Eastbound & Down ends in three weeks. On April 15th at 10:30 pm, the final "chapter"--not episode, chapter--of HBO's antiheroic saga of Kenny Powers will somehow just stop. I am at once delighted to see how KP will turn failure into triumph one last time, and utterly crushed to see him drop the mic and walk off the stage forever.
My fondest memory of Kenny dates back to the show's first season. While employed as a middle school P.E. teacher (from my childhood experience, I cannot imagine a less respectable job) after falling from Major League Baseball grace, Kenny pops a pill of Ecstasy before chaperoning a school dance. Sporting all black, down to his signature cowboy boots, he pushes his way into a dance circle of preteens and prepares to woo his long-lost high school girlfriend, now the middle school art teacher. "Work, drugs," he demands. Then he dances. Then he throws up. But damn if those drugs didn't work just like he told them to! I haven't seen a portly man move like that since Bluto floated up the stairs to the Dean's office in Animal House.
This season, KP managed to sum himself up in one perfect admission when he said to his categorically apathetic college-age girlfriend, "You think I f***in' wanna hang out with my f***in' son? Hell no, I'd much rather be doin' cocaine and watchin' the Saw DVDs in your dorm room with ya." He's a ladies' man and a man's man; he's a lover and a fighter; in the words of Kenny Powers, Kenny Powers is "a god damn champion."
With ambition as unstoppable as the soundtrack that accompanies him, KP has suffered through, run away from and finally returned to face a slew of potentially career- and life-ending struggles since we met him in 2009. And why have we been with him from the very beginning? Because he is unbelievably entertaining. He says the most ridiculous things so often and just keeps talking until there are no more boundaries for him to cross; we have no choice but to accept how beautifully hilarious he is and forget--completely--the decorum we use to direct our own speech. He amuses, yet inspires us with perfectly serious and accidentally revealing monologues. He endears himself to us with the occasional poignant plea for the simple human necessities of companionship and a sense of belonging. He is at once a martyr for absurd humor and a touching failure of a train wreck we are shocked to care about. He is a figure unlike any other on television: Always foul, often wrong but sometimes right, Kenny Powers is the low-class American wannabe who gets by, just barely, because of his heart.
I will be very sad to say goodbye to KP, to the raucous laughs and the Schadenfreude his misfortune and mess-ups afforded. Perhaps I'll find a new hero to follow each week, but for now I pledge allegiance to Kenny Powers. The conclusion of his audiobook autibiography says everything I never could:
"In closing, I'd like to give big ups to God, Buddha, L. Ron, whoever. Hell, maybe I just need to thank me. If there's one thing I've learned through all my adventures and conquests, it's that some people are just wired for success. I had no choice when it came to being great. I just am great. I'm not trying to sound cocky or full of myself, but Kenny Powers has a sneaking suspicion that no matter what comes his way, he will always be great. Because that's just the way s*** works sometimes. This has been based on a true story. The motherf***in' end."
~ Natasha Hirschfeld