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Primal Screen

Primal Screen: Hope for the Oscars

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Trump in 2016? With Gibson as V.P.?

Eastbound & Down (9pm Sun, HBO)
In the new season, star pitcher Kenny Powers (Danny McBride) has become a pathetic loser as both a man and an athlete, struggling through minor league games in South Carolina. The humor springs from the fact that Kenny doesn’t know how pathetic he is. Eastbound & Down shows the macho personality at its most benighted: swaggering even when there’s nothing to swagger about. This week, Kenny is left in charge of the infant son he wants nothing to do with, as that would involve thinking about someone other than himself. After failed attempts to pawn the baby off on others, he decides to send him down the river in a basket, putting the best possible face on it: “Find your destiny!”

When Will Ferrell shows up as Ashley, a car dealer bent on destroying Kenny, the portrait of male behavior becomes even more demented. If you thought Kenny was self-involved, Ashley takes it to even more perverse extremes, with Ferrell clearly enjoying himself.

The ending, in which Kenny escapes from Ashley’s clutches, is mock-heroic — though in a satire this unhinged, “mock” doesn’t seem like a strong enough word.

American Experience: The Amish (8pm Tue, PBS)
“The Amish” profiles the strict religious sect that renounces modern technology and believes the world is just a pass-through on the way to eternity. There are about 250,000 Amish people, concentrated in rural communities in the U.S. and Canada. Interestingly, they’re dwarfed by the 20 million tourists who come to gawk at them each year. “Is it any different than going to Disneyland?” asks a puzzled Amish farmer as he watches another tour bus drive by.

The documentary gives us a front seat on that bus, filming the Amish lifestyle up close. We watch them read the Bible, ride around in buggies, and read the Bible some more.

To be honest, I think I prefer Disneyland.

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