Who remembers “Saved by the Bell”? I know I sure do. Everyone who does remembers Principal Belding. But does anyone remember a vice principal? I sure don’t. Well, HBO brings us a show highlighting that role played by Walton Goggins and Danny McBride in Vice Principals.
The Show: 2.5/5
In Vice Principals, we get not one but two vice principals. In TV terms, perhaps an overabundance of entertainment, but I remember even when I went to high school we had three. They were also referred to as “assistant principals” and they all played essentially the same roles. In Vice Principals, Goggins and McBride play two very different administrators. Goggins is the more friendly, but unsettling sort in the school. McBride on the other hand does not make friends well. He behaves awkwardly and reacts very sternly.
As the show begins, the current principal raises the school’s flag for the last time before he retires. He is leaving to spend time with and care for his ill wife, leaving behind a power vacuum. Both Russell (Goggins) and Gamby (McBride) want to fill that spot at the top. They look at each other as adversaries in this goal and each express how they will mistreat the other when they are given the job as principal. And then the message comes down from the school board: they are bringing in a new principal. Their new principal, Belinda Brown, is well educated and has a proven track record in other schools. Not only that, but she has a record of cleaning house in her previous administrations.
With both of them left out in the cold, Gamby and Russell have no recourse but to band together. Not only do they need to protect each other from being cleared out like every other vice principal Belinda has let go, but they band together to find a way to get her out of the position so that one of them can inherit it. This is where the antics begin. From here on out, we embark on a series of 9 episodes of scheming and backstabbing to try to get Brown out of the school. All the while, each of them handles their own personal problems and needs.
The show adds depth when it steps away from the school and shows the home lives of the titular characters. With Russell, we see his need to succeed at school and grab power, as he feels ineffectual and powerless at home. His mother-in-law shows him no respect and his neighbor physically intimidates and essentially bullies him. Beating Belinda and gaining power at work remains his only avenue to feeling like he controls his life.
For Gamby, he struggles with his divorce and is in debt. He has trouble making friends and desperately desires satisfying romance. Deeper than this, Gamby feels threatened as if he is being replaced by his ex-wife’s new husband, Ray. Not only replaced as a husband, but also as a father. This man gets to spend so much time and influence his daughter as she lives with them. And to top it all off, Ray treats Gamby so genuinely well that it is hard to hate him like he wants to. Gamby needs this success to impress his daughter and feel like he isn’t losing in every aspect of his life.
So while on the surface, Vice Principals is a comedy about the antics these two pull while trying to overthrow their new boss. On another level, it is a more serious movie about their personal struggles that plague their lives. And while it succeeds mildly in the humor department, I think it is actually most successful when following Gamby. Gamby is terribly unpleasant when dealing with other adults at school and isn’t as funny as he should be. But he shows a lot of heart and becomes relatable away from the school with his fractured family. Russell entertains more in his interactions at school. Even just on the level of his mannerisms, he brings fun to the scenes.
Overall, we are talking about a mildly funny show that has some decent heart beneath the surface. I’m not sure I’ll really feel the need to pop this in for another watch any time soon, but it was overall a fun watch. I’d recommend at least watching it. Maybe pick it up if it drops to a decent price.
Picture Quality: 4/5
HBO presents Vice Principals in a pleasing but not impressive AVC encode. As noted in a commentary, the outdoor shots in lower light all still look great with plenty of detail and contrast. I was never disappointed with loss of detail or black crush in any shots, but I was never surprised with the quality of the colors either. This transfer won’t disappoint but won’t be something to revere either.
Audio Quality: 4/5
Vice Principals includes a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track which sounds quite nice. The surround is only occasionally noticeably active. Most of the time it doesn’t sound like anything special. On the other hand, for a show that often rests on dialog, this is always quite clear. For that, I think this is plenty sufficient of a track.
Packaging and Special Features: 4/5
Deleted Scenes: Mildly funny, but most of these deserved to be cut.
Blooper Reel: I may be in the minority, but I miss seeing these more often. I always enjoy them for at least one watch.
Commentaries: Commentaries for EVERY SINGLE EPISODE. Now this is what I’m talking about. Commentaries are offered for every episode. Each commentary includes Danny McBride with a rotating group from the cast and creative crew. These were a joy to watch and by far the most impressive part of the release. I love that they included a commentary for every episode. The inclusion of this does honestly elevate the release a lot for me.
Those included in the commentaries:
- Ashley Spillers (Actress)
- Busy Philipps (Actress)
- Edi Patterson (Actress)
- Georgia King (Actress)
- Jeff Fradley (Writer/Consulting Producer)
- Jeff Seibeneck (Editor/Co-Producer)
- Jody Hill (Director/Writer/Executive Producer)
- John Carcieri (Writer/Co-Executive Producer)
- Joseph Stephens (Music Composer)
- Kimberly Hébert Gregory (Actress)
- Mike O’Gorman (Actor)
- Sarah Trost (Costume Designer)
- Walton Goggins (Actor)
- Danny McBride (Writer/Executive Producer/Actor)
Packaging is pretty standard with a slipcover that matches the cover art. Discs have no real artwork and there is no inside artwork.
Vice Principals Overall: 3.5/5
In the end, Vice Principals didn’t blow me away. And I don’t think it will blow most people away. While not gut busting, it did deliver some laughs with some heart and intelligence to it. It stands firmly in the middle ground of being entertaining without being truly investing. I think this show will come and go without leaving a lasting impression. The technical aspects of this release were good and the extras were solid. The commentaries bring an extra appreciation for the show and were probably as enjoyable as any given episode was. I’d recommend finding it at a good price so you can hear the commentaries. Those are the main reason why I think you should get this as a physical release over a digital. I strongly recommend this as a purchase on sale.
You can find it on Amazon here.
Note: This Blu-ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.