epic power struggle to become school principal. The series also features Georgia King, Busy Philipps, Shea Whigham, Sheaun McKinney, Kimberly Hebert Gregory, Edi Patterson and guest stars Bill Murray and Susan Park. The Vice Principals: The Complete First Season Blu-ray is loaded with exclusive new bonus content including a hilarious blooper reel, never-before-seen deleted scenes and laugh-out-loud audio commentaries with the cast and crew for all nine episodes – check out the review skinny specs below!
Being a fan of deadpan dude Danny McBride and even a bigger one of The Shield alum Walton Goggins I was eager to see what their pairing in the form of the series Vice Principals would produce. Of course there are loads of laughs and savory side characters galore, but there’s also a surprising amount of dramatic and melancholy moments that nicely clash with the shows hateful premise – in other words good TV.
Neal Gamby and Lee Russell are a pair of vice principals at North Jackson High School who are eager to become the head honcho. Seems the current one is vacating the position and the hotheaded Gamby and deviant Russell have their sights set on filling the principal position. But before the two arch enemies can proclaim the throne no-nonsense gal Dr. Belinda Brown is appointed leaving the two feuding fools out of luck. That’s when they decide to bury past issues, team up and bring Belinda down by any and all means necessary to gain their own victory – or die trying.
While the above is of course the through line premise for the entire first season of Vice Principals, frequent creators McBride and Jody Hill don’t let it inhibit them from branching out into other areas of the lives of the two flawed main men. Goggins man child Russell is sadly saddled with a cold wife and her caustic and cruel Asian mother-in-law (the shows funniest moments!), plus is forced to deal with a bulging and bitter loud neighbor looking to beat his ass. McBride’s at times clueless character Gamby has issues of his own in the form of a mean ex-wife, her infuriatingly understanding new beau (the scene stealing Shea Whigham!), a teen daughter and crushes at school he both likes (the cute Georgia King!) and doesn’t like (love the saucy nature of Edi Patterson’s sex starved Ms. Abbott!) to boot. But the surprise of show is the way Hill and McBride manipulate the audience in terms of feeling a sense of sorrow and even excitement for two gents who are essentially doing some seriously heinous acts in facilitate their own selfish desires. It’s a clever device that reminds me of Denis Leary shows like The Job and Rescue Me that go beyond the one-note humor to establish something more tangible and dramatic that can play out longer over series TV.
Of course McBride and Goggins aren’t in this alone in Vice Principals glory and their supporting cast kills the comedy too. Kimberly Hebert Gregory as the brash Belinda “I love Gin” Brown, Sheaun McKinney as Gamby’s cafeteria pal Dayshawn, Busy Philipps as Gamby’s hateful ex-wife, previously mentioned Shea Whigham as the Philipps sullen new man (he even brings depth to the few scenes he’s in!), Edi Patterson as the salty Ms. Abbott and especially Goggins’ caustic mother-in-law from hell June Kyoto Lu who loudly brings the laughter. ALL build a colorful world around a single premise believably, so even when the some of the humor falls flat, it gives the show some extra comedy credit.
- Encoding: AVC MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080p
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
- Clarity/Detail: Being a well-shot HBO show the visuals, including a wealth of tasty montage sequences here, and are presented in full crisp clarity.
- Depth: Not a ton of depth being that there are a lot of stagnate scenes with folks talking, but it gets the job done.
- Black Levels: Not much in terms of dark bits here (the vandalism scenes not withstanding!), but what there is looks decent.
- Color Reproduction: Colors are loud and proud – just like school spirit!
- Flesh Tones: Somewhat muted, but I sense that was on purpose to give the setting visual priority.
- Noise/Artifacts: Clean.
- Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French DTS Digital Surround 5.1, Latin Spanish DTS Digital Surround 2.0
- Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
- Dynamics: When the music gets loud and the horrific house mayhem begins you can hear the high stuff clear as day.
- Low Frequency Extension: All sounds are decent – even low ones.
- Surround Sound Presentation: Good surround available in every language mode.
- Dialogue Reproduction: Again being a show that relies heavily on dialogue, hearing every word here helps – and you do.
The Blu-ray for Vice Principals: The Complete First Season comes with Digital HD Copy. Plus there are full Commentaries on all nine episodes (first and last are MUST listens!) with varied players in and out on each including McBride, Hill, Goggins, Philipps, King, Gregory and more! (But one complaint – the menu screens have an almost non-existent invisible highlighting so you can’t see what you’re choosing – super annoying!)
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 14:58) – Some great stuff including two extra montages, a student driver bit, more of the creepy enforcer guy via the bathroom and library and a great scene involving conversation on buttholes at the local blacksmith.
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 3:29) – You get a horse being sold scene with goofy Gamby and yet another classic confrontation between Goggins and Lu!
- Blooper Reel (HD, 4:58) – Tons of fun, but this has more dirty improv gold with Edi Patterson’s Ms. Abbott – admission paid!
While not a laugh a minute riot, there’s enough additional dramatic and character layering within to make Vice Principals a show to watch. Plus this great looking, great sounding Blu-ray has a ton of great extras to make its purchase a satisfying one – here endeth the lesson.